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March 27, 2013 3 min read

Deer resistant shrubs are an effective and practical solution for the gardener hounded by hungry deer.

Deer are widely regarded as animals with voracious appetites who are able to destroy a beautiful garden in no time at all. Deer are found almost everywhere that there are gardens, and gardeners almost everywhere are employing numerous methods–some successful, and some not so successful–of deterring and repelling deer.

A variety of deer repellent shrubs are available in greenhouses, and to order online, for various climate zones and landscaping needs. In general, deer tend to avoid sticky and fuzzy leaves, leaves with a bitter taste, prickly leaves, and any naturally poisonous plants, as well as strongly scented plants such and mints and herbs.

Spiny barberries are perhaps the most deer resistant plant, and because of their extremely thorny branches, they are often planted along borders to deter all types of intruders, whether two or four-legged. They have attractive foliage and pretty berries, but their thorns present hazards to gardeners and anyone who encounters one. Gardening around these spiky shrubs is delicate work, and inflatable toys are no match for them. However, barberries may be the only shrub that is completely deer resistant, so it is a top choice if deterring deer is the highest priority.

A holiday favorite, Acadiana holly is a beautiful evergreen shrub that is freestanding, and reaches a height of up to 14 feet, with an 8-foot spread. Its brilliant red berries during the fall and winter are a colorful addition to any garden, and attractive to birds who enjoy the treats. Deer, on the other hand, will avoid the beautiful shiny but prickly leaves, and keep their distance. In fact, deer will avoid any variety of holly shrub, because of their sharp leaves, and holly comes in varieties that will thrive in most climates, and sizes that are suitable for different spaces.

Boxwoods are another deer resistant shrub, and they are highly adaptable to climates in zones five and six, and varying soil conditions. Boxwoods can be used in planters or in the ground and provide elegant borders to ornamental gardens. Several varieties of boxwoods are available, reaching different sizes. These shrubs are elegant looking, but easy to maintain, and can be pruned into attractive shapes and sizes.

The right type of deer resistant shrub, if dense and high enough, will also provide a barrier to the garden, thereby protecting additional plants from deer. Holly shrubs are again an excellent choice for deer resistances, and a suitable height and density to be considered for privacy and as a barrier.

Besides the above-mentioned barberry, no shrub is completely deer resistant, especially during winter months or droughts, when more attractive feeding options are not as readily available. Local greenhouses, garden stores, or agriculture websites should be consulted to find the best shrubs for various climates, but the characteristics mentioned above can be looked for in a shrub regardless of climate. Planting deer resistant shrubs can increase a gardener’s odds against a hungry deer, and in combination with other methods like fencing, deer repellent, or scare tactics, should provide a deer free garden.

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