Amazing Animal or Garden Pest?

By on February 2, 2020

Garden and Landscape Editor Steve Montgomery Gives Us His Recommendations on Living with

There is nothing like waking up on a very cool morning in the mountains, breathing in the fresh mountain air and enjoying the warm sun on your porch while drinking a cup of coffee. As you look over your property at all your favorite plants in the garden, you see one of the prettiest animals in the forest, a large buck stepping into the sunlight. You see this beautiful, majestic deer walking through your property with the sun glistening off his horns and you think “Wow this is awesome.” As you continue to watch him in your garden you notice that he starts eating some of your favorite shrubs. He even might start picking at that sentimental plant you brought with you from your garden when you moved here and then you begin to feel like this beautiful animal is more of a pest than something amazing. Luckily, there are things you can do to help keep the plants from becoming this beautiful creature’s breakfast. 

For the existing plants that you have that are being damaged or even destroyed by the deer I recommend getting a fertilizer called Milorganite. It is made from heat-dried sewage sludge and because of this, the deer have a tendency to stay away from it and the smell. The smell is enough to fend off most critters, but not too much for you to notice it in your garden. Milorganite can be found at most lawn and garden stores. It’s a natural fertilizer that is non-leaching and safe to use. Since it’s a slow release fertilizer it should last for 10 to 12 weeks. On the plus side, while keeping the deer and rabbits at bay, it also feeds your plants. 

Another way to keep your landscaping from being eaten is to use plants that deer really just don’t like to eat.

One of the most common questions I get when visiting a customer and their property is, “What can I plant that the deer won’t eat?” First let me say that there is no such thing as absolute deer proof as they will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough. Fortunately, there are usually enough food sources for them to eat, things like acorns, that will keep them from eating your favorite plants. There are also plants they don’t particularly care for and rarely “browse.” Here is a list of most of my favorites that normally these pesky critters won’t indulge in. Remember that there are no guarantees.

Trees: Bald Cypress, Cherry Laurel, Carolina Silverbell, Crape Myrtle, Deodar Cedar, Dawn Redwood, Ginko, Golden Raintree, Kousa Dogwood, Pine, Poplar, Red Maple, Southern Magnolia, Saucer Magnolia, Sweetgum, Spruce, Smoke tree, and Sugar Maple.

Shrubs: Boxwood, Butterfly bush, Bottlebrush Buckeye, Daphne, Deutzia, Gardenia, Glossy Abelia, Heather, most Hollies, Juniper, Lantana (perennial), Leucothoe, Mountain Laurel, Pieris, Plum Yew, Quince, Rugosa rose, Scotch Broom, Spirea, Dwarf spruce, St. John’s Wort, Viburnum, Vitex, Wisteria, Witch Hazel, and Weigela. 

Bulbs and Herbaceous Plants: Allium, Anise, Astilbe, Artemesia, Aster, Autumn Crocus (not regular Crocus), Beebalm, Bluebells, Candytuft, Columbine, Daffodil, Dahlia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Elephant Ears, Foamflower, most Ferns, Foxglove, Grape Hyacinth, Hellebore, Iris, Lavender, Lobelia, Lungwort, Liatris, Lamb’s Ear, Marigold, Narcissus, Oxalis, Petunia, Purple coneflower, perennial Sunflower, Peony, Rose Campion, Rosemary, Russian Sage, Snapdragon, Toad Lilly, Veronica, and Yarrow.

Grasses: Fountain Grass, Feather Reed, Lemon grass, North Sea Oats, Pink Muhly Grass, Sedge, and Sweet flag.

Vines and Ground Covers: Ajuga, Confederate Jasmine, Creeping Raspberry, Creeping Lantana, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Junipers, Liriope, Pachysandra, Plumbago, Prostrate Rosemary, Sweet Woodruff, and Thyme. 

Annuals: Ageratum, Alyssum, Baby’s Breath, Basil, Dusty Miller, Lantana, Marigold, Parsley, Periwinkle, Salvia, Scarlett Sage, Stock, Sweet Pea, and Verbena.

As you can see there are quite a few options that the deer would prefer not to eat and this will let you enjoy the plants without the pressure of the deer taking them out or damaging them. Please keep in mind the sun vs. the shade on your selections, as that’s a very important factor. Some plants thrive in the sun and some in the shade. Additionally, I recommend that you seriously consider using native plants, appropriate to your planting zone, as they are much less susceptible to deer eating them. 

I hope this helps you to create a garden that you will be able to enjoy for many years. If you need advice or any kind of assistance let me know, have fun!   ACLM

Steve Montgomery is the owner of Steve Montgomery and Company based in Roswell, GA since 1985. He is re-locating to this area and will be offering design and consulting services in the greater Blue Ridge area. Steve has extensive knowledge in the areas of landscape, hardscape, construction of outdoor structures, water features and pools. He brings with him incredible creativity in designing awesome outdoor spaces. You can check out some of his work at his website

Steve Montgomery and Company.

Phone: 404-966-8283 or 770-317-1484