Although they are beautiful and elegant, deer can decimate your landscape overnight. Signs of deer damage include ripped and torn bark and foliage to a height of about eight feet. Annuals and smaller plants may be pulled from the ground. Hungry deer will experiment with almost any food source, but deer-resistant shade plants are less palatable to these herbivores.
Annuals and Groundcovers
Wax begonias (Begonia X semperflorens-cultorum) are tender perennials, commonly grown as annuals in colder climates. Available in a variety of flower colors, their waxy foliage offers interesting texture in a shade garden. Lightly scented and spreading, lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is an old-fashioned garden favorite. Lily of the Valley grows well in even dense shade and spreads quickly in rich soil. Durable and reliable, pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) and periwinkle (Vinca minor) will form dense mats of deep green foliage in sun or shade. Both get small flowers in the spring, but their primary appeal is their glossy foliage.
When planning a perennial bed or border in the shade, consider lavender (Lavandula). Species exist for almost all growing zones, and the sweetly scented flowers and leaves can be cut and used as sachets and for fragrant bouquets. Other choices for flowering perennials include bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), false indigo (Baptisia) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), a woody, perennial vine, can be grown on sturdy supports. Fast growing and free flowering, American wisteria grows in zones 3 through 9. Use caution when planting Japanese or Chinese wisteria as they can become invasive if not carefully controlled.
Shrubs make up the backbone of most landscaping designs. Their upright style and varied textures and colors provide visual interest all year. In shady, deer-prone locations between zones 8 and 10, consider Japanese plum yews (Podocarpus macrophyllus). These fine-leaved evergreens can be trimmed and shaped. Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) flower best in full sun, but they can be grown in light shade as well. Blooms may not be as prolific, but their glossy foliage and textured bark make them a good choice nonetheless. Boxwoods (Buxus) are slow-growing evergreen shrubs. Useful as a foundation planting, boxwoods stay neat with little pruning or maintenance.