Hungry deer can be a real challenge to New Mexico's rural gardeners. Deer relish spruce, white pine, azaleas, lilacs, periwinkles and even roses. In areas where deer are a problem, it's best to avoid these plants altogether in favor of plants that have adapted to predation by concentrating bitter tasting or toxic substances in their tissues, or by developing thorns. Many native and drought tolerant plants make attractive, deer resistant additions to the New Mexico landscape.
The stiff needled conifer, Austrian pine can be grown throughout New Mexico, and succeeds where other conifers succumb to deer. This large, slightly rounded pine grows to 40 feet and is quite cold hardy. Desert willow is a small tree to large shrub, found growing wild in all but the far northern parts of the state. This hardy beauty is covered with pink and purple orchid-like flowers through most of summer, and is generally not bothered by deer. The New Mexico locust is a thorny, fast growing tree to 20 feet high. It is quite drought tolerant, and produces masses of sweet smelling, pink flowers in spring. Honey mesquite is another attractive, thorny, native tree, which grows up to 25 feet tall. This tough, drought tolerant species does well in southern New Mexico, but can be grown as far north as Isleta Pueblo.
Forsythia is a hardy, long lived shrub with brilliant yellow, spring blossoms, which is seldom bothered by deer. It grows to 10 feet tall and has a twiggy, sprawling habit.
Chamisa, also called rubber rabbitbrush, is a tough, rounded native shrub covered with tiny, golden yellow flowers in fall. This extremely bitter plant, which grows up to 6 feet high, will thrive in all but the arid southern extremes of the state, and is almost never browsed by deer.
Spiny succulents, including cactus, yucca and agave, are almost never bothered by deer. Brightly colored Oriental poppies are also great deer-resistant choices for the New Mexican garden. Bearded iris is another great choice for spring color, which deer seem to ignore. Russian sage is a handsome, highly deer-resistant plant, with fragrant, gray-green foliage and misty purple flowers. This long lived, drought tolerant perennial will thrive throughout the state.
Mexican evening primrose, a 1-foot-tall native, which produces masses of delicate, pink, cup-shaped flowers, is an excellent ground cover for deer prone areas as far north as Santa Fe. Marigolds of every variety are dependably deer resistant fall favorites in New Mexico. Low growing creeping phlox is an excellent, cold hardy, ground cover, which is generally avoided by deer. It is covered with cheery, white, pink or blue flowers in spring and will thrive with moderate irrigation over most of New Mexico