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Garden Plants That Deer Eat

deer image by Anton Chernenko from

Deer are notorious for invading home gardens and proceeding to munch away on everything from hydrangeas to the new buds of dogwood trees. These beautiful but hungry animals are not easy to keep out of your garden. They will easily step or jump over most fences and are too smart to be fooled by man-made distractions. The best way to keep deer out of your garden is to know what plants deer eat and avoid planting them.

Woody Plants

Deer will feed on woody plants no matter the season, according to information published by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Woody plants refer to shrubs, trees and even vines. Although woody plants are low in nutrients, deer love the tender twigs of these plants. In the spring, they will decimate the buds before they even get a chance to open. Some of the more common woody garden plants that deer eat are azaleas, crabapple and apple trees, clematis, honeysuckle vines, red cedar and willow trees, oaks and even roses.


Forbs are herbaceous plants that are not grasses. These are nutritious for deer, according to information published by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. These highly desirable garden plants include violets, aster, goldenrod, sunflowers and legumes. Dandelions are also a commonly eaten forb.

Fruits and Grasses

Deer will also eat fruit and grasses, especially in autumn when they are storing up fat for the winter. Persimmons, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, wheat, ryegrass, lettuce, cherry, plum and peach trees are all commonly consumed by deer. Deer will also eat wild grasses and acorns.

Deer Out Of The Garden

Grow a natural barrier along your property lines of plants, trees and shrubs that deer don't like. Try trees like magnolia, Japanese maple and gray pine, along with perennials including black-eyed Susan, California poppy, columbine and yarrow. Install a tall fence around your garden to keep the deer out completely. A 6-foot fence is usually tall enough, although deer jump over a barrier as high as 8 feet. Cover young plants with cages made from chicken wire until they become established and more resistant to deer damage. Combine these appealing plants with less appealing plants. Reapply the blood meal every two weeks, especially during periods of high deer traffic. Sprinkle human hair on plants.

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