As man continues to take up land that serves as the natural habitat for the white-tailed deer, more and more gardeners will have to protect their plants against them. Hungry deer will eat just about any plant, so nothing is truly "deer-resistant." Be wary of cultivars of deer favorites such as hostas that advertise as such. The only truly "deer-resistant" defense is a fence tall enough for deer to not leap over with a dog to scare them away.
The perennial hosta may be one of the hardiest plants available, but it is no match for a hungry deer. Often described as "like candy" to deer, hostas usually are the first ornamental plant eaten by deer traveling through a yard. One deer can devour an entire large hosta in an evening. Hostas are a favorite of other pests as well, but deer are the only pest that generally eats the entire plant down to its stalk. Most other pests simply leave holes.
Other perennials frequently damaged by deer include daylily, crocus, tulips, roses, English ivy, clematis and cardinal flower.
Annuals are easy snacks to hungry deer as well. Some of the most frequently eaten annuals include impatiens, hollyhocks and Mexican sunflowers. A hungry deer will eat just about anything--even the mythical marigold and all of its legends of warding off pests are no match.
Flowering Shrubs and Trees
Flowering trees and shrubs offer food for a number of deer and are often thought of as what attracts the deer to particular yards in the first place. Fruit trees such as pear, plum, apple and cherry offer food at both blooming time and during fruit production. Other blooming trees and shrubs that please deer include rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwood and a number of non-flowering species such as ash, cedar and maple.