Deer-Resistant Climbing Vines
Deer, with their voracious appetites, may possibly be the largest garden pests around. No plants are entirely deer proof -- deer eat anything if they are hungry enough -- but deer steer away from some plants if there are more attractive choices available. These include plants with thorns or hairs, poisonous plants and plants that have a strong fragrance. Most deer-resistant vines fall into this final category.
Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is also called trumpet honeysuckle for its small, trumpet-shaped blooms. This climbing vine is a rapid grower and climbs by putting out tendrils, which curl around and grab the support structure. Coral honeysuckle climbs to a maximum height of around 25 feet and thrives in full sun or partial shade. The plant has many cultivars, some of which are deciduous, while others are evergreen. It thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 6 through 8. Coral honeysuckle has a strong scent, which may be why deer tend to avoid it.
This sweet-smelling vine with the long name -- Trachelospermum jasminoides -- is desirable for its attractive, star-shaped flowers and pleasant fragrance. Like honeysuckle, the strong fragrance is probably why deer rarely damage this vine. Star jasmine is evergreen and climbs to a maximum height of 15 feet. The vine climbs by twining and by using holdfast roots, which are also called aerial roots. These roots allow the plant to cling to hard surfaces. Star jasmine grows in full sun or part shade and is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10.
Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) is a hardy evergreen vine desirable for its thick, shiny green leaves. This vine is a rapid grower and like star jasmine climbs by using holdfast roots. It can climb straight up the side of a brick wall to heights of 40 feet or more. Creeping fig thrives in partial shade and performs best in USDA zone 8 or 9. Parts of this plant are poisonous, which is probably one reason deer tend to avoid it.
Cross vine (Begnonia capreolata), sometimes called trumpet flower, is a fast-growing flowering vine that can reach heights of more than 50 feet. When large vines are in bloom, this creates a stunning display. The flowers are bright orange-red, and some cultivars have flowers with yellow centers. This vine climbs with the use of twining tendrils and needs a support structure that it can wrap around. It thrives in USDA zones 6 through 9 and can adapt to a range of environmental conditions, although it blooms best in full sunlight. The strong fragrance of the flowers is probably what repels deer.
- Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Services; Deer in the Urban Landscape; Forrest W. Appleton; September 2008
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension; Deer Resistant Plants; Charlotte Glen
- North Carolina State University; Lonicera Sempervirens; Erv Evans
- North Carolina State University; Ficus Pumila; Erv Evans
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Poisonous Plant Database: Ficus Pumila