There is no such thing as a “deer-proof” plant. There, I said it. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but unless you are interested in plastic plants or plants made from fabric, you will be hard-pressed to find a true “deer-proof” plant. However, there is no reason to lose gardening hope. There are plenty of “deer-resistant” plants out there that can beautify your San Antonio landscape and if you take some extra precautions, these plants get as close to “deer-proof” as possible.

Deer resistant plants in San Antonio are your best bet when gardening in deer country.
Deer resistant plants in San Antonio are your best bet when gardening in deer country.

Deer resistant plants are varieties of plants that deer will most likely not bother. These plants generally have a flavor, texture, or smell that turn deer off. However, this doesn’t mean that deer won’t take a nibble just to test it out for themselves. It means they will be more likely to taste and move on, rather than stay and graze. Here’s the cold hard fact: if deer get hungry enough, they will chew and eat plants even if they find them repulsive. Keeping all this in mind, here is the link for our list of deer resistant plants to choose from if your San Antonio neighborhood is one where deer roam.

3 Reasons Why Deer Damage Plants

Let’s take a look at why deer are most likely to cause damage to your plants.

1. One of the biggest reasons deer merge into our landscape is when their food source gets scarce. When they are not able to forage adequately due to drought in the summers or tough, icy winters, you are more apt to find them nosing around your gardens in search of a meal. If deer feel they are starving, any plant is fair game.

2. Newly planted, young trees can be damaged by young bucks when they rub the itchy, fuzzy, velvet off of their antlers, or as they rub along the trunks to scent mark their territory in hope of attracting a doe. Can we really fault them?

3. Deer are most likely to inflict damage if you happen to have some of their favorite treats planted in your yard. Without a 10 foot fence creating a barrier, the deer might think it’s an open invitation to a buffet with irresistible  foods. It’s not their fault that roses taste like candy to them!

Way to Prevent Deer Damage in Landscape and Gardens

What’s a San Antonio gardener to do if they live in a heavily deer inhabited area? We’ve got a few suggestions that might help you out when you are planning your gardens and landscaping this year. 

1. Fencing. Fencing might not be the most popular deer prevention but it’s really the only one that can 100% do the trick, that is, provided the fence is at least 10 feet high! Deer can jump. Deer can jump high. Before you spend a lot of time buying and installing a fence, make sure you’ve alloted for it to be high enough to actually keep the deer out. A 10 foot fence with a gate that is always closed is the only way to totally deer proof your plants.

2. Animal repellents. There is a host of animal repellents out there for purchase, or to DIY. Many of these repellents DO work…for a time being, but keep in mind they may need to be applied repeatedly, especially after rain, so be sure to read the label. You can make your own concoctions of foul smelling repellant from numerous recipes on the internet, but remember that whatever they are smelling, you will have to smell too.

3. Deterrents/Scare tactics. Old cds hanging from a tree that glint in the sunlight could freak out a deer enough to bolt from your garden. A motion detecting floodlight that blasts a bright light, or a motion detecting sprinkler that shoots out a stream of water could have them scampering off. Human voices, dogs barking, radios playing, are all sounds that may scare off a deer for a moment. But many of us have encountered deer that just stare at you under their frilly-lashed lids, totally nonplussed. Deterrents like fishing line strung around your garden might send them running when they feel it up against their shins. 

I think the main way to keep repellents and deterrents working is to keep mixing them up from time to time. Deer are quite neophobic, they do not like anything new. Juggling your scare or repellent tactics keeps them from catching on to what you are doing and prevents them from getting too used to them.

4. DON’T plant what they like and DO plant what they don’t like. This is not really meant to be glib, it’s just the truth!  

If you plant species that deer normally turn their noses up at, the deer may skip past your landscape altogether and not return. Stick to the varieties on our deer-resistant list for the best shot keeping the nibblers away. There are plenty of beauties, listed by category, for you to choose from. 

If you plant enticing specimens that deer are prone to like, they will remember where they got that delicious meal and return again and again. Deer tend to favor the species on the following list, and you may have trouble keeping them at bay if these are in your landscape: Azaelas, Camelias, Hybrid Tea Roses, Hydrangeas, Fruit trees/shrubs-(apple, peach, plum, pear, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries), Daylilies, Impatiens, Pansies, Pholx, Hosta, Japanese Yew, Fringe Tree, English Ivy, Euonymus, Veggies-(beans, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, sweet corn, actually most veggies). This list is not all-inclusive by all means, just a good list to start with.

When battling deer in the landscape, your best chance to keep your plants alive and thriving is to start by planting deer-resistant varieties of plants, know that fencing is a must when it comes to veggie gardens and young trees, and then employ a combination of all the repelling/deterring tips above. Lastly, remember that gardening with deer can be an experience in trial and error that can change yearly with changes in the weather, rainfall, and the preferences of the herd.