One of the challenges for North Bay landscape contractors is the presence of hungry deer, especially in the rural woodsy areas of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Kenwood, Sonoma, Healdsburg and most of Marin County. Although they will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough, generally speaking they stay away from plant material that is pungent or has stickers. Deer resistant plants are not deer proof. Tastes vary by area, and from one year to the next, depending on rainfall and what else is available for their dining pleasure.
Many sources have developed lists of plant material they believe to be deer resistant. Details Landscape Art has experimented with most of these plants over the years, and the following is a partial list of what we believe to be the best, most reliable deer resistant plants that are available for Sonoma County and Marin County. We have mentioned in other posts that one technique we use at Details Landscape Art is using plants that have color in the foliage. This is a way to give homeowners the colorful gardens they love, yet keeping the deadheading of perennials and pruning maintenance to a minimum. It so happens that most of these ‘color in the foliage’ plants are also deer resistant.
- Cedar – needles not on their menu
- Cercis occidentalis – Western redbud ‘Forest Pansy’ is one of our favorite small trees
- Eucalyptus (some)
- Fraxinus (ash)
- Ginko biloba
- Maytenus – both boaria and ‘Green Showers’
- Picea (Spruce) – they won’t eat needles
- Pinus (Pine) – needles hurt to eat
- Podocarpus – beautiful dark green, needs partial shade
- Quercus (Oak)
- Sequoia sempervirens (Redwood) – yuck – needles
- Umbellularia california (California laurel) Keep in mind that if you surround a young tree with a wire cage so that the deer can’t get to it, and leave it for a number of years, and limb the tree up as it matures…eventually the deer won’t be able to reach the lower branches and the tasty leaves and flowers!
- Ceanothus – the smaller leafed varieties are the most deer resistant, like ‘Dark Star’, ‘Julia Phelps, and ‘Concha’.’
- Breath of Heaven (Coleonema) – ‘Golden Sunset’ has yellowish gold foliage
- Berberis (Japanese Barberry) – ‘Roseglow’, ‘Crimson Pygmy’, ‘Concorde’, and ‘Atropurpurea’ all have stickers!
- Rhododendron – although in the same family as rhododendrons, azaleas are NOT deer resistant
- Sarcococca – our favorite deep shade plant
- Lorapetalum – great purple leafed afternoon shade plant
- Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) – fruit and flowers are edible and delicious, but not to deer
- Heavenly bamboo (Nandina) – ‘Domestica’, ‘Firepower’, ‘Gulf Stream’, and ‘Moon Bay’ are all very deer resistant
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – ‘Prostratus’, ‘Collingwood Ingram’, ‘Irene’, and Lockwood de Forest’ – all varieties are reliably deer resistant. They don’t like the pungent smell.
- Australian Tea Tree (Leptospermum)
- Correa ‘Carmine Bells’- beautiful drooping red flowers not very tasty
- Mexican mock orange (Choisya ternata)
- Westringia rosmariniformis – short needle like stiff leaves are not their favorite
- Flax (Phormium)
- Holly (Ilex) – sharp pointy leaves not their favorite
- Osmanthus – also pointy leaves
- Oleander – poisonous
- Grevillea – more needles
Perennials and Ornamental Grasses:
- Lavender (lavandula) – ‘Stoechas quastii’, ‘Provence’, ‘Hidcote’, Angostifolia’ – all pungent to deer
- Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacaea) – don’t like the taste of garlic
- Salvia – ‘Greggii’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Leucantha’ – sage is not their favorite spice
- Yarrow (Achillea)
Don’t be discouraged by the presence of deer. Use our list of deer resistant plants and plant a beautiful garden!