Deer Resistant Landscape Design Plans

Deer Resistant Landscape Design Plans

Deer near water

We know how frustrating it can be. You plant a few new trees, paired with fresh shrubs, and walk outside the next morning with a hot cup of soothing coffee just to see bark peeled off, broken branches and even devoured flowers on your nearby shrubs. Maybe those new perennials are completely mowed down to the ground.   Deer eating plant

Anyone that marvels at their backyard landscape is always going to cringe at the natural neighbor nearby. Welcome to a gardener’s worst nightmare - deer. 

Any gardener would be a tad annoyed to spend hours pampering and manicuring their yard only to have a pesky deer or two completely destroy some aspect of it, or all.

Nature Hills is here to help you create a landscape that works with your wildlife or naturally makes them want to look the other way! 

Deer Resistant Landscape Design

Is there such a thing as plants that deer will not eat? Unfortunately, not really, but there are plants that deer prefer not to eat – if given a choice! There isn’t anything plant related that’s completely deer-proof because deer will eat almost anything in times of desperation. After all, we moved into their area and planted this tasty buffet right in their backyard.

Stop the heartbreak of deer damage by starting with a garden design with them, and other wildlife, in mind. Training, fencing, barriers, deterrents, and deer-resistant plant varieties are all different methods of stopping deer in their tracks.

How To Train Deer Deer Repellent Spray

That’s right! You can train deer to look elsewhere for their next meal!

The obvious choice is to start your landscaping project by choosing plants that deer in your area tend to not prefer. Then, for any plant, from the very first day you plant them - before the end of the very first day - spray on the deer repellent or something that makes them taste offputting to deer. 

Especially in an area that has lots of deer pressure, it is important the deer are trained to know that your plants do not taste good from the very start! When the deer make their way through your yard on their regular tour and they sample your enticing new plant - the repellent gives it a bad taste and they should avoid it. 

Make it Taste Bad From Day One

It is always a great idea to have a deer repellant spray handy to spray all newly planted plants before going to bed the first night. Just to remind deer that they will not like what has been added to the garden.  

If you have sprayed the leaves and stems of that new plant that makes it taste bad, deer will move on to something they like better. Re-apply as needed.


Homemade Deer Repellent Spray 


½ gallon water

2 raw eggs

2 tablespoons milk

2 crushed garlic cloves

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth (may need to do in 2 batches). Strain through the mesh screen/cheesecloth and put in a spray bottle. Apply to the leaves and stems of your new plants. Store in fridge.

Remember, deer repellents will need to be re-applied as time and weather wears off the effectiveness of that bad-tasting spray. Follow the directions on the spray to know when to reapply a "reminder" to those deer that your new plant is not going to taste good to them. 

Physical Protection & Barriers

Not just foraging and trample damage, deer damage is usually a common result of males scraping their antlers against the trunk of various trees in the fall of the year. After some time of constant rubbing, serious damage starts to occur as they try to get rid of the itchy velvet, resulting in the bark of your tree being sheared off. 

Then the males polish their antlers even more by continuing to rub against the newly exposed bark. This can be seen at any time during the year and not just during mating season, although the number of trees damaged increases with the fall rut. Male deer also use trees as a way to mark their territory and to signal other males to stay away. 

When the young bark of your trees is damaged, it can be an entry point for insects or diseases. If the outside bark is completely damaged around the entire trunk, that tree will die as it is no longer able to transport nutrients from the leaves to the roots.   Dear with plant in it's mouth

Not only will deer continuously rub against the bark of a tree, but you may also find the soil around your tree dug up slightly or a few branches that have been broken or chewed upon. Each are ways that deer can stress your trees. If you have noticed that deer have been pestering your trees, they are likely to keep coming back. 

Fence The Whole Yard

Property fences ensure that browsing deer cannot enter your property at all if they are tall enough (about 8 feet). It’s easy to decorate with conventional residential fencing as well. Wooden, plastic and metal fencing each can keep deer damage from taking a toll on your yard. 

The best way to protect your trees is to create an actual barrier that prevents the deer from having close access to the tree trunk, shrubs, or low-hanging branches. Physical barriers are effective and offer a variety of choices depending on the size of the property and aesthetic preferences!   Fence

There's nothing like a well-manicured hedge to burst curb appeal, especially when it looks like Fort Knox to a hungry deer.

Protect the Plant Itself

For most new plants, deer are their biggest nightmares. From layers of torn tree bark to several broken branches, deer damage is a common end to smaller trees that have yet to be established. Tearing them up or breaking them off low to the ground.

Remember that is not just plants that deer like to eat that can become damaged. In the fall season, male deer can cause a lot of damage to younger trees by rubbing their antlers on the trunks. This strips off all of the bark from these young trees causing physical damage.

Installing a deer-proof fence around the perimeter of your property can be expensive and sometimes not feasible, sometimes it's easier to just protect the tree.

  • Chicken Wire or Cattle Fencing around the trunk or entire perimeter of the tree or shrub
  • White protective cloth, tree wrap, or burlap to protect the bark
  • Perforated Plastic tubing or Tree collars of white or light colors
  • Other Plants - Plant a thorny or dense living barrier between the tasty plant and the deer
  • Property fencing, tall hedging and deer barriers, and strung rows of fishing line
  • Adopt a dog! That rescue will not only make your yard smell like something a deer doesn’t like but also barks enough to make them run the other way.


Protective Wrap or Tree Guards

Most commonly seen as a physical barrier is paper or plastic tree wrap. You have probably noticed a tree tube here and there as it easily protects those young trees or even thin-barked trees from deer rubbing. Easy to set up and don’t take up space in the landscape, these can be as DIY looking or aesthetic as you need. 

This helps only with deer rubbing and protecting the young tasty inner bark of new trees.


Make sure the plastic tube is white or a lighter color so that the tree trunk doesn’t undergo extra heat from the sun. Plus you’ll need something that grows with the plant and won’t cut off ‘circulation’ or airflow.

You will want to replace the wraps that come into direct contact with the bark every few months. This makes sure that there is no moisture building up or insects starting to infest. 

Wire & Metal Cages

Again, you may have seen this physical barrier in other yards or business landscapes. These cages should stand at least 6 feet tall and should be positioned a few feet away from the base of your young trees or shrubs. Stakes will need to be placed in the ground with the cage for extra support. 

It’s a good idea to use these metal cages as a support system against harsh weather conditions too. Take a thin rope or strong string and tie multiple pieces to the trunk of the tree and then to the metal cage in a balanced manner. On windy days, this will help keep your new tree stable and straight during its first growing season.

Living Barriers  Shrubs

Planting a row of bramble or dense shrubs around your yard's perimeter as a defensive barrier. Plant plants they like to eat as trap plants that fill them before they get to the 'good stuff'. Or just a wide-spreading shrub line that they can’t reach over, are other forms of physical barriers. 

Ring tender and prized Roses or other tasty morsels with something they dislike - or like better. Thorny Barberry to physically deter deer or a row of shrubs that grow wide enough and dense enough for them to not be able to get through and reach the main course. These all help not only with protecting leaves and flowers from being eaten but also prevent tree damage and the uprooting of new plantings.  

Group plants that taste good to deer with plants they are known to dislike, leading to nibbling on the wrong one will lead to them avoiding the entire grouping.

Plant What They Dislike

Even though there are plants that deer don’t bother, Nature Hills would like to state that there are no 100% deer-proof plants, only plants that deer seldomly bother compared to others. But at least choosing plants they dislike is something we here at Nature Hills can help you with! 

Remember that if deer populations are running high and their natural food sources are limited, deer are more likely to browse on any plant. But here are the top trees and deer-resistant shrubs based on each area of the country.

There are a few resistant trees and plants that deer don’t like the taste of as much as others. We like to refer to these trees as deer resistant or trees that are less bothered by deer in many areas. 

Top Deer Resistant Trees Overall

  • River Birch
  • American Beech
  • D.D Blanchard Southern Magnolia
  • Mimosa Tree
  • Bald Cypress

collage of trees

Top 5 Deer Resistant Plants For The South

  • Crape Myrtles
  • Perennial Sage Selections
  • Japanese Cedar Trees
  • Cherry Laurel Bushes
  • Golden Rain Tree

Top 5 Deer Resistant Plants For The North

  • Birch Trees
  • Boxwood Shrubs
  • Butterfly Bushes
  • Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs
  • Ornamental Grass Like Feather Reed Grass

Top 5 Deer Resistant Plants For The East

  • Honeylocust Tree
  • Evergreens Such As Alberta Spruce, Oregon Grape Holly & Leucothoe
  • Ferns - Autumn and Beautiful Wood Ferns
  • Adagio, Blue Fescue and Little Bunny Ornamental Grasses
  • Catmint/Catnip

Top 5 Deer Resistant Plants For The West

  • Potentilla Shrubs
  • Deodar Cedar
  • Yucca
  • Barberry Bushes
  • Bluebeard Shrubs

Top 5 Deer Resistant Perennials

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Peony
  • Salvia
  • False Indigo
  • Dianthus

collage of perennials

Alternative Methods Of Protection

Beyond fencing and guards, there are other multiple ways to protect your young trees. Depending on your preferences, the following protectants might be better options for you: 

  • Remove plants from your landscape that deer are known to love or that especially attract them. Some plants are known to specifically attract deer, so removing those from a landscape will help decrease the damage caused.
  • Planting deer-resistant plants is a natural way to avoid deer damage, so try to choose plants that deer dislike. We have listed a few below!
  • Install motion-detector sprinklers or sound makers to increase the chance of scaring deer away.   Sprinkler
  • Wind spinners and moving sculptures keep deer on edge and not safe to eat
  • Milorganite has been known to keep deer away as well as fertilize your non-edible garden plants. 

Deer Resistant - Not Deer Proof

The most important thing to know about deer is that when they are hungry, and food is limited, they may eat just about anything! Please keep in mind that deer tastes change with the season, with the region, and with what is available to them. Your local County Extension Office is a great resource for finding what they graze on and when. 

Keep in mind that if the deer populations are increasing and their natural food sources are limited, deer are a lot more likely to browse on any plant of their choice, regardless if it is 'deer-resistant' or not. 

If an entire landscape isn’t in the cards because of an especially high deer population, you can always try container gardening!   Deer eating grass

Now, instead of running off your natural neighbors - you can sit back with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy the early morning scenery each day. Hopefully, at the end of the day, you and these graceful creatures will be able to peacefully coexist!

Happy Planting with the help of!

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