Protect Trees From Deer Damage

Protect Trees From Deer Damage

For most newly planted trees, 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. 

Not to mention, deer can negatively affect the visual appearance of a perfectly planted landscape too. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing bark that has been peeled away from your newly planted trees. 

However, Nature Hills understands that some gardeners enjoy watching natural wildlife, such as deer, go about a peaceful day in their back or front yard. Which is exactly why this blog will cover how to protect your new trees, while still being able to host a group of deer here and there!


How To Protect Your New Trees

Deer damage is usually a common result of males scraping their antlers against the trunk of various trees. After some time of constant rubbing, serious damage starts to occur as the velvet of the bark is sheared off. 

Now, the males can polish their antlers even more by continuing to rub against the newly exposed bark. This can be seen at any time during the year. 

However, during mating season the number of trees damaged begins to increase. Male deer will 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 disease.  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.

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 then chewed upon. Each are ways that deer can damage your trees. 

If you have noticed that deer have been pestering your trees, they are likely to keep coming back. 


Physical Barriers

The best way to protect your trees is to prevent the deer from having close access to the tree trunk or low hanging branches. Physical barriers are effective and offer a variety of choices depending on the size of the property and aesthetic preferences!

Below are the top suggestions of physical barriers to create a deer proof yard. 


  • Surround tree trunks with 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. 

Not to mention, they are easy to set up and don’t take up space in the landscape. Make sure the plastic tube is white or a lighter color so that the tree trunk doesn’t undergo extra heat from the sun.

Some individuals have even used chicken wire to shield the tree trunk or the cliche vinyl spiral wrap. These allow the tree to still grow completely naturally. 

However, you will want to replace the wraps every few months. This makes sure that there is no moisture building up or insects starting to infest. 


  • Install a deer-proof fence around the perimeter of your property. 

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 in your yard. 

If you are looking to still attract wildlife into the landscape, this physical barrier may not be the way to go as it is effective in completely keeping deer out. 


  • Circle your trees with 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. Wooden 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 thin rope or strong string and tie multiple pieces to the trunk of the tree 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.


Other Ways Of Protection

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

  • Remove plants from your landscape that deer are known to love. Some plants are known to specifically attract deer, so removing those from a landscape will help decrease the damage caused.
  • Planting deer resistant trees 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 to increase the chance of scaring deer away. 
  • Use deer repellent to make trees smell and taste bad to the browsing deer. It's good practice to spray your tree before nightfall just to remind deer that they don’t like your new plant.


Top Deer Resistant Trees

There are a few trees 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. 

River Birch

The River Birch tree is extremely versatile and one of our favorite deciduous trees. It is heat tolerant, fast growing and features a pyramidal growth habitat that rounds out over the years. River Birches work well as a single specimen, screen, natural grouping or even shelterbelt. 

Hungry deer seem to rarely bother the peeling cinnamon-brown bark and glossy green leaves. That leaves you with an impeccable shade tree in the front or back yard. 


American Beech

We aren’t sure how deer don’t instantly fall in love with an American Beech upon sight. We know we sure do! This excellent wildlife tree has smooth gray bark and dark green leaves that slowly turn into a golden-bronze autumn shade.

Plant an American Beech in the landscape and deer will rarely ever pay it a visit.


D.D Blanchard Southern Magnolia

Magnolias are known to not attract deer while looking pretty when doing it. The D.D Blanchard Southern Magnolia tree has huge cup-shaped blossoms that fill the air with a lemon fragrance during the spring. 

Maybe deer don’t necessarily like lemons? We aren’t certain. But, we are certain that this Magnolia tree makes for an excellent visual screen and amazing floral arrangements. 


Mimosa Tree

There is nothing better than having the most unique tree on the block. The Mimosa Tree’s tropical pink blooms and fern-like foliage is not a fan favorite of deer, but is a fan favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. 

Place this tree in a sunny area for a little extra shade underneath its wide spreading canopy. Or use it as a backdrop at the back of your garden. We assure you it will still stand out amongst the rest --just not to the deer!


Bald Cypress

Plant a Bald Cypress tree and enjoy a deer free yard, while watching its dark green leaves transform into a cinnamon red fall color before your eyes. Years upon years, this long-lived tree will grow tall and strong. 

Young trees can’t defend themselves against antler-rubbing and hungry deer, so you have to be the shoulder they lean on. Protect your newly planted trees from deer with physical barriers and more or invest in a few deer resistant plants; your garden will thank you for it. 

Happy planting!

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