Deer Resistant Plants, Buck Rub & Protection

Deer-resistant plants is a very common topic in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. It’s often an initial question on new landscape projects of all sizes. Deer-resistant, repellent, deterrent, and deer-proof can all be used synonymously with the topic. Ultimately, fencing is the BEST way to protect your plant(s).

To give you an idea of scale, all our farms in various locations (700+ acres of farmland) are surrounded by 8′ high deer fencing. But once the plants are out of our care and into your landscape, how can you protect them?

As the Wisconsin DNR recognizes Wisconsin as one of the premier white-tailed deer hunting states, it’s no secret that deer are prevalent here and around the Midwest. The DNR offers some great resources on deer management and population statistics, down the county level.

How does this relate to your new plants?

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Deer Protection

Deer-resistant plants is a very common topic in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. It’s often an initial question on new landscape projects of all siz…

Deer/Buck Rub Kills Trees

Buck rub is easy to spot in high-deer populations, like much of Wisconsin. You’ll notice long scratches, peeling, or damaged bark around the mid-section of the trunk or higher on single stem trees and fruit trees. Bark damage closer to the ground is more likely rodents.

Buck rub often appears in the late summer or early fall. Male deer rub the velvet off their newly acquired antler growth. Also, the area between the forehead and antlers contains sweat glands. Rubbing their antlers on trees will leave a scent that communicates a challenge to other male deer and attracts potential mates.

Deer-resistant plants is a very common topic in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. It’s often an initial question on new landscape projects of all siz…

Plants Are Deer Food

White-tailed deer (most common in Wisconsin) are herbivores. Their diet includes readily available plants, including new plant growth, twigs, fruits, and nuts. This means that all plants are susceptible, including new growth on young branches of single-stem trees, shrubs, fruit trees, most soft-foliage evergreens, and perennials.

Their tastes may change with the seasons and as plants change/grow each year. Sometimes the new spring growth on a plant is irresistible, and when that growth hardens off later in the season, the deer move on to other plants. In late summer and fall, deer consider plants that will help them put on fat before the winter season.

How To Deer Proof Your Plants

There are many products on the market that claim to discourage and repel deer from eating desirable plants. Many of them work well when used according to label directions and for small-scale applications. It’s probably not feasible, however, to treat an entire landscape with spray or granular applications.

The best way to protect your new trees is appropriate fencing. While this may seem more costly up front, you can use them every year instead of continually buying sprays or granular products.

Single & Multi-Stem Trees, Fruit Trees

  • Vinyl Tree Guards, Mesh Tree Protectors

Evergreens, Shrubs, Perennials:

  • Sprays, Granular, DIY Chicken wire or heavier-duty enclosures

Deer Protection Options

  • Vinyl Tree Guards (available at Johnson’s Nursery for $1.99 ea.)
  • Mesh Tree Protectors (twin packs available for $4.99 for 2-pack)
  • Chicken wire
  • Sprays for small scale applications (available at Johnson’s Nursery)
  • Granular
  • Something more heavy-duty (like high-velocity lead)
Deer-resistant plants is a very common topic in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. It’s often an initial question on new landscape projects of all siz…

Left: Mesh Twin Packs | Right: Vinyl Tree Guards

Deer-resistant plants is a very common topic in Wisconsin, especially in the fall. It’s often an initial question on new landscape projects of all siz…

Ask About Deer and Rabbit Resist Sprays

Plant Deer Browse Resistant Plants

No list of deer resistant plants is 100% bulletproof because a hungry animal will eat any plant if it’s desperate. The plants below are suggestions based on observation. Our recommendations come from growing plants on 700 acres of farmland in Wisconsin and working with a diverse client mix from homeowners to municipalities to contractors since the 1950’s.

Deer Resistant Trees

Buck rub and deer browse differences for single and multi-stem trees. Musclewood, for example: Deer may not want to eat the plant, but the bark is very thin, and can be easily damaged by buck rub. Same with Beech and Magnolia. Deer may use anything as an antler scratching post.

Deer Resistant Shrubs

  • WinterberryIlex verticillata
  • Japanese Kerria, Kerria japonica
  • Northern Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica
  • Potentilla, Potentilla sp.
  • Fragrant SumacRhus aromatica
  • Rugosa Rose, Rosa rugosa
  • Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa
  • Spirea, Spiraea sp.
  • Common SnowberrySympho. albus
  • Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris
  • Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum
  • Dwarf BushhoneysuckleDiervilla lonicera

**Deer love Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle. However, it’s a very resilient plant that will bounce back from deer browse.

Deer Proof Perennials

  • YarrowAchillea sp.
  • MonkshoodAconitum sp.
  • Black Snakeroot, Actaea racemosa
  • Anise-HyssopAgastache scrophulariifolia
  • Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla mollis
  • Ornamental OnionAllium sp.
  • Willow Amsonia, Amsonia tabern.
  • Anemone, Anemone sp.
  • Wild ColumbineAquilegia sp.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpitArisaema triphyllum
  • Milkweed, Asclepias sp.
  • Astilbe, Astilbe sp.
  • False Blue IndigoBaptisia sp.
  • Pig squeak, Bergenia cordifolia
  • Siberian Bugloss, Brunnera macrophylla
  • Sedge, Carex sp.
  • Coreopsis, Coreopsis sp.
  • Pinks, Dianthus sp.
  • Bleeding Heart, Dicentra sp.
  • Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
  • Spotted Joe-Pye WeedEutrochium maculatum
  • Geranium, Geranium sp.
  • Prairie SmokeGeum triflorum
  • Lenten Rose/Hellebore, Helleborus sp.
  • CoralbellsHeuchera sp.
  • Lamium, Lamium maculatum sp.
  • Blazing Star, Liatris sp.
  • Ligularia, Ligularia sp.
  • Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis
  • Lupine, Lupinus sp.
  • Virginia BluebellsMertensia virginica
  • Beebalm, Monarda sp.
  • Catmint, Nepeta sp.
  • Peony, Paeonia sp.
  • Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Obedient Plant, Physostegia virginiana
  • Jacob’s Ladder, Polemonium caeruleum
  • Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum sp.
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria sp.
  • Black-eyed SusanRudbeckia sp.
  • Perennial Salvia, Saliva sp.
  • Sedum, Sedum sp.
  • Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
  • New England Asters, Symphyotrichum novae angliae
  • Spider Wort, Tradescantia ohiensis
  • All Ferns
    • Adiantum pedatum
    • Athyrium sp.
    • Dryopteris sp.
    • Matteuccia struthiopteris
    • Onoclea sensibilis
    • Osmunda sp.
    • Polystichum acrostichoides

Ornamental Grasses

  • Big BluestemAndropogon gerardii
  • Karl Foerster Feather Reed GrassCalamagrostis acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’
  • Pennsylvania SedgeCarex pensylvanica
  • Eastern Star Sedge, Carex radiata
  • Northern Sea Oats, Chasman. latifo.
  • Bottlebrush GrassElymus hystrix
  • Maiden Grass, Miscanthus sp.
  • Purple Moor Grass, Molinia sp.
  • Northwind Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’
  • Shenendoah Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’
  • Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’
  • Marsh Bluegrass (Poa palustris)
  • Little BluestemSchizachyrium scoparium
  • Moor Grass, Sesleria sp.
  • Indian GrassSorghastrum nutans
  • Prairie DropseedSporobolus heterolepis

Broadleaf Evergreens

Conifers

  • Concolor/White FirAbies concolor
  • JuniperJuniperus sp.
  • Dawn RedwoodMetasequoia glyptostro.
  • Norway SprucePicea abies
  • White SprucePicea glauca
  • Colorado Blue Spruce, Picea pung. f. glauca
  • Mugo Pine, Pinus mugo
  • Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris
  • Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum
  • Giant Arborvitae, Thuja plicata
  • TamarackLarix laricina **

**Deer love Tamarack. However, it’s a very resilient plant that will bounce back from buck rub and deer browse on new growth.

Vines

  • American BittersweetCelastrus scandens
  • Virginia Creeper, Parth. quinquefolia
  • Carrion Flower, Smilax herbacea