Spring Blossoms that Survive Deer

This post is patterned according to the rules from “Six-on-Saturday,” hosted by The Propagator: My Plant Obsession. You can see photos from enchanting gardens around the world here.

Keeping deer from devouring everything in your yard is especially difficult in spring and fall.

We live in a very deer-dense suburb of Northeast Ohio. So, even when a tree, shrub, or plant is labeled “deer-resistant,” I proceed with caution.

Late last summer, I placed a fall bulb order and really limited myself to what I believed would survive intense foraging.

Then, heading into the garden stores in spring, I was enticed by the vivid photos on packages of bulbs and other plants.

Again, I limited my purchases to those I felt would survive.

I’ll share with you below the plants and bulbs have thrived, and what made me choose these varieties.

Wisteria

This wisteria plant came in a plastic bag surrounded by a cardboard sleeve. It’s your typical bargain store purchase.

Sometimes, these plants grow well, and sometimes they are diseased or dead. For $3.00, I thought I’d give it a try. As you can see, the buds are showing promise.

Will deer eat it? My research told me that it is not favored by deer, at least not the smaller American variety of wisteria. I’ve seen it growing in a neighborhood yard. That’s what convinced me I’d be okay with this choice.

Time will tell.

Narcissus

Occasionally, I’ll read claims that deer eat narcissus, but in the 28 years we’ve lived here, I’ve never seen my plants nibbled by any animal, let alone deer.

Narcissi contain high amounts of oxalic acid, which keeps animals away.

Narcissus ‘British Gamble’

This is the newest variety I’ve tried. It is a large-cup trumpet type called ‘British Gamble.’ (Nod to my friends ‘cross the pond.)

Look at those giant cups! The bulbs were huge when they arrived. Every one of them bloomed, some with multiple flowers. I bought these from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. I’ve always been pleased with the quality of their plants.

Corydalis solida ‘White Knight’


Corydalis solida ‘White Knight’

I’ve been successfully growing the yellow variety of corydalis (Corydalis lutea) for many years. This is another plant high in oxalic acid.

Last fall I planted a white variety. The results have been great. I like the upright form of ‘White Knight’, and the slightly darker green foliage.

I wonder if it will spread as freely as the common variety?

Weeping Cherry Tree

Weeping Yoshino Cherry Tree (Prunus x yedoensis pendula)

Don’t get me wrong, fruit trees are favorites of hungry deer. The key is to buy one that’s tall – preferably seven feet or taller.

This usually means that you are paying big bucks (excuse the pun).

Providence led me to this tree in the clearance section of a “big box” store. It was not blooming but had several things going for it: It was over 6 feet tall, and the leaves looked healthy. It also is a variety in high demand, Weeping Yoshino Cherry Tree (Prunus x yedoensis pendula).

The deer did browse on the lower-hanging branches, but most of it was above their reach. The tree is still very young with only a few blooms this year, yet I think this bargain will prove to be a great success.

Muscari

common Muscari

The traditional grape hyacinth (Muscari) has been put in the family, Asparagaceae.

Muscari means “musk” in Greek, relating to its scent. 

Those two details, plus the fact that they’ve been growing in our yard for almost three decades, tells me that these little gems are not deer fodder.

Forsythia

I love the way this Peace Lily looks like it’s longing to join the forsythia in the great outdoors.

It’s as common as dirt, but every spring I am thankful for the forsythia. It blooms like gangbusters, and roots so easily just by putting a cut branch in a vase of water.

Proceed with caution in deer country. Deer will eat smaller plants (under 6 feet).

I’ve protected new “shrublings” by surrounding them with three bamboo stakes wrapped in deer netting.

Once the plant gets on in years and in height, the deer will leave it be.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – and Experiments

You can do your research and still fail when it comes to growing gardens in areas that are heavily populated by deer. There are so many variables to consider, like population density, availability of food, and (yes) local deer palates.

All you can really do is read a lot, be diligent, and keep experimenting. Hopefully, some of my experience will help you to have a beautiful yard, even in deer country.

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4 comments

  1. Judy Coleman says:

    You are inspiring me to try some new plants. I had basically given up except for fenced in areas and my deck

  2. I don’t have any deer (mercifully) but I will still see if I can get that Corydalis over here, it’s a beauty. The forms of Corydalis solida that I have barely hold their own and haven’t seeded at all. Corydalis lutea I don’t grow because in these parts it seeds prolifically and can become a nuisance. Corydalis ochroleuca and cheilanthifolia both do well for me and are pretty.

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