Campus News

Wildlife biologist talks about the best deer-resistant shrubs

Michael Mengak, wildlife biologist and professor at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, spoke with PureWow to share the best plants to stave off hungry deer.

While deer will eat anything if they’re hungry and desperate enough, there are various plants that they’re less likely to eat.

According to Mengak, deer typically hate boxwoods, junipers, forsythia, butterfly bush, beautyberry and inkberry holly, as well as most hollies in general.

If you have damage in your garden and you’re trying to determine the culprit, look for ragged edges. Because deer have no upper incisors, they bite and tear plants from ground level up to about 6 feet off the ground. Your plants may also get trampled, as well, as deer roam your yard.

To keep them from your yard, a 4- to 6-foot-tall fence may be effective. However, Mengak notes that “motivated deer can jump an 8-foot fence.”

Research shows that scare devices or repellents such as capsaicin or a putrescent egg could work.

“You also need to get the repellants in the garden as early as possible in the season,” Mengak said. “Application before the deer start feeding on your plants is important.”

He also stressed the importance of reading the label. Some repellants should never be used on edibles such as vegetables and berries.