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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Acer palmatum dissectum, Deer

Is the Japanese 'Crimson Queen' laceleaf maple deer resistant?


I found Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) on a few lists of deer resistant plants. (One source is Pacific Horticulture, v. 47 (3) 1986, "Co-Existing with Deer," by Mary Lynn Cox)

None of the lists mention specific cultivars, such as your 'Crimson Queen.' But the risk of damage should be lower than other plants that deer prefer. Every article I read warned that a starving deer will eat anything, so no plant is 100% safe.

Date 2017-05-17
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Acorus, Thalia, Typha latifolia, Sagittaria latifolia, Pontederia cordata, Cornus alba, Cornus stolonifera, Spiraea douglasii, Athyrium filix-femina, Lysichiton americanus, Scrophularia, Wetland plants, Carex, Native plants--Care and maintenance, Slope stabilization and soil erosion, Iris, Deer

We need some advice and we are hoping you can help. We would like to replant the banks of our fish pond and want to know what kinds of plants would hold a steep slope and be compatible with the fish and each other. We have a large deer and elk population and we get substantial amounts of rain. We like grass-type shrubs and we need a ground cover that will not take over and is evergreen.


From the research I have done, it seems that a pond with a sloping side is a very good idea, but if erosion is a serious issue, you may want to think about both plants and physical controls such as coconut fiber matting to stabilize the banks. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's guide (1997), The Natural Water Garden, has a description of using coconut fiber tubes (also called biologs) laid horizontally along a bank, which can also be used as a secure planting medium for seedlings.

As far as deer-resistant plants which may work for your site, iris and spiraea appear to be unappealing to deer, so you might want to try some of the irises which prefer moist situations, such as Iris laevigata, and Iris versicolor (blue flag), as well as Spiraea douglasii (hardhack).

Other plants which may help with preventing erosion are Lysichiton americanum (skunk cabbage), Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern), Carex obnupta (sedge), and Cornus stolonifera (red osier dogwood) or C. alba (red twig dogwood).

Some grassy or reedy plants which do well as marginal (water's edge) plants include Acorus calamus 'Variegatus' (variegated sweet flag), Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed), Sagittaria latifolia (American arrowhead), and Typha latifolia (cattail). All of these are deciduous.

For evergreen plants, you could try Scrophularia auriculata 'Variegata' (water figwort), an evergreen perennial with cream-edged foliage. The flowers should be deadheaded to prevent self-seeding. Thalia dealbata (hardy canna) is evergreen, with long-stalked blue-green leaves and violet flower spikes.

Date 2018-07-12
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Control of wildlife pests, Deer

How can I keep deer out of my garden? Something is eating my plants, and I think it's deer. Do they like dahlias? Those are my favorite, and they seem to be especially hard hit. They don't seem to like it when we water, so maybe we could do something with that?


Deer are very hard to repel. Information about managing deer around your home and garden is available at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife site, Living with Wildlife. (There are no guaranteed or complete repellents. As the link above mentions, some of the repellents may be toxic to plants, and may not be effective for very long. Furthermore, some of the predator urine repellents may not be humanely produced.)

First, you should identify which plants are being eaten; rodents and rabbits make a clean cut, while deer leave a jagged edge. And, of course, the browse marks are higher up on the plants if deer are the culprits. Fortunately, most native plants can survive some browsing. Unfortunately, deer do eat dahlias.

Once you determine which plants the deer is eating, you can often protect just those plants with a 4-6 foot circular fence just around the base of the plant. If you are trying to protect a small vegetable garden, you might be able to fence and cover it (suspending netting or chicken wire from the tops of the fence posts) as well. Fencing material can be made of woven wire or rigid polypropylene mesh.

You might consider motion-sensitive sprinklers, lights, or a radio--you did say that water scared off the deer. Some people have used blinking lights with success, strung so that they cast many shadows.

Some home remedies will work some of the time, though none work all of the time. And, they all have to be replenished after a good rain or watering. Here are some anecdotal examples of things that have worked (taken from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Russell Link's book, Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, 1999):

  1. Keeping dogs near the plants (for instance, installing their run near the garden).
  2. Human hair, strong-smelling soap, or blood meal placed in stockings or cheesecloth bags and hung near the plants.
  3. Several old eggs blended in a gallon of water and placed in vented containers, hanging near the plants.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website includes Link's list of plants that are at least somewhat deer-resistant. There are lists from Oregon State University and the King County Native Plant Guide, too.

While you may have to put up with some damage, I hope the ideas above will give you some places to start.

Date 2018-03-01
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Erythronium, Deer

Do deer commonly eat Erythronium (dog-tooth lily)? I enjoy them (the plants) in a semi-protected area near the house, but would like to put them in with ferns in an area where we know deer have eaten other plants. I don't want to spend the effort and money this fall if it is something they love.


There is probably no plant that deer won't at least try once. Dog-tooth lily is not the common name I've heard most often for this plant; it is more commonly known as dog-tooth violet or trout lily. Unfortunately, it looks like Erythronium is considered a delicacy, according to this U.S. Forest Service page on Erythronium grandiflorum, a species called glacier lily, but the same genus as dog-tooth violet. Here is an excerpt:

Glacier lily is an important forage for grizzly bears, which dig for the corms in spring. Ground squirrels will also feed on corms. Foliage is grazed by large ungulates such as sheep and cattle. In an Idaho study, glacier lily made up the bulk of mule deer diets during May.

In Idaho, mule deer ate disproportionate amounts of glacier lily compared to its availability, suggesting there was some preference for the lily. Bears will stray from their normal course of travel along ridges to seek out glacier lily corms. Glacier lily provides fair to poor forage for cattle, sheep, and horses, and fair graze for small mammals, deer, and elk.

There are lists available of plants deer "won't" eat (or won't like, once having tried them). Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website (based on the book of the same name by Russell Link) has additional information. If you scroll down, you will find a list of "Deer-Proof (or close to it) Plants for Washington Landscapes."

Date 2018-07-13
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Wildlife pests, Deer

Leave it to gardeners to transform innocent seeming Bambi into a plant eating, garden destroying monster! Outwitting Deer by Bill Adler Jr. (Lyons Press, 1999)uses humor to reveal the truth about the largest pest in the garden. The long lists of plants that deer prefer and dislike (no plant is 100% deer-proof) are most helpful, along with an honest examination of the myriad of strategies and home remedies used to repel marauding deer.

Date: 2007-07-13
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May 31 2018 13:14:08