Select deer, rabbit resistant perennials

We work so hard to create beautiful landscapes and gardens, and too often we are thwarted by four-legged creatures. Darn those rabbits and deer anyway!

Fortunately for us, rabbit populations rise and fall regularly. However deer always seem to be with us.

What kind of deer-proof or rabbit-proof plants are available? Just as there is no such thing as a plant that will not burn, critters will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough. Lists are only general guidelines.

Deer seem to avoid plants that are toxic, have strong odors, fuzzy or prickly leaves and/or stems and ornamental grasses. They seem to love apple, crabapple, aspen, birch, cherry, clematis, daylilies (some lists say daylilies are deer-resistant), euonymous (burning bush, particularly), dogwood, honeysuckle, hosta, lilies, maple, oak (although some lists say oaks are deer-resistant), peach, pear, poplar, raspberry, rose, sedum (one list says they don't eat sedum), strawberry, sumac, tulips and many vegetables.

Rabbit favorites include many of the above and barberry, campanula, crocus, dianthus, echinacea, blue fescue, forsythia, hawthorn, pansy, petunias, pyracantha, sand cherry, rose, sunflowers (I can vouch for this!), sweet peas and zinnia. Of course, the old cartoon legend of Bugs Bunny eating carrots holds true for your average bunny, along with them eating almost every other vegetable in your garden. They do eat lawn grasses too and can graze a small lawn almost to death.

Here are a some plants both deer and rabbits supposedly will not eat: yarrow, monkshood, agastache, ajuga, arctostaphylos, blue flax, penstemon, columbine, sea-thrift, basket-of-gold, astilbe, wormwood, bergenia, butterfly bush, coreopsis, bleeding heart, foxglove, euphorbia, blanket flower, German iris, lavender, beebalm, catmint, peony, Russian sage, poppy, salvia, lamb's ears, thyme, Shasta daisy and yucca. Other undesirables may include sagebrush, barberry, mountain mahogany, dogwood, Rose-of-Sharon, currants, sumac, spiraea, viburnum and junipers.

Deer (and maybe rabbits) seem to also avoid lupine, red hot poker, fir, cedar, hackberry, hawthorn, cypress, ash, ginkgo, spruce, pine, manzanita, buckwheat, cotoneaster, rockrose, Oregon grape, potentilla, lilac and quince.

One of the jokes almost every list-maker uses is that deer and rabbits can't read, so they don't know which plants they are not supposed to eat. They may try everything to see if they like it or if they are hungry. So, approach these suggestions with a grain of salt. The best protection is exclusion.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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