certain plants can deter wildlife pest from garden yes / no?

Hinsdale, IL

Hi, I'm new to this forum. I thought this might be a good place to ask others their view, on a subject concerning wildlife and gardening.

Do you believe certain plants can be useful in deterring certain unwanted wildlife from your garden plants?

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Hinsdale, IL

For instance, I hear columbine, dahlia, fowglove, verbena, and echinacea; help in deterring rabbits.

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Madison, AL

I have personally never seen anything that will deter a hungry rabbit. They just plain like to eat. In my garden deer destroy almost everything except lenten roses (hellebores). They devour hostas and most everything else, but have never touched the hellebores. I have no idea why.

Hinsdale, IL

I have three of the five plants on that list. So,I figure I doesn't hurt to test out this theory. I have four willows that the rabbits love to chew to the ground.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I don't think anything deters/repels critters. There are things that are critter would rather not eat. Some because they don't taste good - they will eat these, too, in a bad year. Some things they won't eat because they are mildly to strongly poisonous. Unlike humans, They can tell they are poisonous by the smell.
We has a drought here and the rabbits ate things they don't usually eat. They ate the lower branches on Barberry and Pine, which are usually Rabbit resistant. They would work their way through the spines (with help from the quail) on some of the cactus, and eat the cactus.

This message was edited Jan 5, 2013 5:51 PM

Madison, AL

Here in NC we are surrounded by woods. The only plant the deer will not touch is hellebore. For some reason known only to the deer these plants grow and prosper without interference. Hostas planted years ago are about all gone - the big beautiful leafy ones are apparently the most tasty. I have surrounded several with chicken wire and they survive (but that is not particularly lovely to look at). Only the very small leafed ones are ignored and the rabbits snack on those. So I no longer plant hosta and have expanded my hellebore collection - go along and get along with nature - less stressful than fighting back all the time. Nature and the deer can outlast me! Of course, if you have a fenced area for your garden, this will save your vegetables from the deer (we have fenced in our blueberries for that reason). A nice big dog is also a good deterrent.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Personally, I'm not sure I'd call any wildlife "unwanted" in my garden. I enjoy watching the animals too much! Everything that eats my garden is eaten by something else. The meadow voles are eaten by my neighbor's cat and the foxes, the rabbits are eaten by the foxes and coyotes, and the deer fall prey to coyotes. I'm not sure what eats squirrels - hawks or weasels, maybe? I can't fence my property, so I have planted prickly, poisonous, distasteful plants among the more tasty plants, and resigned myself to losing a number of the tasty plants to herbivores. I used to put wire netting around my lilies, but it was just too much trouble and looked unsightly, so now they take their chances. I've given up on tulips altogether, and replaced them with daffodils. I also stopped using bloodmeal and bonemeal when planting as the fertilizers smell lovely to raccoons, which dig down to find the source of the odor, uprooting the plant or bulb in the process.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I remember someone saying they caged their plants and now their yard looks like a "plant penitentiary".
Hellebores are one of those plants that are poisonous - if I remember correctly, the sap can cause contact dermatitis, too.
Foxes and Owls take care of the rabbits here, and sadly the quail, too. The only thing that preys on the deer is traffic, and getting tangled in fences. They usually only get scraped up, not killed out-right.
Traffic is harder on the Bull Snakes, which is my only line of defense against the gophers.
The gophers have done more damage than the rabbits and deer combined so far - but if the deer population keeps increasing uncontrolled, that could change.

Hinsdale, IL

I don't mind critters coming into my yard and nibbling on plants in my property, I just don't want them eating all of the one or two favorites, to the ground. So maybe, if I plant a lot of other plants that are their favorites, the critters will let my favorites attain a decent size, and will both be happy.

Another idea, is to plant onions or garlic and very thorny groundcovers, and / or, shrubs and trees, around the plants, to be saved from the hungry animals.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I got up this morning to 13 deer in my yard. One big buck (head down on right), 3 little spike bucks, 1 late fawn, and EIGHT does. What am I going to do with 8 fawns come spring? As you can see, I don't live in the woods - my lot is 100x150 feet.

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Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

You could regard them as mobile garden ornaments.

Hinsdale, IL

Fruit trees and deer plots, that can provide the deer food for all four seasons, might deter the deer from distroying many of your yard plants, in the future.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Strange2u - The big buck with his head down was eating dried windfall plums. I keep the apples and pears (out of frame to left) sprayed with rotten egg spray. They don't bother the peaches at all. They nibble on the plums and nectarines once in a while. The cherries were killed by gophers, so the deer never got a chance to bother them. They also like green tomatos in the summer.

What would you suggest planting for them to browze instead of my veggies? I can't put out "feed" like grain or pellets, that is against the law here. I already plant grass for the rabbits, I don't mind planting native plants for native animals.

Hinsdale, IL

I'll give you a list of USA Native plants that grow in your zone. The list will consist of grasses, forbs, shrubs, & trees. I 'll also try to give you a few details about each of them.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Thanks - that would help if you have the time.
I have lists of natives for wildlife - but they are for ALL wildlife with emphasis on birds - they aren't aimed deer. And I have lists of things that deer & rabbits won't eat - but decoy plants would be more useful in my case.

Back to your list of flowers to deter rabbits - foxglove is poisonous, columbine in mildly poisonous. Echinacea & maybe Dahlia are composites, so probably not poisonous - but Rabbits don't care for Marigolds, and they're not poisonous either. Verbena is native here, I haven't noticed the Rabbits eating it.

From my own experience, Rabbits love tulips & will eat them bulbs and all, but they won't bother Daffodils. The favorite decoy plant here is ornamental "blue" fescue (not lawn fescue) followed by Kentucky Bluegrass. You can leave Kentucky Bluegrass un-mowed as an "ornamental" - it will spread whether mowed or not unless you use some edging or a container.

Hinsdale, IL

Thank you for your repy, and the info you gave me about those plants and rabbits.

Deer favorites and main food consist of forbs. But, they will also browse the foliage of trees, shrubs, and woody vines. Deer also like to snack on mast. Grass is usually their last resort as a food source, except in the spring, when the blades are young and tender.

Here's a list of forbs that deer are known to eat in their natural habitat. All of these should be native to the USA, and should grow in your zone.

Showy Ticktrefoil
Desmodium canadense
It's a self-sewing perennial, height 2 - 3' spread 1' -15'', prefers full sun - Part shade & average moisture, rated for zone 4 - 10, blooms pink . blue violet . violet lavender . white blooms mid summer - early fall

Jerusalem Artichoke
Helianthus tuberosus
It's a edible bulb perennial, height 8 -10 ' spread 2 -3', prefers full sun & average moisture, rated for zone 4 -9, blooms gold . bright yellow blooms late summer - early fall

Phacelia congesta
It's a self-sewing annual, height 18'' - 3' spread 2 -3', prefers full sun & average moisture, blooms medium blue blooms mid spring

Whitemouth Dayflower
Commelina erecta
It's a perennial, height 1' - 18 '', prefers full sun & average moisture, rated for zone 5 -10, blooms medium blue blooms mid summer - mid fall

Engelmann's Daisy
Engelmannia peristenia
It's a self-sewing perennial, height 18'' - 2' spread 1 -3', prefers full sun & average moisture, rated for zone 4 -10, blooms Bright Yellow blooms mid spring

Purple Poppymallow
Callirhoe involucrata
It's a self-sewing perennial, height 6'' - 1' spread 15 -18'', prefers full sun & dry - average soil moisture, rated for zone 3 - 9, blooms magenta blooms late spring - early fall

Palmleaf Poppymallow
Callirhoe pedata
It's a perennial, height 1 -3' spread 9'' - 1', full sun - light shade & average moisture, rated for zone 6 - 9, blooms pink . rose mauve blooms late winter - early summer

Maximilian Sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani
{This plant is listed as deer tolerant in DG's plant profiles, but other sources say deer eat it. I don't totally trust everything said in DG plant files, and my other sources seem like stronger sources. So I'm keeping this plant on my list of native plants that deer naturally eat, in the wild.}
It's a self-sewing perennial, height 4 - 10' spread 3 - 4', prefers full sun & average moisture, rated for zone 4 -10,blooms bright Yellow blooms mid fall

These last two I kept separate, because they are the only two forbs that I found, so far, that prefer moist soil. Here they are.

White Turtlehead
Chelone glabra
It's a perennial, height 2 -3' spread 18'' - 2', prefers light shade & moist soil, rated for zone 3 - 8, bloomspink . white blooms mid summer - mid fall

Impatiens capensis
it's a self-sewing annual herb, height 2 -6' spread 18'' -2', prefers part - full shade & moist soil, blooms red orange blooms mid summer early fall

Most wild flowers like to colonize. So, it's a good idea to plant them in a way, that the plants have plenty of space around them selves, to form a colony.

I don't have time to go into the plants deer like to browse. I'll get back to you in few days, to give you that information.

This message was edited Jan 21, 2013 12:59 AM

This message was edited Jan 21, 2013 1:09 AM

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

This area is where the short grass prairie verges on high desert. Poppy mallow will thrive here even in a bad year. The perrenial sunflowers will grow here with a little exta water. The Phacelia (Calif Bluebells) will grow here as an annual with a little help getting started- and the seed is easy to find. Englemann's daisy and some similar composites will grow here - but I wouldn't want them taking over.
One of my favorites that deer eat in the wild and probably would eat in my yard is Ipomopsis - biennial Scarlet Gilia. I will have to remember to plant more of that this year.

I guess I will order bulk seed for California Bluebells, Scarlet Gilia, and Indian Ricegrass to sow in the easement next to the fruit trees. The Ricegrass is good bird chow, and I bet the Rabbits and Deer wouldn't turn it down.

I have Kentucky Bluegrass next to the back step that the mower can't reach, so it gets tall if I don't hand edge. The doe rabbits will come up almost to the back door to cut it and carry it off as nesting material. And they squeeze under the fence all winter to eat the mowed part of the lawn. But the foxes and owls keep the rabbits from over-populating.

Hinsdale, IL

Hi I'm back. Here are some native plants deer prefer to browse.

Black Dalea
Dalea frutescens
It's a drought tolerant shrub, height 2 - 3' spread 2 - 3', prefers full sun & average - dry soil moisture, rated for zone 6 - 9, blooms purple blooms mid summer - early fall

False Indigo
Amorpha fruticosa
It's a drought tolerant shrub, height 10 -12' spread 12 - 15', prefers full sun - part shade & average to dry soil moisture, rated for zone 2 -8, blooms blue violet blooms mid summer

Witch Hazel
Hamanelius virginiana
It's a shrub, height 8 -12' spread 10 - 15', prefers sun - part sun & average soil moisture, rated for zone 3 -8, blooms gold blooms mid fall - early winter

Gum Bully
Sideroxylon lanuginosum
It's a drought tolerant shrub or tree, hleight 30 - 80' spread 15 - 20', prefers full sun - part shade & average - dry soil moisture, rated for zone 5 - 10, provides winter interest

Eastern Redbud
Cercis canadensis
It's a drought tolerant tree or shrub, height 12 - 20' spread 12 - 20', prefers full sun - part shade & average - dry soil moisture, rated for zone 4 - 9, blooms magenta blooms late winter - mid spring

In case you have, a part - full shade area, where you would like to plant something, here's a herb shrub that deer prefer to browse on.

Lindera benzoin
It's a herb shrub, height 6 -15' spread 8 - 12', prefers part - full shade & average soil moisture, rated for zone 4 -9, blooms yellow blooms mid spring

Now back to sun and part shade plants:

Crataegus spp.

Sabal minor
But it is a zone 7 plant, but there are two cultivars of this plant that grow in zone 5, and deer might like to browse on them as well. They are 'McCurtain' and 'Tulsa'

American Hazelnut
Corylus americana
It's a rootball shrub, with copper red fall color, that provides deer mast as well as foliage to browse on, height 12 -15' spread 6 -8', prefers sun - part shade & average - medium wet soil, rated for zone 4 -9, blooms red . brown bronze blooms late winter - early spring

Beaked Hazelnut
Corylus cornuta
It's a shrub that like for nuts and foliage, Height 4 - 12' spread don't know,prefers sun part shade & average soil moisture, rated for zone 2 - 6, blooms red . yellow blooms mid spring

If you're in the market for some trees, here are some native trees that deer are known, to prefer to browse on in the wild.

American Smoketree
Continus obovatus
It's larger than most smoketrees, and the smoke is bigger, more colorful and longer lasting than it is on other smoketrees. It's height and spread is 20 -30'. They are rated for zone 4 - 8

Bigtooth Maple
Acer grandidentatum var. sinuosum
The zone rating for this plant is a bit controversial, because different sites give it different ratings. The most broad rating is 4 - 8. Size is like most other mid - large maples.

Cedar Elm
Ulmus crassifolia
It's a drought tolerant tree, height 30 - over 40' spread 15 - 20', prefers full sun - part shade & average soil moisture, rating is zone 6 - 10, but I hear it can take cooler zones, although it's growth will be stunted in cooler areas.

Carolina Buckthorn
Frangula caroliniana
It's a tree that can be grown as a ten foot under story tree and has good fall color, height 15 -30' spread 15 -20', prefers full sun - part shade & average soil moisture, rated for zone 5 - 9, blooms yellow blooms late spring - early summer, has berries that might serve as a mast for the deer

Pots Oak
Quercus stellata
It's a drought tolerant tree with fall color,Height over 40' spread over 40',prefers sun & average - dry soil moisture, rated for zone 5 - 9

Blackjack Oak
Quercus marilandica
It's a tree, height 20 - 0ver 40' spread 30 - over 40', prefers full sun (shade tolerant), rated for zone 3 -9

Celtis laevigata
It's a drought tolerant evergreen tree that provides deer mast, height over 40' spread 8 -10',prefers full sun - part shade & average soil moisture, rated for zone 5 -9

It is getting late and I better go. Its been fun and a great learning experience researching this topic. I'll be getting back to very soon to give you a small list of grasses that they might be used to being around.

This message was edited Jan 24, 2013 2:08 AM

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I have got the Amorpha and a Cercis with suckers down low enough to browze - the deer haven't done any noticable damage so far. The Celtis is where they can't reach the branches. I don't have a Hawthorn, but they certainly like to nibble on its apple cousins. Smoke tree does well here but I don't have room unless I remove something else.

I am allergic to grasses and composite/asters. I have already researched grasses. I am going to use Indian Ricegrass, Western or Streambank Wheatgrass, native Grama grass, and female Buffalo grass (plugs not seed). They seem to offer the best combination of year-round support of wildlife, low water use, and relatively low pollen - plus they stay a lawn-mower managable size if I need to mow weeds or awns/pollen. The other grass native to my yard is Purple Three-awn - it is fairly pretty, but the wildlife don't care for it so I may remove it. After I get the grasses growing, I can add in the forbes/perrenials. I will use plants for bees and hummingbirds - but probably not too many composites/aster family plants. The hummingbirds, deer, & I all love Gilia/Ipomopsis.

I have Purple Poppymallow Callirhoe involucrata. I very seldom water it. Instead of being 2-6" tall, it is 12-18" - I think a doe kept a fawn hidden in it Spring 2011.

Update on deer damage: They have mainly nibbled the wild cherry bushes, the Service berry bushes, and the shrub roses. They tested the Mountain mahogany and Lilac. The haven't bothered the Amorpha or Wild roses. I don't know if they have eaten any Redbud seedlings or not - I wouldn't miss them if they were gone. The only thing that is a real problem is the pear trees - I guess I will go spray some more rotten egg deer repellant on them and the apple.

This message was edited Jan 25, 2013 10:48 AM

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I thought I would revisit the original question. To encourage wildlife, you improve their habitat - to discourage wildlife, you do the opposite. Best way is to figure out how to " fracture" their habitat at a critical point in their life cycle.

First picture at top is a squirrel - cute, but they can do quite a bit of damage. Squirrels are like wild fire control - avoid landscaping where they can move tree to tree without touching the ground. That includes power lines running through trees when possible. Make them get down on the ground and expose themselves before they get to the veggies.

Next picture at top appears to be a deer mouse - worrisome in areas that have Hanta virus, because it is a vector. For small rodents, I avoid things that provide both food and shelter at ground level. For shelter for birds, I use plants that do not provide seed. For seed, I use mainly feeders. If the rodent numbers spike, I mow or cut down everything with seed heads - usually mid-winter.

Next is a deer - I am on a learning curve with them, they weren't a problem here until recently. Traditionally, that was part of the "Three sisters". Old fashioned Squash and Bean plants/leaves weren't palatable, and squash vines are scratchy, so that helped keep the critters away from the corn - which is eaten by just about everything. (Also, it would more correctly be the 4 sisters - early Native Americans also grew a bee plant like manarda or cleome). Next came deer fencing - not easy - deer prefer sneaking around, but can hop over a 5-foot fence if they need to. They are better at high jump than broad jump, so angling a fence out-ward helps. Then there is fencing the plants in rather than the deer out. This what I would recommend if use use square-foot gardening, like in the picture. Make a hoop/tent frame for your bed. Get rabbit wire to cover it. Also have heavier frost blanket & lighter floating row cover on hand. You can also make a cold frame to cover it. Presto - extends season and protects from critters large and small.

Next pic is another squirrel, but lets pretend it is a bat. Now is the time of year to inspect your attic from inside and out and seal out squirrels and bats. Bats can enter through a mouse-size hole. They are beneficial but can carry diseases, so you don't want them as room-mates. Seal them out in Winter while they are on vacation elsewhere. And squirrels sometimes like to chew on wiring, seal them out too.

Next 6 pics are all rabbits. Treat like rodents - get rid of their ground level hiding places. I have downspouts that go underground to take the rain further from the house - I have had to cover them all with hail screen (and clean them out when I clean the gutters). Plant some forage, like cool-season grasses, away from the veggie garden. Some folks around here plant a border of Marigolds - the stinkier the better - around their veggies. Others have raised their veggies up in big planter/pots. Personally, I use rabbit wire while the plants are small. Once the plants are larger, I hardly notice the damage - mainly because the gophers make the rabbit damage look trivial. Like my neighbor said, you know when it is time to remove the lettuce because the rabbits won't eat it anymore.

Gophers - I have been battling them for 10 years and I am slowly losing the war. Messing with their habitat and life cycle is tricky because it is all hidden underground. The folks in this area that don't have gophers have much rockier soil than I do. I am seriously considering building sunken/raised beds - walling up the sides and screening the bottom (partly sunken because raised beds are problematic in our hot dry climate). And maybe plant my replacement cherry trees in a rock-lined hole. Final step would be to hire an exterminator licensed to use poisons - I really don't want to take that step.

Hinsdale, IL

Soons like you know your stuff, when it comes to animal behavor. Good luck with the deer situation.

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