Try to outsmart the deer with these ‘deer resistant’ plants

I’ve been lucky this spring and summer. The deer haven’t spent much time in my garden, a luxury in our area outside the city limits where the deer seem as common as birds.

It’s frustrating when you put in new plants, only to find that the deer have either eaten them or tossed them around in a game of deer dodgeball.

With our extreme heat and periodic drought conditions, animals around Austin often find themselves with no food or water. As a result, they encroach on our yards (in spite of the fact that it used to be their habitat.)

First, there is no such thing as deer-proof. Even with plants that deer are known to dislike and generally avoid, the smell of freshly turned soil and mulch can entice a young deer into your garden. And while the deer might not actually eat the plant, they may paw at it until it comes up out of the ground and then simply leave it lying there, roots exposed, to dry up and die before you even notice. They even pulled the same little plant out of my bed three separate times this spring.

Some plants are labeled as deer-resistant, but remember that each and every plant, garden, year and deer presents a different situation fraught with risk if you garden where deer like to play.

Deer-resistant plants do exist. Many of the plant characteristics common to our native plants are distasteful to deer. They tend to turn up their noses at herbs and plants with pungent scents like garlic, rosemary and mint. Textures like fuzzy or rubbery leaves often repel them. And they generally pass by plants with thick or poisonous sap. Sometimes they leave thorny or prickly-leafed plants alone … but then again, they do eat roses.

Willing to try most anything once, deer are more likely to take a chance on new growth or young plants. Deer like vegetation that is soft and has a high water content, like succulents. And they are particularly fond of blooms, even on plants whose foliage they don’t care for. How many times have you gone out to admire a bloom on a yucca that’s been safe for years, only to find the prize flower stolen from you in the dark of night?

In spring, their tastes are particularly adventurous. Rest assured, young fawns don’t get the memo that they aren’t supposed to eat certain plants. They nibble on many different plants — like a tasting menu or a flight of plants. Once plants are established and become woodier, deer often will pass them by. If you’re willing to protect some plants briefly while they are young or re-emerging each year in the spring, they might be safe once they are mature.

I’m always amused by the wording used on deer-resistant plant lists — frequently eaten, occasionally eaten, seldom eaten.

Do your research. Use plants known to be distasteful to deer. Don’t buy an unfamiliar plant with the intent of “trying it” to see if your deer will eat it. If you take that chance, you might be throwing money away. I’m always most attracted to new and interesting things at the nursery. Most of the independent nurseries that I shop at either have deer resistance printed on their labels (I love this, by the way), or their knowledgeable staff can tell you, so ask. Or pull out your phone. My Google app has probably saved me a lot of heartache and money by making it easy to check online while standing in front of the plant.

When you plant new things, you can help protect them in the first week or so by spraying deer repellent on them, or putting a little cage of chicken wire or another sort of barrier around them.

Deer-resistant plants for sunny gardens:

Jerusalem sage

Salvia Greggii



Cat mint

Bonariensis, homestead and prairie verbena


Cape honeysuckle

Mexican feather grass

Japanese quince

Lamb’s ear



Fall aster

Firecracker fern


Lion’s tail

Pride of Barbados


Society garlic

Mexican oregano



Deer-resistant plants for shade gardens

River fern

Holly fern



Turk’s cap

Sparkler sedge

Foxtail fern

Hoya Santa

Leather leaf mahonia

Soft caress mahonia

Texas betony

Lyre leaf sage

Cedar sage

Salvia coccinea

Cast iron plant



Oakleaf hydrangea

Shrimp plant

American beautyberry

Japanese aralia



Some of my favorite deer resistance lists can be found at:

You can also find lists at local nurseries or on their websites:

Barton Springs Nursery,

The Great Outdoors,

Hill Country Water Gardens,


Learn more about architecture with UT series

The University of Texas School of Architecture will be holding a fall lecture series that is open to the public.

Hear from these architects:

Cecil Balmond of Balmond Studio, London, 5 p.m. Sept. 6, Jessen Auditorium at Homer Rainey Hall, Room 2.104, 21st Street and University Avenue

Barbara Bestor of Bestor Architecture, Los Angeles, and Woodbury University, 5 p.m. Sept. 20, Goldsmith Hall 3.120, 22nd and Guadalupe streets

Toshiko Mori of Toshiko Mori Architect, New York, and Harvard University, 5 p.m. Oct. 2, Jessen Auditorium at Homer Rainey Hall, Room 2.104, 21st Street and University Avenue

Jenny Wu of Oyler Wu Collaborative, Los Angeles, and Southern California Institute of Architecture, 5 p.m. Oct. 9, Goldsmith Hall 3.120, 22nd and Guadalupe streets

Wilfried Wang of Hoidn Wang Partner, Berlin, and O’Neil Ford, centennial professor in architecture at the University of Texas, 5 p.m. Oct. 25, Goldsmith Hall 3.120, 22nd and Guadalupe streets

David Lake of Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio and Austin, 5 p.m. Oct. 30, Jessen Auditorium at Homer Rainey Hall, Room 2.104, 21st Street and University Avenue

Claire Weisz of WXY, New York, 5 p.m. Nov. 6, Goldsmith Hall 3.120, 22nd and Guadalupe streets

Daniel Bonilla of Taller de Arquitectura de Bogota and the Eugene McDermott, centennial visiting professor at the University of Texas, 5 p.m. Nov. 13, Goldsmith Hall 3.120, 22nd and Guadalupe streets

Find more at so


Round Top tours with Distillery’s Catelyn Silapachai return

Ever wanted to go to Round Top antique shows but felt a bit overwhelmed? You can take a shopping expert with you. Catelyn Silapachai, founder of the Distillery, is bringing back custom shopping tours. She caters the tours based on the interests and style of the attendees. Silapachai charges $350 plus $25 for each additional guest, up to four people. The trip includes coffee and a picnic lunch. Tours can be booked Sept. 25-30. Silapachai also has a guide to going to Round Top. Find it and more at


Coming soon: subscription Leader Ship Box for professional women

Austinite Rachel Green, CEO of A Brand Called U, is launching Leader Ship Box, a subscription box that blends fashion and professional development. Each box will be available for $125 a quarter through Nov. 1, at which point the price goes up to $150. Boxes will have about $300 worth of beauty, fashion, tech, health care and more products and always include a handbag, a book authored by a women in leadership and a professional development guide. The first boxes will go out in December.

“The vision of Leader Ship Box is to become a leading resource for empowering women to become confident and educated Lady Leaders who reach their fullest personal and professional potential regardless of race, ethnicity, or social status,” Rachel Green wrote in an email.

Members also will be able to go to quarterly conferences for free. The first Lady Leaders conference in Austin is 6-9 p.m. Sept. 14 at Peached House Social, 6500 N. Lamar Blvd. September’s lineup includes Jane Claire Hervey of In-House International and #bossbabesATX, and Lynan Saperstein of Experience Experts and founder of the Society for Women Entrepreneurs. Tickets are $35-$50.

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