Deer Population Controls - Plants and Landscape

The destruction of landscape plants by deer has become widespread throughout Fairfax County. As development destroys habitat and eliminates predators, deer have adapted to suburban life and their population has grown, increasing demand and competition for food. Landscape plants have become a primary source of food for deer, and deer have become a source of aggravation for gardeners. In late winter and early spring this becomes especially troublesome as sources of food are very limited.

There are several tactics available to deter deer. No single approach is completely effective. Experiment and combine these tactics to determine what is most effective in your garden or yard.


A physical barrier is the most effective method to keep deer from foraging. A 7' tall fence is required to be effective. Deer fencing should be within easy view of the deer and should lean out towards the deer, away from your garden. A fine mesh is used for the black plastic fencing, which does not detract from the beauty of your landscape. If fencing is not practical, drape deer netting over vulnerable plants. Anchor or fasten deer netting to the ground to prevent the deer from pulling it off of the plants.


Deer repellents work through taste, scent, or a combination of both. Repellents that leave a foul taste to the plant are more effective and last longer than scent repellents. There are many different repellents and results vary depending on feeding pressures. Begin using repellents early and alternate between different brands. As deer grow accustomed to a particular repellent, the repellent becomes less effective and it gets harder to deter the deer. The time between applications varies with weather. Always read and follow label directions.


The following information and lists of deer-resistant plants are adapted from, and used with the permission of, the Merrifield Garden Center.

Deer have clear preferences in the plants they choose to feed on. Using plants that have prickly or fuzzy foliage or a strong aroma will discourage their feeding. Almost any plant is susceptible to deer damage. When food is limited, deer may feed on less favorable plants. Localized differences in deer taste do exist. The following is a generalized list compiled from many sources. For further information about deer-resistant plants, please speak to your local garden center.

The following PDF files contain both the scientific and common name for each of the plants listed in the categories. NOTE: You will need a free Adobe Reader to download and review the lists.

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