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Gardening in Deer Country ... Deer can't have your plants!

Deer will eat your plants
deer resistant plants
purple allium
Santolina shrub

Deer will eat anything in your gardens and surrounding areas if they are hungry enough; Deer are always foraging. Since the nursery is located in the Sierra Nevada, we have to garden with deer in mind. However, a garden composed of deer-proof flowers, ferns, and ornamental grass plants will greatly reduce damage and maybe discourage some uninvited foragers. Thorny, hairy, and strongly scented plants tend to be unpalatable to deer.


See our selection of fabulous, Deer Resistant / Perennial choices from Emerisa Gardens!


Foothill Deer-resistant selections are always in stock! Grevilia Canberra, Oregon Grape, and Ceanothus are some larger plants they tend to avoid. Rudbeckia, lilacs, and Scabiosa are perennials they don't relish, either. We also have deer fencing besides other deer deterrents. There are recommendations for plants that may not be as attractive to deer and can take our winter climate and survive season to season (not just survive, but THRIVE)!

Following are a great list of deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plants that won't get too tall, but will provide a great visual barrier. They also grow fairly fast! 

•    Arizona Cypress
•    Sparton Juniper
•    Sky Rocket Juniper 
•    Pineapple Guava 
•    Toyon
•    Barberry

Plant these before summer to get them established before the onslaught of heat and lack of water that we all know happens during the dry heat of summer. You'll be glad you did!


Perennials - Plant deer-resistant Crocosmia, Calla Lily, Gladiolus, Anemone, or even the large-leaved and tropical looking Elephant Ears. Astilbe, Gladiolus, Cat mint, Coneflower, Bee Balm, Veronica, St. John's Wort, Jacob's Beard, Sage, Thyme, and Yarrow are good sun plants to try. Aster, columbine, Bleeding Heart, ferns, and Lily of the Valley are good selections for shade. Apparently, some plants just don't taste good to deer. Plant these!
For taller plants used as a border/screen from neighbors and roads, we recommend Deador Cedar (Cedrus Deodora) -- this blue-green evergreen reaches 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It has stiff needles that sort of weep completely to the ground, a wonderful screen. We highly recommend that you screen all trees, even if they are deer resistant, as the deer will “sharpen” their antlers or “mark” their territory on trees that are newly planted. 

Some other large trees for screening are:

*Pines - we usually have the Austrian or Pinus Nigra Spruce.  
*Oak-Holly Oak or Quercus ilex - is nice!
*Liquid Amber  - a gorgeous fall color!
*Chinese Pistache 
*Douglas Fir 
*Giant Sequoia

Bee balm offers a ton of virtues. It's gorgeous with bright, round flower heads in hot pinks, reds, and purples blooming over a long period in summer, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies; deer and rabbits largely leave it alone. 

Protea These leucadendron, although zone 9 and above, are real troupers when it comes to drought, hot summer sun, zero winter sun, and even sandy soil. You might consider planting one in a pot on wheels to shelter it in winter. Cone bush can withstand temperatures into the low 20's and can handle a light frost;  it's a good background plant.

Santolina is a small shrub, but it acts like a ground cover and smells like an herb. It offers attractive foliage, small flowers, texture and durability. Plant this tough one where others would wilt.

Medium Shrubs


Medium Shrubs for background plants are: Grevillia Noeli,  grows to about 4x4 with red flowers in early spring. Grevillia Canberra grows to about 8x8 and looks very similar. Barberry (photo left) has a beautiful  reddish leaf. "Crimson Pygmy Barberry" has a purple leaf and only grows to about 2x2 while other varieties such as “Gold Ring, Atropurpurea, and Rosy Glow” get upwards of 4 feet tall and have beautiful fall colors (red). 

Then there are the evergreen varieties that have glossy green leaves and yellow flowers. They usually have some mean stickers, so plant them where you won’t have to fuss with them; the deer don’t like “fussing” with them either. 

With this purple foliage, something grey looks fantastic. Luckily there are many plants that are “deer resistant” and grey! Artemesia is a perfect combination with the Purple Barberry; there are all different sizes too! Silver Mound only gets a foot tall and wide while “Powis Castle” can get 2-3 feet tall and wide! We usually keep different varieties of this plant in stock.


Noteworthy Mentions

Rockrose or Cistus green foliage with pink, or white flowers
Teucrium fruticans ~ small evergreen, hardy bush with grey foliage and periwinkle blue flowers during the summer. Prefers a full sun position.
Mahonia or Oregon Grape ~ spiny, evergreen foliage, yellow flowers in autumn, winter and early spring, with blue-black berries. Prefers partial shade.

Mahonia Saracoccoa ~ A glossy green evergreen with fragrant flowers! Partial to full shade.

Rosemary ~ These have hundreds of tiny, violet flowers that the deer will not touch because of the odor of its spiky, needle-like leaves. 

Juniper ~ There are many different varieties that don’t look like the old fashioned “Tam” There are beautiful, upright conical ones that add height to your yard, and ground covers that keep the weeds down, hold the hills and look good all year round! They are evergreen with needle-like leaves.

Lambs Ear  ~ yes, it comes in a small form, with fuzzy, velvety leaves, and purplish or white flowers in late spring.

Salvia ~ this genus is incredible -- low growing forms all the way up to varieties that get up to 5 feet tall (Believe it….or not)! 

Shrubs & Trees ~ Acacia, Bamboo, Barberry, Bottlebrush, Boxwood, Lilac, Oleander, Rhododendron, Smoke Tree, Spirea, and Viburnum.

Vines ~ Bougainvillea, Jasmine, Morning Glory, Potato Vine, and Wisteria.

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