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Plant Daffodils and Daphnes to Stave Off Deer

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced the findings from their new research on how to avoid deer damage in your garden.

Apparently, if you want to avoid deer eating your garden plants, swapping your geraniums for jasmine could be the answer. The RHS recently surveyed its members to understand which deer were most prevalent in gardens and their preferred plants for feeding on.

Members reported that roe deer were the most commonly sighted (65%), followed by Reeves’ muntjac (41%) and fallow deer (9%) and of the 185 popular plant species investigated they found deer were particularly fond of tulips, roses, and holly.

However, 85 plants were found to be less popular with deer and were defined as having less than a 20% chance of damage - these included Daffodils, Primula and Nerine.

Daffodils

The findings have been released to coincide with the start of the growing season when fresh, young shoots appear and gardeners reported seeing most damage.

Jenny Bowden, Horticultural Advisor at the RHS, said:

“Our findings suggest that deer have a taste for certain plants although it’s worth remembering that what is a food favourite in one garden might not be in another.

While a little bit of damage won’t mean you’ll want to give up, if damage is sustained and bothersome switching to plants shown to be less appealing might do the trick. You never know, you might also be inspired to grow something new.”

Minimal chance of damage (<20%) Major chance of damage (>40%)
Daffodils
Daphne
Bay
Globe thistle
Red hot poker
Butterfly bush
Primula
Rhubarb
Nerine
Tulips
Roses
Muscari
Geraniums
Holly
Runner beans
Raspberry
Camellias
Rhododendrons

The BDS feel that while this is an interesting and useful insight into the experiences of RHS members its important to remember there are a number of factors involved in whether deer will eat your garden plants including:

  • Deer Species
  • Time of Year
  • Plant Type and Variations
  • Other Available Food Sources

A very hungry deer may eat plants they would not normally go for so we recommend gardeners use a number of methods to deter deer from eating their plants.

As also highlighted by the RHS gardeners can also try the following to help reduce plants being damaged by deer:

  • Plant closer to the house and human activity
  • Protect all new plants with netting and/or suitable covers until established
  • Erect deer-proof fencing 

Minimum height for deer fences

Species    Height (m)
Muntjac/CWD 1.5
Roe 1.2
Fallow 1.5
Red/sika 1.8

Height is not the only consideration as some species of deer can be very dexterous using even small gaps in or under fencing to gain access to gardens. However, a good fence remains one of the best protections for any garden.

When considering fencing please be aware that sadly many deer are injured or trapped each year due to fencing hazards often leading to a distressing death. Choosing the right type of fencing can make all the difference and while this is more of an issue for field fencing gardeners can still help reduce the harm from fencing hazards caused to deer.

Click here for more information about deer in gardens

Deer in gardens leaflet