Q: Is there a certain kind of plant in our yards that deer like to eat? – Elle T., 10, Matthews, N.C..
A: “We usually get this question asked backwards,” said Melissa Ungemach, salesperson at Norwood Nursery in Charlotte, saying it’s simpler to ask what won’t deer eat. Many of the ornamentals that grace city and suburban yards are a veritable deer buffet.
“They love pansies, roses, azaleas, practically any of your vegetable plants,” Ungemach said. “Hostas, leafy vegetables, spinach, okra.” Deer tend to avoid tomatoes and peppers, and they won’t eat daffodils, she said. Fuzzy herbs such as lavender, mint and rosemary are typically deer-resistant. Norwood sells organic deer repellent sprays, some of which have rosemary as an ingredient.
Sometimes it works to enclose a deer delicacy in a border of plants the deer won’t like. Or to put a single strand of wire around the planting, something that is just enough to make the deer think there is a barrier. But deer are persistent, and it may pay to just avoid planting the things they love to eat, at least where they’re likely to wander.
In the city, without natural predators and with plenty of tempting landscaping to eat, deer populations can rise much higher than they can in wilderness.
Wildlife experts say a square mile can support about 40 deer, but in an urban area where hunting is prohibited, that number is larger, as high as 70 deer per square mile, said Chris Matthews, natural resources manager for Mecklenburg nature preserves. Matthews said the best estimate is that Mecklenburg County is home to about 30,000 deer.