Make your landscape

August 19, 2010

by Cliff Knezek, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt

Deer were prevalent in fields, yards, cemeteries and along side roads and highways searching for food this time last year when there was very little foliage to eat with the severe drought. As beautiful and peaceful as the mother deer and fawn appear in nature, they can ravage some landscape plants - and especially those with tender growth.
Vitex is a Texas Superstar large, multi-trunk shrub with unique palmate foliage. Blooming in either white or blue purple tone spikes in the summer, this specimen is located at Victoria Educational Gardens. Its shape is conducive to serving as a privacy screen in the landscape, and it is known to help deter deer from other tender foliage and blooms.

This Texas sage/cenizo shrub in Master Gardener Dick Nolan's yard has small, gray leaves year round with lavender blooms in the summer. It can be used as a hedge plant and becomes particularly robust with color several days after rain. Its poignant leaves have been known to be used for medicinal purposes through time - and are not attractive to deer.
You can really love deer until they eat all your plants and flowers. They love to nibble on shrubs and plants, and that destroys gardens. With the expansion of our cities out into the country and the suburbs, deer have become a problem for an increasing number of gardeners.


There are many deer-resistant plants and flowers until deer get hungry enough to eat most anything in sight. The real solution to keep your plants and flowers from deer would be to put up an 8-foot-high fence like some people have done in the city of Victoria. There are probably various solutions to help keep deer from eating your landscapes, but better than that, select landscape plants that are just of no interest to deer. This article will give you a list of deer resistant plants for our area, which have been identified by horticultural authorities.


Lantana (Lantana spp.) - With flowers from spring through fall, lantana has many small flower heads that cover the plants in colors of orange, red, white, yellow, lavender and pink. It can be started from cuttings or from nursery plants. Lantana survives winter in our area, unless there are extreme conditions. It dies clear to the ground in extremely cold weather, but will sprout out the following spring. Mulch will help protect lantana in the winter. It can reach heights from 1 to 6 feet, depending on variety.

Rosemary (Rosmarinue officinalis) - Rosemary is a hardy perennial found in the southern part of Texas and is often used in topiary form as "poodle trees," on wreaths and as small Christmas trees. Having gray-green foliage, it can have a low-trailing growth of 2 to 4 feet, or can grow upright as an ornamental bush and can be an herb for home use.

Texas sage/cenizo (Leucophylium frutescens) - An evergreen found in the southern half of Texas, cenizo has small, gray leaves all season long. A rounded shrub from 4 to 7 feet, it blooms in summer in colors of orchid and lavender. It blooms especially three to four days after a rain shower, but will not be fooled with hose water.

Texas mountain laurel (sophora secundiflora) - Texas mountain laurel is a multi-trunk, tree-like evergreen shrub. It can grow to both height and width of 10 to 15 feet and has fragrant, purple, spring flowers. It can be used as a screen or accent shrub in your landscape.

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) - Vitex is a multi-trunk, large shrub with unique, textured, palmate foliage that can also be used as a screen. The flowers are white or a blue purple and bloom in the summer.

Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) - Blooms of the rock rose are light pink or rosy red and bloom in the summer. It will grow to both a width and height of 3 feet.

Virginia creeper (partheno cissus quinquefolia) - Though not a shrub, this plant is often mistaken for poison ivy, but it has five leaflets per leaf compared to poison ivy's three leaflets. It will cling to walls, and you may see it growing in trees next to poison ivy. It is known for its palm-like foliage.


Marigold (Tagetes) - Marigold blooms in yellow and orange as simple or pompom flowers. It does well in summer to fall. It will grow to heights of 8 to 12 inches and widths of 12 to 24 inches.

Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) - The foliage of the Mexican mint marigold is light to dark green and has a scent of anise. Growing to a height of 24 to 48 inches, it blooms in the late summer and fall in a golden yellow color. Since it is cold-hardy, it can be started by sowing seeds or propagated from summer cuttings.

Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) - Blooms can be white, red, pink or salmon and are shaped as a spike. It will grow to both a width and height of 3 feet. Growing in full sun, it is an excellent plant for butterflies and hummingbirds.

Zinnia (grandiflora) - The zinnia blooms in all colors except blue and should be dead-headed for continuous color. Blooms are old-fashioned simple and pompom blooms. You can plant seeds multiple times from spring to late summer.

Mealy cup sage/blue salvia (Salvia greggii) - Mealy cup (blue) salvia grows to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide with spike flowers in white, blue and purple. Blooming in spring, summer and fall, it is a great plant for hummingbirds and butterflies.


It is doubtful that any plant is totally resistant to deer damage. Young sprouts of any plant are tastier than mature, woodier growth. In particular the new, fast growing, tender tips of irrigated plants, are readily browsed. Such tender new growth on perennial plants may need protection. Deer crave fresh "greens" after plants have been winter- or drought-dormant.


Not as an endorsement, but for information only, I found a deer deterrent product made by a retired county agriculture agent in West Virginia. Using 1 egg (well beaten), cup milk, 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp. dish washing liquid, mix the above items together in a gallon container and fill with water. Set outside in the sun for three to four days. Add to sprayer and apply to protect plants from deer. Also, there are various commercial products available on the market.

For more information, go to and type in "deer resistant plants" in the search box. You'll find a wealth of information that will arm you for the next deer incursion.
Mexican hat
·Prairie verbena
Mexican bush sage
Carolina Jessamine
Wax myrtle
Lemon grass
Purple fountain grass

Go to Type in "deer resistant plants."
or click
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at