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Past Articles Library | No More Deer Smorgasbord when these Perennials are Planted

Nothing is so discouraging then to look out at your garden to see the deer munching away on your perennials. While you could go back and replant, why would you? I mean they are simply going to return for another meal at the buffet. But….if you plant the right perennials that deer turn their nose up to then you do not have this problem. Before I move on to this topic let’s take a look at the perennial plants that deer love to dine on.

Perennial Favorite

One approach to dealing with deer is to plant some of their favorite foods. This includes Goat’s Beard (Aruncus spp.), Hosta (Hosta spp.), Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum spp.), Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) or Hardy Geranium (Geranium endressii).

Now, to keep those deer away from this perennial smorgasbord interplant an aromatic herb such as sage. This strong smelling herb is disagreeable to the deer and they will stay away from their favorite perennials. While this will work to a point, why take the chance when you can simply plant those perennials that are distasteful to deer. Do not know what they are then take a look below.  

Perennial Plants that Deer Dislike and How to Grow Them

Ok, I do love to work in my garden but due to the time and money I spend on plants I do like to be able to enjoy them instead of the deer. Yes, I have used the aromatic herb approach and it does work but frankly there are times that I want to just enjoy the beauty of a perennial without surrounding it with a strong smelling herb to protect it. In doing so, I tend to use both approaches depending on where these perennials are going to be located in my garden space.

If you would like to try the distasteful approach verses the herbal, here is a brief list of those perennial plants with growing directions.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

Before I move on to the growing instructions, please be aware that all parts of this plant are poisonous. In doing so, do not grow this plant around young children or near pets. Also, when handling this plant always wear gloves and wash hands afterwards.

Now that I have the warning out there let’s take a look at the other names you may know this plant under. This includes wolfsbane, wolf’s bane or helmet flower. The reason for the latter common name comes from the downward hanging top sepal, which makes it appear to be a “hood” or “helmet.”

Before you run out to the garden nursery, make sure you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones four through eight. Beyond this requirement, monkshood needs a full sun to partial shade locations. While this perennial likes a soil that is a bit moist, if you plant it in full sun you will need to supplement the moisture. On the other hand, if you plant in partial shade you may find that you need to stake the flower stalks.

In addition to a moist soil, it also needs to be well draining and full of organic matter.

There are two ways by which you can propagate your monkshood. The first way is by planting seeds. This should occur in the fall to early spring. To get the seeds to start germinating, they do need to be exposed to a chill and planting during this time meets this requirement but they do take their time to germinate, which can take up to a year. While you may be thinking about simply planting the seeds indoors and then moving them into the garden space, do not bother. You may get some to germinate but monkshood seedlings do not like to be transplanted. In doing so if you decide to use this approach just direct seed in the garden space.

The second technique is through division. No, this perennial never really needs to be divided but if you want to share the wealth you can simply dig up the clump, divide, and replant.

To keep your plant looking its best, mix in a good amount of well-seasoned compost when initially planting and side dress the compost in the early spring.

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones seven through ten then dusty miller is a perennial.  In other areas, this bedding plant is grown as an annual. The dusty miller plant is easily found in garden centers in the spring but you can also grow this perennial from seed but……you will need to count back 12 to 15 weeks prior to your local frost-free date.

The other option you have is through cuttings, which will require the same amount of time as the seeds. While it is fun to challenge your gardening skills I would simply recommend just buying the plants since they are easily found during the growing season.

When planting this perennial in the garden space, keep in mind that it does its best in full sun but can tolerate some shade. If you find that your dusty miller is growing spindly then you will need to provide it more light, if possible.

As flexible as the perennial is in its light requirement, the soil is the same. The only true prerequisite of the soil is the fact that it is well draining.

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones three through eight then you can grow this plant but this is not the end of the story. Black cohosh also requires an acidic soil that is very fertile. It requires a damp soil and actually does well in soils that do not drain all that well. A wonderful area for this plant is around the edge of a bog where the soil is moist but not standing water and in partial shade.

Propagation occurs through seed or division but if you choose the division approach do not perform this task on a plant younger than three years old. Also, you may find that cutting through the roots, which snake around hence the common name black snakeroot.

Planting black cohosh seed begins in the fall in containers or cold frame. As the weather warms, the seeds will begin to germinate and by summer you will have several seedlings to plant in your garden space.


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Rotate Certain Crops

Avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes where they grew last year. They carry the same diseases, so it's best to rotate them.

You'll have much healthier plants, and more successful crops.

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