Deer Resistant Trees and Shrubs = No more Deer Repellent

Deer often cause damage to trees, shrubs, and other landscape plants causing avid gardeners and tree planters to spend money on deer repellents or deer tubes.  No tree or shrub is completely deer proof, but some are more deer resistant than others.  The ratings below are based upon research from Rutgers University Experiment Station in conjunction with nursery and landscape professionals and master gardeners.  Hopefully this new research will help eliminate the need to purchase deer repellent or deer fences. 

To create this list, I overlaid the research from Rutgers with the available trees and shrubs on to come up with five different groups of the best and worst deer resistant trees and shrubs. The list below includes plants that have a deer resistance rating of rarely damaged and seldom severely damaged.  These are the best trees and shrubs for landscape areas that could have deer problems and often act as natural deer repellent (aka deer proof trees and shrubs).  I have also included the least deer resistant trees and shrubs, so if you are in an area with a large amount of deer, you will want to avoid these trees.

Deer Resistant Trees: Rarely Damaged

The following trees have a deer resistance rating of rarely damaged, the highest degree of deer resistance a tree can receive.

Paper birch, River birch


Deer Resistant Trees: Seldom Severely Damaged

The following trees have a deer resistance rating of seldom severely damaged, the second highest degree of deer resistance a tree can receive.

Austrian Pine, Colorado blue spruce, Sassafras, Corkscrew willow, Dawn redwood, Douglasfir, Downy serviceberry, Eastern red cedar, White pine, European beech, Goldenrain tree, Japanese flowering cherry(Yoshino), Japanese red maple, Kousa dogwood, Norway spruce, Red maple, Scot pine, Serbian spruce, Sourwood, Sugar maple, Tuliptree, White spruce, Yellow birch

Fall Leaves of the Seldom Damaged Sourwood

Deer Resistant Shrubs: Rarely Damaged

The following shrubs have a deer resistance rating of rarely damaged, the highest degree of deer resistance a shrub can receive. 

Arrowwood viburnum, Common boxwood

Aarowwood Viburnum, Deer Resistant Shrub






Deer Resistant Shrubs: Seldom Severely Damaged

The following shrubs have a deer resistance rating of seldom severely damaged, the second highest degree of deer resistance a shrub can receive.

Beautybush, Blackhaw viburnum, Youngstown juniper, Carolina silverbell, Fragrant lilac, Sweetshrub, Witchhazel, American hazelnut, Redosier dogwood, Rose of Sharon, Saucer magnolia, Smokebush, Sweetmock orange, Weigla, Winterberry holly

Seldom Damaged Deer Resistant Beautybush

Least Deer Resistant Trees and Shrubs: Frequently Severely Damaged 

Considered to be the worst deer resistant trees and shrubs, these plants are frequently severely damaged by deer.

American arborvitae, European mountain ash, Cherry trees*, Plums Trees*, Azaleas/rhododendrons*

Azalea are considered to be some of the worst deer resistant shrubs

*Note that different specific cultivars have different resistant, but in general these trees and shrubs have received this deer resistant rating.


  1. Deer problems with White Pines.
    The conservation dept. around here covers the top bud of the pine with a square of paper stapled around it. They leave the paper on year around. I have about 500 white pine planted as bare root. I cover mine in the fall and leave the paper on until late spring. I am using meat wrapping paper to cut into the squares. I have not had any trees damaged yet, and I feed deer when we have heavy snow. Milaca, MN,

  2. I live in Binghamton, NY just on the PA border. I planted lots of small White Pines a few years ago (2-4′). When the new growth cones started to elongate, the dear ate the growth cones on serveral of them, disfiguring the trees. They did eventually bounce back but there is no doubt that the White Tail deer in our area like to eat the growth cones on young White Pines.

  3. River birch has beautiful bark and is not, in my experience, subject to the ills associated with white birches. However, it grows like crazy to 70 feet, with lower branches having a tendency to droop within five feet of the ground. People with small properties – ours is a half acre, one quadrant of which was completely overwhelmed by the grove of three single-stem river birches I mistakenly planted – should be alerted that this tree needs lots of space.

  4. I need some help in identifying and treating a growth on my long needle evergreen trees. It forms on the tips of the branches with a brown oblong (almost the thickness of a cigarette) pod. It eventually spreads to the entire tree. It does not effect white pine,nor white cedar, but will be on the spruce and balsam varieties. Any treatment suggestions would be appreciated.

  5. Pingback: Arbor Day Tree Care & Landscape Design Blog » How to Create Clumps of Birch Trees

  6. A great often overlooked deer resistant tree is the pawpaw, Asimina triloba. One can’t plant just a single pawpaw tree…it is best to plant a few and start a pawpaw patch. I would love to see the Foundation start to offer this wonderful tree. I always watch for pawpaw as I ride the Steamboat Trace bike trail south of Nebraska City.

  7. We are trying to plant trees on our “open range” land. Apparently cattle find our tiny blue spruce very tasty. They dissapeared over the week when we cam back to water them. We have blocked off the sugar maple and they are doing fine. We will eventually fence off the land but were hoping to get some trees started. It is frustrating. We need the blue spruce for an eventual wind break.

    • Robin,
      A good product that helps protect from deer are deer tubes. They are often used by natural resource district folks in areas of heavy deer use. If you are having difficult times starting your trees I would recommend them and getting the 5 foot version.

  8. Sue,
    The majority of bare root trees can be safely stored all winter long under refrigeration, and begin to grow after spring planting. However there are a few tree species whose buds tend to become deeply dormant during the time spent in cold storage. These trees should be forced into breaking bud before they are planted, or they will simply remain dormant and fail to grow.

    In the nursery trade, this process is known as ‘sweating’ to bring trees out of dormancy and into bud break before planting. The key is to increase the humidity and temperature surrounding the bare root tree to force the buds to swell and break. Here is a nice University of Kentucky Extension resource about sweating dormant trees.

    Sweating Nursery Stock to Break Dormancy

    If your trees fail to break dormancy and grow please let us know and we’ll send you replacements this fall.
    Robert Smith,

  9. Ben, Great new feature to include in the arbor day sight!
    I have an issue I’m hoping you or some of your readers may be able to help me with. I bought a 5′ bare root red maple the end of March. It was wrapped in a plastic bag and packed with damp sawdust. I prepared the $100 hole for a $10 tree, soaked the root ball while I was prepping the hole, planted the tree with the graft about an inch and a half above the soil, back filled, made certain the roots were well covered, added a bit of blood meal to appease the worms I disturbed, and sat back and waited. I live in what’s considered a zone 7 and we had an unusually cold April. My little tree wasn’t showing any signs of the leaf buds unfurling so I pruned the branches back about 10″ each. Scraped some bark off, made certain it was green underneath, sat back and watched some more. (made sure to keep it damp). Now it’s June and I’m getting small leaves growing out of the root stock, but the leaf buds on the maple are still closed up tight. Could they have gotten too cold right after planting it? We had some mornings that dropped to the high 20s and low 30s. Am I expecting too much too soon? I’m concerned that if it doesn’t leaf out soon it will die. The 10 red bud saplings I received and planted 2 weeks ago are already leafing out like crazy. Sorry this is so long. Just tried to cover everything.

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