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 Arborday.org 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.
The following trees have a deer resistance rating of rarely damaged, the highest degree of deer resistance a tree can receive.
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
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.
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
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.
*Note that different specific cultivars have different resistant, but in general these trees and shrubs have received this deer resistant rating.