Deer have been known to wander into gardens and eat succulents. However, deer do not target succulents if there are other tastier treats available. Plus, some succulents are deer-resistant.
When their usual food sources are scarce, deer will try eating anything at least once, with try being the operative word. That means that a hungry deer is more likely to take a bite off your prized succulent compared to a well-fed deer.
But apart from this, there are some types of succulents that seem to be deer-resistant. These include succulents that have built-in defense mechanisms, like the spikes on cacti.
If you are keen on keeping succulents outdoors but are afraid that they will be eaten by deer, there are a few types of these plants that are worth considering. These include the prickly pear cactus, yucca, agave, sotol, aloe, and hens and chicks.
Take note that there is a difference between deer-resistant and deer-proof. Deer can still eat the aforementioned succulents. However, the likelihood of these animals eating these plants is relatively low.
Why do deer come to your yard?
Before outlining the steps you need to undertake to prevent deer from eating your succulents as well as other plants in your garden, it is vital to learn why these mammals visit your property in the first place.
The most common reason why deer enter gardens is because you have plants that they love to eat. Although these animals are voracious eaters, they can favor specific trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. Mushrooms can also attract a herd of deer. Deer simply love to eat these fruits of fungi.
These include blackberry, juniper, hawthorn, asters, clover, verbena, geraniums, and fruit trees.
Fortunately, deer will ignore succulents if there are other delicious plants available on your property.
Deer also enter yards seeking water. Apart from ponds and trenches, these animals can use kiddie pools and birdbaths as watering holes. Typically, deer prefer water sources that are partially hidden or those that are located in parts of the property that have less human activity.
Strategies for keeping deer off your property
Keeping deer away from your plants may seem like an insurmountable challenge, especially when you consider the fact that a hungry animal will go out of its way to find a food source. Deer often give the impression of being timid but these animals will wander into a garden when given the opportunity.
Listed here are a few strategies that will help you prevent deer from entering your property and eating your beloved succulent collection.
Build a fence
Although some property owners dislike the idea of building a fence, adding a physical barrier between your plants and deer is an effective strategy worth considering.
If you are planning to secure the perimeter of your property with a fence, here are a few design considerations.
First, be aware that some species of deer can jump as high as eight feet. As much as possible, build your fence at around this height. If that is not possible, slant the fences outwards. This will make it harder for deer to jump over your yard.
Privacy fences made out of wood offer better protection against deer invasion. Although deer have a keen sense of smell and can be attracted by plants on the other side, they are wary of the unseen and will not take the risk of venturing into your property.
If you want to save on money, you can try using commercial deer netting. This option is ideal for low to moderate deer pressure. Plus, commercial deer netting is easier to handle compared to wire mesh.
Another low-cost option that you might want to consider is monofilament twine, like the ones used for deep-sea fishing. This option is ideal for low deer pressure.
If you are using either commercial deer netting or monofilament twine, you should also hang streamers on the lower portion of your new fence. Deer have poor depth perception and these animals might not be able to see your fence.
Add companion plants for your succulents
Companion planting operates on the principle of planting together two or more different types of plants to reap a few benefits.
One such benefit is pest control.
Planting other plants along with your succulents is an effective way to keep deer away from your precious plant collection.
Before selecting companion plants for your succulents, it is a good idea to survey areas near your property to find ones that grow naturally in your area.
Here is a brief list of the plants that you can grow side by side with your succulents.
Lavender is a welcome addition to practically any garden, adding beauty and an amazing scent. Like many succulents, lavender is relatively easy to care for and can survive with minimal watering.
The plant’s oils can ward off deer. Just one bite off the plant and ruminants will look elsewhere for food, leaving your succulents safe.
Rosemary is an herb used in many chicken dishes. Planting this herb beside your succulents gives you the benefit of having a stash of fresh ingredients nearby. Plus, rosemary is an excellent deterrent against deer. Just one whiff of this plant is enough to drive off these animals.
Hyssop is a member of the mint family, farmed primarily for its medicinal properties.
At the same time, hyssop can attract beneficial animals like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Furthermore, the plant can be used to ward off deer and small mammals like rabbits that abhor the plant.
4. Maximilian sunflower
The Maximilian sunflower grows up to 10 feet tall, providing ample shade for your succulents that do not like full sun.
This sunflower attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies with its yellow flowers which usually blossom around fall.
Other companion plants that you might want to add to your garden are the Oenothera, foxglove, salvia, and agapanthus.
Deer repellents and other tricks
Deer repellents are readily available in stores, both online and offline. To get the most out of these products, you will need to spray these regularly. Deer repellants can supplement companion planting.
Some gardeners swear by the effectiveness of human hair in warding off deer. If you know a salon or barbershop owner, you can ask for clippings and scatter these around your garden beds, just like mulch.
Bar soap is a cheap but effective deer deterrent. The scent from bar soap interferes with the animals’ sense of smell, driving them away. Just make sure that you choose soap with a strong scent and place bars near trees and shrubs.
If you are planning on investing in motion sensors to drive away deer, choose ones that spray water or emit sounds from the radio. Deer can become accustomed to repetitive sounds and flashes of lights when they detect that there is no real harm coming their way.
One of many outdoor threats
Deer can and do eat succulents. However, you may have to watch out for other animals that also eat succulents. These include small mammals like rabbits and rats.
Furthermore, if you want to rely on companion planting, you may need to do some experimentation to see which plants work best to ward off deer from your property.
If you can afford it, your best option is to secure your property with a fence.
Image: Istockphoto.com / LeeYiuTung