Shady, Arid Area with Deer

Asked January 28, 2014, 12:05 PM EST

Our front yard in Colorado Springs is shaded almost completely by a large maple with roots throughout the yard requiring small holes for planting. Throw roving deer into our drought conditions and the shade, and we really need help choosing plants to fill in the garden space where we took out our struggling, water loving lawn. Thank you!

El Paso County Colorado

1 Response

Thank you for contacting " Ask an Expert". To create a xeriscape shaded yard, with deer browsing, will bring a challenge in selecting plants. You will find that the biggest hurdle will be the deer issue. Deer will try almost any plant if they are hungry, even plants on" the deer resistant list". They do not like very obvious scented plants like lavender, rosemary or hyssop etc which love the sun..... the following bulbs are very deer proof :i.e. daffodils or alliums, both come in various sizes and colors (daffodills will be blooming before the maple tree shades the area out}. Bulbs should be planted in the fall.
Lungwort, dead nettle and hostas have beautiful foliage and are shade loving. Creeping mahonia will love the shade and is also on the deer resistant list. Some groundcover periwinkle, skullcap, buggleweed are shade loving. Sweet woodruff and coralbells too. Coralbells have a beautiful flower display but at times deer will like them .Thyme comes in many varieties and tolerates partial shade, it will need to be mulched over winter.
As you can see there are plenty of choices for the shade. Deer are unpredictable, they will leave plants alone one year and devour them the next. You might consider using some of the deer deterrent sprays after planting your shade loving plants to protect them with a distinct smell. Re-applications might be necessary to keep the deer away.
This will be a challenging project . I believe you might find valuable information at the CSU extension weblinks.
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1108.html shade loving plants
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1108.html designing for shade
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1108.html deer resistant plants
Here is the website to the CSU extension office in Colorado Springs
http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/
I apologize that I can't give you a more concrete answer. Deer are quiet a game changer, as I experience in my own backyard.
Thank you so much for contacting us. Feel free to contact the Master Gardener Help Desk or "Ask an Expert" with further questions