Five Deer-Resistant Trees for Southern California Properties

Deer are certainly lovely animals, and most people enjoy getting a glimpse of these beautiful creatures sauntering through their yard. Unless that is, the deer are destroying the plants and trees you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of installing on your property. In such cases, deer can represent quite a problem.

Short of building a large fence or getting a big dog to patrol your property, there aren’t many great ways to exclude the deer from your yard. If you provide a good food source for the deer, they’ll usually go out of their way to take advantage of it.

Accordingly, the best way to deal with deer and to protect your trees is by installing deer-resistant species, which do not appeal to the antlered animals. In fact, you can often use deer-resistant species to help protect any palatable species present, by planting the resistant species around the perimeter of your yard.

Fortunately, there are a variety of deer-resistant tree species that are suitable for southern California properties. We’ll describe five of the best below.

1. California Ash (Fraxinus dipetala)

Deer find most ash trees unpalatable, and most will thrive on properties with heavy deer traffic. But, because it’s always a good idea to opt for native species whenever possible, the California ash is a great deer-resistant choice for local properties.

A relatively small tree, the California ash rarely exceeds 25 feet in height, so it is suitable for most small- to medium-sized planting locations. It is also tolerant of droughts once established, and its root system rarely causes many problems. And while deer don’t find the leaves palatable, many other wildlife species – including bees and birds, among others – are attracted to ash trees.

2. Fuchsia Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus forrestiana)

Many eucalyptus trees reach incredibly large sizes and cause a variety of problems for homeowners and property managers, but the fuchsia eucalyptus is a modest-sized tree, which typically remains below 15 feet tall. Like most other eucalyptus species, the fuchsia eucalyptus produces buds, leaves and fruit which are not palatable to deer.

The fuchsia eucalyptus produces very attractive, inch-and-a-half-long, red and yellow flowers in the summer. These soon turn into dry-shelled fruit, which may cause minor litter problems when they fall from the tree; but, they won’t attract deer. These trees will thrive in a variety of soil conditions, and, although they prefer areas with full sun exposure, they can survive in partially shaded areas too.

3. Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana)

If you are looking for something that’ll stand out and catch the eye of every passerby, the monkey puzzle tree is hard to beat. The first thing most people will notice about the monkey puzzle tree is its tightly-packed, sharply triangular, evergreen leaves. However, it’s open canopy and sometimes-peculiar branching habit also attract plenty of attention.

Native to Chile, the monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen species, which retains its foliage all year long. These are very large trees, which occasionally reach 80 or 90 feet in height, so they aren’t appropriate for small planting spaces. They can grow in a variety of soil types, but they do require relatively high levels of soil moisture to thrive.

4. Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)

Another California native, the vine maple is quite similar to the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), and it prefers the same types of cool and moist growing spaces that its more widely celebrated cousin does. The vine maple will not tolerate alkaline soils very well, nor will it grow well in compacted, clay-rich soils. It may also require supplemental water during dry summers.

The vine maple typically grows as a multi-trunked tree or shrub, and it rarely exceeds 20 feet in height and width. Accordingly, they are often used as small ornamental trees around shaded backyard decks or small streams. They shed a ton of dry fruit, which some owners find irritating, but they provide very attractive fall foliage, which may make them worth the trouble.

5. Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

Perhaps best known for their attractive upright cones (which are often purple to blue in color), the Korean fir is an excellent option in areas with dense deer populations. You’ll surely notice plenty of birds, squirrels and chipmunks living in and around Korean firs, but deer do not find their needles or cones tasty.

Reaching about 30 feet or so in height and 10 to 20 feet in width, these trees produce extraordinarily dense, conical canopies. This makes them excellent choices for screening projects, as they can discourage foot traffic, reduce highway noise and block prying eyes. They can thrive in full sun or partial shade, but they do require relatively moist soil. Unfortunately, Korean firs are somewhat susceptible to aphids.


If you need help protecting your property by installing deer-resistant trees, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants and let us help. We can not only help you select the species that are most likely to survive in your yard, but we can assist in the installation process as well. We can even determine if you should have some of the trees that are attracting the deer removed.