Garden Journal

Plant critter-proof plants and flowers!

Doreen G. Howard

For the last ten days, spring has played tag with winter here, and it’s snowed four times, between 70-degree days. Yet, garden centers are brimming with bedding plants, and the calendar says I should be planting. Hopefully, next week I can load up the cart at the nursery and get into the garden. Meanwhile, I’m evaluating the plants available and drawing a planting map.

I have critter problems. Deer, rabbits, chipmunks and wild turkeys roam free, as I’m out in the country. They do damage to everything green. The trick is finding plants they avoid. I like flowers that I don’t have to deadhead, too. A confession: I’m really a lazy gardener!

Below is my list of perennials and annuals that solve my problems—ones that I hope to be planting in a week or two.

Critter-Proof Plants List

Most munchers usually avoid plants with thorny or fuzzy foliage and those with strong aromas like lavender. To save your most valued flowers, situate them in the center of beds closest to the house or against the house. Why? Deer and rabbits nibble on the outside edges of plantings furthest away from buildings.

Rabbits avoid calendulas, chrysanthemums, columbines, four o’clocks, foxglove, gladiolas, hollyhocks, impatiens, iris, larkspur, morning glories, nicotiana, snapdragons, sweet peas and verbena.

Deer steer clear of ageratum, begonias, chrysanthemums, columbines, coreopsis, cosmos, foxglove, iris, lavender, monarda, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, salvia, Shasta daisies, verbena, vinca, yarrow, zinnias.

Surround your favorite blooms with ones deer and rabbits hate to protect them. Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

No or Low Maintenance Plants

Begonia, ageratum, lobelia, coleus and alyssum need no deadheading. Neither do Flower Carpet and Knock-Out roses.

“Pow Wow” echinacea or coneflower is a tough, reliable bloomer in almost every climate.  Photo courtesty of Ball Seed Co.

Plants That Grow in Any Climate

Cleome, impatiens, petunias, marigolds and zinnias are annuals that perform well everywhere. Perennials that are guaranteed to bloom all over the country include ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, coneflowers, coreopsis, rudbeckia and yarrow.

Two of my favorite flowers also grow everywhere and are tough. ‘Silver Tidal Wave’ petunia is one of the first in the Tidal Waves series. Its lavender-white flowers deadhead themselves, they need no pinching to grow lushly and the plants spread or more. Stems grow a couple of inches each day, creating three-foot-tall hedges ablaze with blooms. 

My favorite perennial is ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium, a plant-and-forget perennial covered with orange flowers from July until frost. Hummingbirds, butterflies and yellow finch love this punch of powerful color.

I’m on my way to my favorite garden center to buy. Tell me what you are planting this spring.


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We have chipmunks what

We have chipmunks what perennials could I plant that they won't dig up I live in N.C. thanks, you say what deer and rabbits don't like what about chipmunks?

need help in finding more

need help in finding more perennials that chipmunks will not eat...
they love pansies. what about Lupine?? i live in the mountains of Colorado at 9000 ft.

See answer below. Most

See answer below. Most critters don't like plants that have fuzzy leaves or strong fragrance. With chipmunks, it's often best to protect plants. For example: Surround the garden area with a plant-free gravel border. Plant flower bulbs beneath a wire or plastic screen ground cover or in bulb cages. Set live traps. Use commercial repellents.

I'd left a message erleiar

I'd left a message erleiar this week about the bare-root perennials I bought at the plant sale. They had some clear crystals around them and I planted them around the plants in my garden upstate. Recently I noticed that the crystals had turned into kind of a gooey mass. Should I just leave them there and assume they'll eventually be absorbed into the soil?Many thanks!

The crystals are water

The crystals are water absorbers..they are fine!..great even..will help to keep your soil moist. If you buy the crystals, be sure to use them sparingly.

Chipmunks won't touch

Chipmunks won't touch daffodils (they love tulips), hyacinth and lilies. Coneflowers,dianthus, coreopsis,heuchera and most other perennials are good, too. It's the tulip bulbs they like due to size. Try ringing tulips with a triple layer of daffodils. That works many times.

I have many many chipmunks in

I have many many chipmunks in my yard. Which bulbs or perenials would be good to plant? Shade and sun, please. Thanks

Plant Critter-Proof Plants and Flowers

Timely advice, Doreen.