Deer-Resistant Plants

Deer-Proof Your Garden Naturally

March 4, 2020

Oh, dear! Do you have problems with deer eating your garden plants? See our list of deer-resistant plants, flowers, and shrubs to keep the hungry herds away from your garden!

Let’s be frank: there are no absolutely deer-proof plants. If food is scarce enough, deer have been known to eat almost anything. The heaviest browsing by deer will occur from October through February.

That said, there are plants that are much less palatable to deer. So, we want to grow plants that are not the deer’s top choice on the menu.

Note that even “resistant” varieties can be vulnerable in the first few weeks after planting, when their leaf tissue is especially nitrogen-rich. If you have major deer problems, we recommend spraying new plants with a deer-repellent for 3 to 4 weeks after planting to prevent them from being nibbled on and damaged. Even if they are feasted on, as long as the root systems of the plants are not damaged, the plants should survive.

Research has shown which plants are less likely to be eaten by deer and can be labeled “deer-resistant.” See the list below.

Which Plants Do Deer Like to Eat?

Some plant qualify as “deer candy.” We certainly don’t want to be laying out a deer buffet with our hard-earned dollars.

  • Avoid planting narrow-leafed evergreens, especially arborvitae and fir.  
  • Deer also show a particular preference for hostas, daylilies, and English ivy, according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island, who have studied white-tailed deer damage to nurseries.

Interestingly, several participants in the study noted that deer seem to prefer plants that have been fertilized to those that haven’t.

Which Plants Do Deer Dislike?

  • Not surprisingly, deer tend to stay away from poisonous plantsDaffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers with a toxicity that deer avoid.
  • Deer also tend to turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents. Herbs such as sagesornamental salvias, and lavender, as well as flowers like peonies and bearded irises, are just “stinky” to deer.
  • Would you want to eat something prickly? Neither do deer (unless they’re desperate). Plants such as lamb’s ear are not on their preferred menu.

Deer-Resistant Plants for Shade

  • One of our favorite deer-resistant perennials are bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, aka Dicentra spectabilis). 
  • Astilbe are also deer-resistant plants that grow well in shade. Astilbe ‘Bridal Veil’, ‘Visions’, and ‘Fanal’ make a nice mix.

coreopsis and echinacea
Coreopsis and Echinacea purpurea

Deer-Resistant Plants for Sun

  • Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ attracts butterflies but not deer and offers a long season of bloom from May through Sepember.
  • Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ or Blazing Star is also a sun-loving perennial that isn’t a popular choice on the deer buffet.
  • Echinacea purpurea is one of our favorite native flowers and a magnet for pollinators!
  • Another sun-lover is Salvia x sylvestris or Wood Sage.
  • Finally, the popular Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ is a popular variety of Shasta Daisy that deer do not favor.

List of Top Deer-Resistant Plants, Flowers, and Shrubs

Here’s a list popular plants that deer rarely or seldom severely damage. Again, keep in mind that the first rule in deer-proofing is that there are no completely deer-proof plants.

Botanical name Common name
Achillea filipendulina Yarrow
Aconitum sp. Monkshood
Ageratum houstonianum Ageratum
Allium sp. Onion
Amelanchier laevis Allegheny Serviceberry
Antirrhinum majus Snapdragon
Armoracia rusticana Horseradish
Artemisia dracunculus Tarragon
Artemisia sp. Silver Mound
Arisaema triphylum Jack-in-the-pulpit
Asarum canadense Wild Ginger
Asparagus officinalis Asparagus
Aster sp. Aster
Astilbe sp. Astilbe
Berberis sp. Barberry
Borage officinalis Borage
Buddleia sp. Butterfly Bush
Buxus sempervirens Common Boxwood
Helleborus sp. Lenten or Christmas Rose
Cactaceae sp. Cactus
Calendula sp. Pot Marigold
Caryopteris clandonensis Blue Mist Shrub
Centaurea cineraria Dusty Miller
Centaurea cyanus Bachelor’s Buttons
Cleome sp. Spider Flower
Colchicum sp. Autumn Crocus
Consolida ambigua Larkspur
Convallaris majalis Lily of the Valley
Coreopsis verticillata Threadleaf Coreopsis
Corydalis sp. Corydalis
Cytisus sp. Broom
Daphne sp. Daphne
Dicentra spectabilis 
now classified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis
Bleeding Heart
Digitalis purpurea Common Foxglove
Dryopteris marginalis Wood Fern
Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower
Echinops ritro Small Globe Thistle
Endymion sp. Bluebell
Eranthus hyemalis Winer Aconite
Euphorbia marginata Snow-on-the-Mountain
Euphorbia sp. (except ‘Chameleon’) Spurge
Festuca glauca Blue Fescue
Fritilaria imperialis Crown Imperial, Fritilia
Galanthus nivalis Snowdrops
Gypsophila sp. Baby’s Breath
Helichrysum Strawflower
Heliorope arborescens Heliotrope
Hyssopus officinalis Hyssop
Ilex opaca American Holly
Ilex verticillata Winterberry Holly
Iris sp. Iris
Juniperus Juniper
Lantana sp. Lantana
Lavandula sp. Lavender
Limonium latifolium Statice
Lobularia maritima Sweet Alyssum
Marrubium vulgare Horehound
Melissa officinalis Lemon Balm
Mentha sp. Mint
Monarda didyma Bee Balm
Myosotis sp. Forget-Me-Not
Myrica pensylvanica Bayberry
Narcissus sp. Daffodil
Nepeta sp. Catmint
Ocimum basilicum Basil
Osmunda Fern
Pachysandra terminalis Pachysandra
Paeonia sp. Peony
Papaver Poppy
Perovskio atriplicifolia Russian Sage
Picea glauca ‘Conica’ Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Pimpinalla anisum Anise
Pinus Pine
Potentilla Cinquefoil
Ranunculus sp. Buttercup
Rhus aromatica Fragrant Sumac
Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary
Rudbeckia sp. Black-Eyed Susan
Ruta sp. Rue
Salix Willows
Salvia officinalis Garden Sage
Stachys byzantina Lamb’s Ear
Syringa vulgaris Common Lilac
Tanacetum vulgare Common Tansy
Teucrium chamaedrys Germander
Thumus sp. Thyme
Yucca Yucca
Viburnum dentatum Arrowwood Viburnum
Zinnia Zinnia

Source: Outwitting Deer by Bill Adler Jr.

Click to read more tips on how to deter deer in the garden!


This page was first published in 2008 and is regularly updated.



Reader Comments

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Deer and Lilacs

Deer were eating all of my lilacs except the Hungarian Lilac Bush. Had to fence in all the other Lilacs, wow. Even Cornell coop extension said deer didn't eat lilac. Laughed so hard almost fell off my horse. There is plenty of cornfields/hayfields around my place for the deer to eat, HMMMM. Fenced up all my vegetable gardens and now the lilacs are fenced.


I live in Central Texas. Deer hang out in my yard everyday. They will NOT eat elephant ears,
Coral Bean, Yellow trumpet vine, lantana, Salvia(anytype), irises (On occasion might).Crepe Myrtle and Youpan Berry Bush and holly bushes. Have lived here through drought and plenty. These survived all and the deer.

Vinca Flower deerProof

Deer will not eat VINCA FLOWER.
Our only guaranteed no chomp here
in hi pop deer area. It looks a lot like Impatient, (which they love), won't touch it!

Miserable deer..

If deer make it impossible to even bother gardening, use artificial plants - there are many to choose from. I have some that look like bushes, and a lot of colored artificial succulents - people actually thought they were real. My reasoning was that I'm just plain tired of weeding. Those I mentioned are in front of our home, on sides of our brick pathway. I pour vinegar in between the bricks to keep weeds away - works perfectly & lasts a long time.

Deer and Bleeding Hearts

We have to fence in our Bleeding hearts, otherwise, the nibble them right down to the Ground.

Deer and Bleeding Hearts

We have to fence in our Bleeding hearts, otherwise, the nibble them right down to the Ground.

Deer resistant ?

I have seen deer eat ivy. A friend had deer eat all her flowers, so she stuck fake flowers in the ground. Next day she noticed they even pulled them up! They must of discovered they were fake, and spit them out!

Deer resistant plants...

Thanks very much.
Very helpful article!

Deer don't like animal fat.

An old woman from Eastern Europe gave me this tip. Since deer will avoid meat produce, smearing the leaves of plants with animal fat will keep them away.


Nana would always "Feed " the Deer AWAY from her gardens until spring. MARIGOLDS DEER DO NOT LIKE! HANDS DOWN! Now as to Deer Resistance, she would save" The pie pans(Aluminum )" ones the ones from say from store bought Apple, Pumpkin, or just plain go and buy some, and string a few around her Gardens, Yes gaudy looking BUT when they are rattling in the breeze or swinging the noise and flashing deter the deer, as well as " Liquid Fence"! The Latter stinks at first then not so much. Up Side DEER HATE the concoction, down side, it will have to dry completely and needs to be applied after EVERY RAIN! I Highly Recommend the CONCENTRATE and a small garden Pump Sprayer, seems the Ready Mix is a bit weak. I go around my Property , and spray the Gardens as well . I have watched the deer come to the line STAMP there feet nose the ground and walk away. Also my rednose Pitty keeps them away. She tells them" MY PROPERTY" My Other "Children" have made 'friends' with them LOL some watch dogs. Good Planting All. "Plant Long and Prosper,' May The Force Be with You"

Resistance is futile

My grandmother raised us with the notion that every creature has a right to food. Some days it was her turn to feed the wildlife found near her farm. We have a herd of eight deer that wander the neighborhood. They have done a wonderful job of cleaning up grass clippings, managing the berry patch, and keeping some other weeds under control. During the winter they cleaned up the bird seed that fell out of the feeders.

There is this plant with little purple-pink flowers that the deer seem to avoid even walking in. Some one said it is in the mint family and grows very well in shade. The food garden came with an electric fence. I'll see how things go with the deer this summer. I want to take the fence down.

Deer resistant plants

No such thing here on the east coast of Florida. I gave up gardening entirely. Why waste my money to feed the deer. I might as well go buy sacks of kernel corn for them.


They will certainly eat zinnias.

Plants deer don't eat

The deer eat everything except my Primrose. They have NEVER bothered them. They eat my Hosta, my Black-eyed Susan's and my Reblooming Daylilies.

Deer love our hot peppers!

We bought starter peppers that we thought were mild bell peppers. They weren't. We have Scandinavian roots and we can't tolerate too much heat in our peppers, but we tried. These peppers grew really well and we tried to bake and stuff them, put them in soups, pair them with cheese...nothing helped the hotness... but one morning...they were all gone from the garden - like, 30 hot peppers! The deer ate them! We laughed at the image. Do you think it was deer? Or something else?

Repellent help

One thing you can use to help repel deer, squirrels, etc. is spraying your plants with a hot sauce! Every mammal has heat receptors in their mouths, and so they don't like hot sauce. The only thing is you have to reapply it after it rains. A version of this will also work to keep squirrels out of your bird feeders. Just mix the seeds with a hot chili powder. Birds don't have heat receptors, so it won't bother them but it will the squirrels.


Do you have any suggestions for squirrel and rabbit resistant plants. My squirrels ate everything they are not supposed to eat last year. Would love any suggestions before I start planting this year.


Deer eat my husbands muscadines (Southern style grapes). They mature late in the summer. Do you think planting these deer resistant plants below the vines would run them off. Would the odor drift up to the muscadines? Thanks

Deer-resistant Plants

Deer here in Pittsburgh will eat the holly, prickles and all. They also trim the arborvitaes into ice-cream cones. They seem to eat anything young, but may leave it alone once it's older. Of course, once the sprouts are older, usually the grass is up and they can graze that, instead.

Our local garden center made an (inadvertent?) funny on this subject. They have permanent overhead signs in their yard to help locate things. Last year, under the sign for Deer-Resistant plants, some worker with a forklift had left a pallet of boulders. Hm-m-m.

Deer don't eat plants

You list, deer won't eat lilacs. Well, I'm watching deer eating my lilacs right now & they keep coming back. And it has not been a bad winter. It's been warm & hardly any snow. But here they come to eat my lilacs and my Holly bushes too, another one you say they don't eat, well yes they do, they eat the Holly bush but spit out the red berries!

Deer rersistant plants

I have maintained a small ornamental conifer nursery in Northern Vermont for the past 35 years and the only unfriendly deer product that hands down deer avoid is Leadnus Vulgare. I have found one ounce slugs work best with #9 shot. You are wasting your time with any of the plant matter discussed.

Deer eating everything

I wonder how many of us consider that the biggest problem is that we keep pushing our remaining wildlife into smaller and smaller areas where they cannot forage enough? Mesnwhile we continue to expand and consume without thought to the other species we share the planet with. No matter, at the present spiralling extinction rate they will soon be gone....and then so will we.

Apparently the deer in my are haven’t read this article yet....

I have to agree that there are certain plants they do seem to avoid but there are numerous ones on this list that they have a particular liking for. American Holly...yup...they feasted on it like it was a delicacy. They also love barberry, boxwood, bachelors buttons, pachysandra , yucca and Black-eyed Susans. Don’t even get me started on all those “ fuzzy-leaved” plants they’re supposed to hollyhocks. They attack them until there is nothing but a green, leafless and flowerless stalk left. Maybe this list is okay in a more urban setting??....but in a rural area....not so much.


Even though I'm more of a perennial gal, I've always planted zinnias in the summer because they added pop to my garden and the deer never touched them--until this year. All the zinnia flower buds were chomped off within a few days after I planted them. Same with my salvia and bee balm--deer never touched them before but this year they've eaten the tops of them off. I've had to put them behind a deer fence or spray them. Something eats my echinacea every year but I'm beginning to suspect its rabbits since they aren't eaten once they manage to get past a certain height...

did you know deer "resistant" isn't a thing?

I am figuring out that "deer resistant" means it's not their first choice of meal. I planted a landscape that was listed on this site for 3 seasons blooming. I used bee balm instead of a listed perennial and that was the first thing they went after, flower, leaves and stem. They also love Bleeding Heart, Weigela, Delphinium, Black Eyed Susan, apple tree leaves, cherry tree leaves. The good news is, they haven't touched my Black Lace Elderberry, Coral Bells (yet). Maybe we just have mutant deer that don't know they're eating deer resistant plants but it's very disheartening not to mention expensive.

Deer eat plants

Do deer eat Mandeville plants?


The Editors's picture

Unfortunately, many varieties of mandevilla are not deer-resistant.  “Mandevilla laxa” is considered deer-resistant, though not deer-proof. The leaves are smaller and less succulent than Mandevilla sanderi which is less deer-resistant.

Neighbors who feed deer

I used to be able to grow Hollyhocks, Petunias, Pansies, and numerous other flowers without deer ever touching any of them UNTIL our neighbors started feeding them. Ever since then, I haven't been able to keep deer out of my garden, and I NEVER fed them! It really irritates me how inconsiderate some people can be of their neighbors who put a lot of time and work, not to mention money, into their gardens. Some folks don't realize that once they start feeding deer, they are forever attracted to every garden in the area. Other neighbors do know this, and simply don't care. They do what they want to do, regardless of the consequences for anyone else. Very, very selfish and insensitive!

Your list of deer resistent plants

You have Zinnia listed at the last plant on your list that deer (supposedly) rarely eat. I have news for you. They eat, eat, eat Zinnias! I grew Zinnias from seed in last year's garden, and deer ate every last one that came up, before it ever had a chance to bud or bloom.

You have also listed coneflower among their typical leave-alones. Not so! When I grew coneflower, deer kept eating off the buds and blossoms.

This didn't just happen once in awhile. It happened regularly. These two plants are NOT deer resistant, in the least.

Just thought you should know.

Deer-Resistant Plants

I have had the same experience as Jan. Deer have eaten virtually ALL of my echinacea purpurea. You might want to take that off the list of deer-resistant plants. They are NOT deer resistant.