Deer-Resistant Plants

Deer-Proof Your Garden Naturally

March 4, 2020
Deer
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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!

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

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Reader Comments

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Agree on the coneflowers - I

Agree on the coneflowers - I had a mass of the 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' that I had to move from front to back yard because deer ravage them. I live in NJ.

Deer resistant plants

So far in our area, we've found the only things the deer won't eat are Lambs Ear and lavender. Roses seem to be a favorite! I wish the weeds were tastier......

I think it really depends on

I think it really depends on the deer in your area. My zinnias weren't touched last year, but they certainly loved eating my rhubarb and tomato plants, which I've read are both supposed to be deer resistant.

Roses!

Yes deer loves my rose bushes. You would think the sharp thorns would turn them away but they love the leaves.

Rabbits

Do you have a list of Rabbit Resistant Plants and Flowers. Last summer the rabbits eat most of our vegetable garden, with a 6 foot fence around it. Are there maybe herbs that deter rabbits? Really need advice before planting our garden this year.

Bury the fence

Rabbits can and will dig. Bury the fence 6 inches to a foot, and bend the buried portion away from the plants to prevent them from getting to your garden.

Rabbit-Resistant Plants

The Editors's picture

There are quite a few lists of rabbit-resistant plants out there on the web, but they can vary quite a bit in which species they recommend. Some of the more commonly mentioned plants include: Aster, Columbine, Daylilies, Coreopsis, Yarrow, and Daffodils. Here’s a great list from Pennsylvania State University: Rabbit-Resistant Plants

It’s unlikely that a hungry rabbit can be deterred outright, but planting strongly-scented herbs like Lemon Balm, Mint, Lavender, or even Geraniums could help to mask the scent of more tasty leaves.

Deer

I thank you for republishing the Deer Resistant plants. In Victoria, BC Canada we have herds of deer. I love flowers so when my neighbour planted Cosmos and said the deer won't eat them I immediately planted many Cosmos. Last summer I had a nice display of colour along with Alyssum. So you can safely add Cosmos to your list. If anyone else has found a flower that deer don't nibble, please post it.

Deer resistant flowers

I have found Dianthus, the little carnations seem to be left alone in my garden so far. Keeping my fingers crossed.

aster

something just ate the crap out of my aster last night so i would say it isn't deer or rabbit resistant

named my yard "Bountiful Buffet"

While neighbors may delight in feeding deer here close to the lake in NW Arkansas, I would rather just watch them do their own thing in the woods while I tend to my flowers and look at the lake. No such luck! The deer all want to top off their meal in my yard with tasty tidbits of Hosta, Hibiscus, Roses, Hens and Chickens, Boston Fern fronds, Wandering Jew, Elephant Ears, Rose Moss, 4 O'Clocks, and our Japanese Maple (which is a dwarf tree that stand only 4 ft tall) I also have a succulent garden that does not seem to offend or stop them, I have also tried lavender, marigold and sage, no luck. Will try some of the others. Our deer seem to be "non-plant offenders".

STAY AWAY FROM BARBERRY!!

Barberry plants, esp. Japanese Barberry, hide loads of ticks that cause Lyme Disease. Do NOT plant these in your yard, or anywhere near you!

Barberry

Japanese and other barberries are also on the invasive species list in many states. Ticks (yuck) and the environment-two reasons to skip them. T

What deer "won't" eat?

All our lilac bushes that are our mule deer can access are trimmed of leaves as high as they can reach standing on their hind legs. I'd read several articles that deer won't eat potato plant leaves. We learned the hard way that this is not so. We had to put up an eight foot fence in a small area where we had planted potatoes outside the main garden.

Deer eat anything

Hosta, Holly, Hydranga, Rhodies, and Day Lillies are favorites for deer in Westchester County, NY. Arborvide is another of their favorites. Most unprotected arborvites here look like lolliepops because of deer browsing
They don't seem to like Boxwoods, Spiraea, or Inkberries and leave them alone.
But in a bad winter, unless it makes them physically sick, they'll eat anything
It would be nice if they developed a taste for poison ivy, as we have plenty of that

deer-resistant plants

The Editors's picture

Good choices. Common boxwood is rarely eaten by deer. Spirea and inkberry bushes are seldom eaten.  All the other plants you mention should be avoided if deer are a problem. And hostas definitely qualify as the biggest deer lollypops on your list!

Deer resistant plants

So the point is to push the deer from their lands? same for the rest of the wildlife.. shame.

deer-resistant plants

The Editors's picture

Not at all. This list is only geared to protecting nursery plantings.

Deer

Don't push deer from their land, they have none. Eat them that will keep the herd down. Rabbits, tree rodents, fish and a lot can be kept under control by eating them.

Are you kidding me?

That's such a stupid comment to make, "push the deer from their lands". You're just saying ignorant things anonymously online so you can get a jab at someone. You should be the one ashamed.

My property backs up to the Cleveland Metroparks, renowned for its urban wildlife. We have herds of deer hanging out or passing through every day. Deer have their babies in our flower beds. But that doesn't mean I am going to plant hostas, because they literally eat it to a nub every day. I know this because they ate them all - they're gone. But just because people want to plant other varietals that deer don't destroy doesn't mean they aim to push wildlife from "their lands". Grow up.

NOT deer resistant

Hello gardening friends - I can safely say in the Hudson Valley of NY that your Black Eyed Susans are NOT safe from the deer even with a nice variety of other available plants to them. I have a 4 ft high fenced yard (can't be any higher due to local zoning), 2 dogs who are out in the yard daily so plenty of their scent around, and after recently clearing weeds, just overnight the deer have decimated my susies, every single plant, no matter where in the yard they were. I may try mixing some basil around them for next year, but there's not much else I can do for this season. Just wanted to share!!

Deer resistant planting

Nah, I'm not saying to push them away, merely to let others know what happened with plants in our yard is all. I deliberately don't use any chemicals in the yard, it's live & let live for any/all critters coming in/out, but just wanted to share what has happened for us.

deer-resistant perennials

The Editors's picture

It’s true that no plant is deer-resistant. There are just some plants that are deer candy and some plants deer would select before others. Black-eyed susans are rated a “B” by cooperative extensions, meaning “seldom severely damaged,” but there are other plants that are “rarely damaged” and would be rated an “A.” Perennial flowers aren’t as common as other landscape plants but some good choices of perennials include: Bleeding Hearts, Forget-me-nots, Irises, Lavender. and Lenten Rose. Of course, most herbs are rarely damaged, too, so it’s a good idea to mix in basil.

Deer Resistant Plants

I live in Northern Ontario in the country. The white tailed deer here eat my plants and shrubs.
Peonies before they bloom (tight buds), coneflowers, love hostas, garden flocks, lilies, tulips, any flowered shrub lilacs, hydrangea, geraniums, beabalm, and recently petunias. If the deer don't eat them the critters like chipmunks will! I have a small raised bed that I'm going to plant flowers in. Any suggestions? I'm thinking lavender and sage. To add more colour what could you suggest?

Deer in the Willamette Valley

I have to laugh--I live in the hills above Salem, Oregon where deer are rampant. My property is covered in every plant mentioned in the first paragraph of this article--arborvitae, fir, hostas, daylilies, and English ivy--and the deer don't eat them! Of course, we don't have white-tailed deer here, so maybe they enjoy a different diet.

Deer control.

We fenced our house, barn and garden areas, about 5 acers, specifically to keep the deer out. Damage to the plants was very heavy and nearly daily, the population of deer and rabbits was just out of hand. We live rurally in Montana and ticks were a continuous problem also, with the two main tick population boosters at bay the number of ticks we find is down over 90% in just a short time. The rabbits are eliminated by the hawks, our cat, with occasion help from S&W.

Plants the Deer eat in Ohio

I had a beautiful full huge Hydranga purple plant in the front yard. It was blooming. It wa very large. Once I planted it in ground, before I could get some fencing around it. The deer had eaten it down to the ground and left nothing but a few sticks.

Plants The Deer Eat

Every year, my tulips will pop out of the ground, and the deer will eat them before they can even form a bud. But I have a new trick! I have planted 6 dozen new tulip bulbs, and I get my husband to pee around them! So far, no deer!

pants deer love in Florida

I read deers do not like prickly plants..... ha ha ha I have an old rose with mighty thorns and deers have eaten a couple of stalks all the way to the ground. Another thing deers love is a young pear tree. Bought a sand pear tree for hubby, about 7 foot tall, they ate the whole tree all the way to the ground. Nothing left. Dogwoods, roses, but not my hydrangeas YET, they love the leaves of my purple potatoes vines and Indian Awthorn. Had to replace all my landscape in front of house. They love also the camelias, small azaleas, All bulb plants. especially agapanthers I am really sick of deers. So far they have left alone plumbago???? but I a sure they might be next.
They stop at my house, I guess I have the right kind of buffet for them. The houses down the street stay intact.

Deer

I guess the truth is they will eat anything if they are hungry. I am in Eastern Ontario (not far from Ottawa) and they love hostas, hydrangea, lilacs, fir, cedar and pine trees for sure. They will even eat my rose buds just before they bloom. Never seem to touch junipers (both skyrocket and ground cover types), purple coneflower, nine bark, blue spruce, daffodils, silver mound. We are in cottage country and unfortunately some people feed the deer which only encourages them to hang around populated areas when they would do fine staying in the bush.

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