Deer-Resistant Plants

Deer-Proof Your Garden Naturally

March 4, 2020
Deer
Pixabay

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!

Source: 

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

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Reader Comments

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If you have a t-post fence up

If you have a t-post fence up and it is not all enoght to keek the deer out use the t-post extenders from www.tpostextender.com to make your fence taller. The you can have any type of plants easy solve!!!

Hi Marcia, Deer eat almost

The Editors's picture

Hi Marcia,
Deer eat almost anything but some plants they leave alone if there are other food sources around. Yucca is included in most published lists for deer resistant plants because its leaves can be a bit prickly. Some varieties of yucca is more resistant than others. Our list comes from a book, Outwitting Deer, by Bill Adler Jr.

Hate to tell you but your

Hate to tell you but your list is wrong. We have Yucca plants in VA and the deer absolutely love them. They are a delicacy served in Restaurants so why they are on the list floors me. Sorry but you are wrong about this plant,

i have non-blooming Yuccas

i have non-blooming Yuccas here in North Carolina and have not had any nibbbles from deer. Hostas they love! They haven't bothered lantanas, camelias, gardenias, or hydrangas. We live near a nature park and have counted up to ten deer hanging out at times.

I've watched the deer and elk

I've watched the deer and elk chow down on hydrangas to the point where there's just a bunch of green stalks sticking out of the ground. We live in Oregon on the southern coast. They won't touch lemongrass though, one nibble and they're off that spot.

American Holly

The Deer destroyed our American Holly, overnight the entire 3 foot tall plant's leaves were gone

Putting deer on a diet

U.K zoos are wised up and ready to go on this. Just ask for Lion Pooh. Usually it's pre-packaged. Simply sprinkle on all flower beds, round plants you want to protect. Not had a single complaint of a nibble. They truly don't like it. Can't imagine why, lol.

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