20+ Deer Resistant Plants
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, deer can wreck havoc in a garden. We’ve seen them eat tulip blooms just before opening, wipe out borders of hostas and daylilies, and even browse from planters near the house. Moments like these make you second guess planting anymore plants especially as deer populations boom and their habits disappear. Don’t sweat – we’ve put together a list of our favorite deer resistant perennials and a few strategies to keep deer from devouring your plants.
First off, it helps to select plants that have unappetizing characteristics for deer. Think rough or fuzzy leaves like lamb’s ears. Strong scents also act as deterrents. Prickly or thorny foliage like cacti and roses keep deer away. And, bad taste signals deer that plants like daffodils, foxglove and poppies are toxic.
Next, go for deer resistant perennials when you’re plant shopping. Also, apply deer repellents like Deerskydd to young, newly added plants for three weeks. This keeps curious deer from sampling them.
If you’re still determined to grow plants on the deer-delectable list, we recommend planting them near the house, hiding them among odorous companion plants like French marigolds or ultimately protecting them with a tall garden fence. Here are our favorite deer-resistant perennials.
- Allium – Bees love this tough perennial’s purple chive-like blooms, yet deer don’t like its oniony flavor and smell.
- Amsonia – This perennial shines in two seasons -- 1) spring when small blue flowers bloom atop feathery chartreuse leaves and 2) fall when the foliage turns an impressive gold.
- Baptisia – This tall perennial makes a great back-of-the-border plant with its grey-green foliage and pea-like flowers in blue, pink or yellow.
- Shasta daisies – This old-fashioned summer favorite produces an abundance of blooms that make great cut flowers.
- Bleeding heart – We love this spring beauty’s dangling heart-shaped blooms, and thankfully deer find its sap disgusting.
- Brunnera – This shade plant is prized for its silvery, heart-shaped leaves and sprays of blue spring flowers. The deer don’t like the roughness of its leaves.
- Catmint – Here’s another deer-resistant perennial with fuzzy, fragrant foliage. We also love its long-flowering purple blooms and toughness in dry conditions.
- Coneflower – These adored natives come in a variety of colors and forms. Luckily, deer don’t like the flowers’ spiky centers or scented leaves.
- Coreopsis – These summer-bloomers attract butterflies and have a long bloom period.
- Dianthus – Also known as “pinks,” these spring-flowering plants quickly multiply and their scent keeps deer away.
- Gaillardia – This richly colored “blanket flower” offers nectar for butterflies and is resistant to deer browse.
- Hardy hibiscus – This shrub-like perennial offers a tropical flair to gardens with its giant, late-season blooms.
- Hellebores – Nothing welcomes spring like these rugged, shade perennials that bloom in late winter and last for months. Their shiny evergreen leaves are an added bonus that are toxic for deer.
- Japanese painted fern— This beauty’s silver and purple fronds add interest to a shade garden.
- Lady’s mantle – Perfect to edge a border, this perennial has velvety green leaves and sprays of chartreuse flowers.
- Lamium – This fast-spreading groundcover is perfect for wooded areas that deer frequent. It features spring flowers and silvery green foliage.
- Lavender – We can’t get enough of lavender’s pretty purple flowers and heady fragrance; happily, deer find it “stinky.”
- Lungwort -- This flowering woodland shade perennial has fuzzy leaves that are deer resistant. The leaves range in color from solid green to pure silver to a mottled combination of the two.
- Monarda – The flower heads are hemispheres of tublar blooms in brilliant colors. They’re a hummingbird favorite, and their mint-scented leaves are a deterrent to deer.
- Ornamental Grasses – Fortunately, most ornamental grasses are deer resistant. Some of our go-tos include little bluestems, panicums, fountain grasses, sedges and Japanese forest grasses.
- Peony – These long-lived perennials are beloved for their single and double spring blooms. Plus, they’re deer resistant.
- Rudbeckia – Also known as Black-eyed Susans for their flowers’ dark centers, these perennials have hairy stems that deer don’t like.
- Russian Sage – Talk about tough. Even in the hottest days of August, this plant shines with its purple flowering spires and feathery, silver foliage. Deer are deterred by its fragrance.
- Salvia – Salvia’s purple spires may dazzle pollinators, but its strong scent keeps deer away.
- Speedwell – The wands of speedwell’s blue-purple blooms delight pollinators.
- Yarrow – While we love the fun colors of the latest yarrow cultivars, deer don’t like their fuzzy, fragrant foliage.
*Some photos courtesy of Ball Seed Company