If deer are prevalent in your area, then deer resistant plants are an essential addition to your garden.
While deer are shy animals, when hungry they will often stray into gardens and eat prized plants –putting a huge dent in your backyard ideas.
‘One thing to keep in mind is that if the deer are hungry, they will eat just about anything. So even though a plant may be considered deer resistant, it may still be targeted,’ says Jo Ellen Meyers-Sharp, gardening coach and creator of Hoosiergardener (opens in new tab), and a member of the National Garden Bureau (opens in new tab).
This makes it important to also consider how hardy your plants are, and whether they will easily recover from a deer munching session.
‘Gardeners don’t spend money on their plants to have them be a salad bar for deer, so many gardeners use repellents to keep deer away.’
While you can’t create a 100 per cent deer-proof garden, there is a wide voice of deer resistant plants available to help deter them and minimize any damage.
Best deer resistant plants
Whether you are looking for evergreen shrubs to serve as the backbone of your garden scheme, or annuals to fill in gaps in pots and borders, there are some wonderful deer resistant plants to choose from.
We asked the experts for their top picks.
Deer resistant shrubs
Shrubs provide much of the structure and interest in our gardens year round. Some are evergreen, adding color and interest in every season.
1. Panicle hydrangea
Panicle hydrangeas –or Hydrangea paniculata – are moderately fast-growing shrubs that are not favored by deer. However, even if they do have a munch, the plants are hardy, so should recover well.
‘Panicle hydrangeas have flowers in the white to pink to light red range. They bloom during the summer months and the flowers last through fall, typically fading to a handsome light tan as temperatures drop before winter,’ says Sam Schmitz, horticulturist for Ball Horticulture (opens in new tab).
‘There are many different varieties that range in mature size from 2ft x 2ft to 8ftx8ft. These shrubs are best in full sun but can also tolerate light shade.’
Make sure you know how to grow hydrangeas to get the best out of them.
‘Osmanthus is an easy-to-grow shrub that can tolerate many different soils and light levels. It is often used for hedging and privacy screens,’ says Michael Giannelli of East Hampton Gardens (opens in new tab).
It produces a cluster of tiny white flowers that emit a sweet fragrance similar to magnolias and gardenias.
Its scent and the plant’s spiny leaves also make it unappealing to deer. ‘This has the consequence of making them difficult to handle, although there are smoother varieties available, like Carl Wheeler,’ adds Giannelli.
You can grow osmanthus in USDA zones 7-10.
Lavender’s scent may be heavenly to us, but deer tend to dislike it, making it an ideal shrub for your garden.
‘Lavender grows best in well-drained soil with full sun exposure,’ says Lindsey Hyland, founder of Urban Organic Yield (opens in new tab).
‘It does not require a lot of maintenance, but can sometimes be susceptible to pests like mites and aphids.’
Learning how to grow lavender is easy for gardeners in most climates, however the plant dislikes humidity. Expect to be able to grow it in zones 5a to 9a.
Ninebark – or Physocarpus opulifolius – is a fast-growing, medium to large shrub that typically produces frothy white flowers in late spring and early summer.
‘To add to this, the plants come in foliage colors of bronze-red, burgundy, purple, chartreuse, and a few others,’ says Schmitz. ‘
'These shrubs are quite lovely and very easy to maintain. They are happiest planted in full sun but can tolerate a few hours of shade a day.’
Ninebark is also a great choice for colder climates, and can be planted in USDA zones 2-7.
5. Japanese andromeda
Japanese andromeda – or pieris – has a distinctive scent that some gardeners like and others avoid – however, it smells particularly unpleasant to deer.
‘Andromeda is sometimes referred to as the lily of the valley plant as its early spring flowers look similar,’ says Giannelli
‘It is a great evergreen shrub that changes color as the season progresses, setting long clusters of buds in fall for great winter interest.’
However, bear in mind that andromeda are fussy about soil type. ’They need very well-drained acidic soil,’ adds Giannelli.
If your soil is more alkaline, then the best thing to do is to grow them in containers. They should thrive in USDA zones 5-8.
6. Red twig dogwood
'Red twig dogwoods are mainly grown for their attractive foliage and bright red stems,’ says Schmitz. These particularly come into their own in winter.
The shrubs are deer resistant plants, but if deer do try to eat them, the good news is that red twig dogwoods are fast growing and tolerate harsh pruning, meaning they will easily spring back.
‘They are adaptable to a number of environmental conditions. You can grow them in full sun or up to 50 per cent shade,’ adds Schmitz.
‘Bear in mind that red twig dogwoods can become large over time, but maintaining their size is simple. These can be pruned any time of the year and can be transplanted quite easily.’
Keep on top of maintenance by removing old or diseased canes and keep the shrub looking tidy.
Grow them in USDA zones 3-8, and also consider other types of dogwoods that can be used, which range from medium shrubs to small trees.
Deer resistant perennials
There are many deer resistant perennials available that will make a beautiful feature in your borders. Discover the experts' top picks.
Also known as butterfly bushes for being highly attractive to these precious pollinators, buddleia are not appealing to deer.
‘Though shrubs, buddleia behave more like woody perennials, as in colder areas they dye back almost to the ground each winter and regrow their full size through the season,’ explains Schmitz.
If the plant doesn’t completely die back, it’s a good idea to cut it right back anyway.
‘They grow quickly as they come back up and can reach 6-7 foot tall in a single season. The flowers can be white, blue, cranberry, purple, lavender, and pink with many shades in between.’
Buddleia require full sun in order to thrive, and can be grown in USDA zones 4-10, depending on the variety.
As it grows so fast, ensure you know how to prune buddleia to keep it under control and looking its best.
2. Purple coneflower
Also known as echinacea, purple coneflower is a popular plant among pollinators –but its fragrance and spiny center make it unappealing to deer.
‘A native perennial, purple coneflower prefers moist, well-drained soils but is drought tolerant once established,’ says Millie Davenport, director of the Clemson Extension Home and Garden Information Center (opens in new tab).
The plants die back to the ground over winter, and can grow up to 4 feet tall in the growing season.
‘Not only a great nectar source for pollinating insects, birds also enjoy the seedheads of purple coneflower in the fall,’ adds Davenport.
You should be able to grow purple coneflower in USDA zones 3-9.
3. Bearded iris
The scent and taste of bearded iris is unpalatable to deer, but its exotic-looking blooms are a beautiful addition to the spring and summer garden.
‘Some varieties, such as Immortality, rebloom in late summer and early fall,’ says Meyers-Sharp.
‘Each flower can be one color or it can have two or more colors.’
You can grow bearded iris in a sunny spot in well-draining soil, in USDA zones 3-9 –learn how to grow irises properly to make sure they flower.
‘Cut back the leaves in the fall,’ adds Meyers-Sharp. ‘When planting, make sure the rhizome (underground stem) is right at, or slightly above the soil surface. If planted too deep, the iris will not bloom.’
'Baptista – or false indigo – is a perennial herb native to much of central and eastern North America, and is a great deer resistant plant,’ says Davenport.
It prefers moist, well-drained soil but is drought tolerant once established. You should be able to grow it in zones 5-9.
‘Though disliked by deer, it is a host plant for the larvae of several butterfly species, including orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, frosted elfin, eastern tailed blue, hoary edge, and wild indigo duskywing,’ adds Davenport.
Deer resistant annuals
Don't forget annuals when choosing deer resistant plants for your garden –these are ideal for filling in gaps and many have a long flowering season.
Not only are cosmos deer resistant plants, but they are beloved of pollinators, make great cut flowers, and fill out summer borders wonderfully.
‘Cosmos are beautiful airy plants that thrive in full sun, although they’re fine with some shade too,’ says Teri Knight, radio show presenter, and founder of the Garden Bite podcast and website (opens in new tab).
‘They are easy to grow handling hot, dry conditions, and you can grow them from seed or potted plants.’
It’s so easy to learn how to grow cosmos as an annual in most climates, and they make such an impact in the garden. Choose from dazzling pinks through buttercup yellow and purest white.
2. Flowering tobacco
‘Flowering tobacco – or Nicotiana alata – has wonderfully fragrant flowers, especially at night, so plant in a sunny area where you can enjoy the perfume,’ says Meyers-Sharp.
However, deer won’t enjoy their heavenly fragrance quite so much, which makes them a great deer resistant plant.
‘Hummingbirds, hummingbird moths and other night pollinators also visit these native plants,’ adds Meyers-Sharp.
‘Nicotiana sylvestris, or woodland flowering tobacco, tolerates shade and is also fragrant.’
As old-fashioned plants, flowering tobacco are also a great addition to your cottage garden ideas, working well in borders and containers.
3. Dusty miller
Though technically a herbaceous perennial, dusty miller – or Senecio cineraria – is usually grown as an annual, and is prized for its silvery grey foliage that acts as the perfect foil for nearby flowers.
‘Dusty Miller is such a fantastic silver plant that will highlight the colors of other plants,’ says Knight.
It’s adaptable to various soil types, and can cope well with drought-like conditions. Being a Mediterranean plant, it does like full sun, so don’t plant it in the shade.
‘Plant potted plants in the ground or in a container that has good drainage,’ adds Knight.
Lantana is another perennial that is grown as a summer annual. ‘If you live in the south and south-west, you may find it to be winter hardy,’ says Meyers-Sharp.
Due to the flowers’ strong fragrance and the plant’s rough texture, lantana is usually avoided by deer. However, it is a magnet for pollinators and hummingbirds.
‘Lantana can take about as much heat and sun as you want to give it. It’s also fairly drought tolerant,’ adds Meyers-Sharp.
It’s ideal for adding to colorful borders and also grows beautifully in containers.
Deer resistant plants for shade
'It’s fairly easy to find deer resistant plants that love the sun, but shade plants can be tricky,' says Knight.
Luckily there are a few great choices to add to shady spots in the garden.
1. Bleeding heart
Also known as Dicentra spectabilis, bleeding heart is a shade-tolerant herbaceous perennial named for its heart-shaped flowers that is repellant to deer.
Native to woodlands, it pops up in borders in the spring giving much-needed color, before dying back just in time for the summer showstoppers to take its place.
‘Bleeding heart is an old-fashioned plant with plenty of appeal to last,’ says Knight. ‘There are many cultivars now including ‘Golden Hearts Bleeding’ with its chartreuse leaves.
‘Growing to a compact 2ft x 2ft, this beauty tucked in around your hostas just might be able to give them some protection.’
You can grow bleeding heart in USDA zones 3-9.
Lush leafy ferns tend to be overlooked by deer, but make a lovely textural addition to a shade garden.
‘I particularly like autumn fern, Christmas fern and Japanese painted fern – their height reaches anything from 10-36 inches tall,’ says Davenport.
‘Ferns prefer moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter.’
Their hardiness is dependent on the variety, but you should be able to find ferns to grow in as low as zone 2.
As well as offering winter interest to gardens, hellebores are also highly deer resistant. Evergreen plants with jewel-colored flowers, they will tolerate dry shade.
‘Depending on the variety, hellebores bloom from early winter into June, and they even bloom in snow,’ says Meyers-Sharp.
It’s easy to learn how to grow hellebores , with varieties suitable for USDA zones 3-9.
‘A lot of gardeners trim off the winter-damaged leaves in spring as the plants begin to bloom, but it’s not necessary,’ says Meyers-Sharp.
What plants do deer hate the most?
'Deer generally dislike plants with aromatic foliage, such as rosemary and sage,' says Hyland. 'They also avoid statuesque plants such as yews, hollies, and boxwoods.'
Anything spiny or fuzzy will also be unpalatable to deer –so consider a plant's texture.
What plants do deer eat the most?
Deer tend to adapt well to their local habitat and enjoy many of the plants that are grown there. They particularly enjoy eating tulips and hostas.
'In rural areas, they tend to browse crops such as soybeans, grains, vegetables and fruits,' says Davenport.
'However, the bottom line is that no plant is deer-proof. They prefer some plants over others, but they will eat what is available when they have no other choice.'
For more information, see the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information Center Website and HGIC Deer Resistant Plants for the Landscape- Annuals & Perennials.
What plants do deer hate the most? 'Deer generally dislike plants with aromatic foliage, such as rosemary and sage,' says Hyland. 'They also avoid statuesque plants such as yews, hollies, and boxwoods.' Anything spiny or fuzzy will also be unpalatable to deer – so consider a plant's texture.Are there any flowering plants that deer will not eat? ›
daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers that deer avoid. Deer also tend to turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, and lavender, as well as flowers like peonies and bearded irises, are just “stinky” to deer.What is the most deer resistant flower? ›
Wisteria. Plant Wisteria floribunda if you don't want deer to nibble. Japanese wisteria can grow to a height of 35 feet and are coveted for their fragrant, pendulous blooms in lavender, pink and white.What smell do deer hate the most? ›
What smells work best at deterring deer? Some smells that deer react negatively to include eggs, garlic, cloves, and mint. The scent of danger is also effective at driving deer off, so applying predator-related scents, such as wolf urine, may work.Do deer like hydrangeas? ›
Hydrangeas Deer Love to Eat
Their large, succulent buds in early spring are like candy for deer. These are flower buds (appearing on old wood from the previous year), so one night of browsing can leave your plants flowerless for the entire season. Deer will also eat the new foliage.
Clearly, the answer to this question is a definitive no - hydrangeas are one of the least-deer resistant plants you'll find at the garden center.Do deer eat azalea bushes? ›
Deer just love hydrangeas, roses, abutilons, and evergreen azaleas for browsing, as well as red clover and chicories for grazing. In sum, they are picky eaters, and particularly like smooth-surfaced foliage and leaves that don't have a strong smell.Do deer eat rose bushes? ›
Deer will eat the foliage, buds, blooms, and the thorny canes of rose bushes. According to Rutgers University the rose is rated “occasionally severely damaged on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged. On average a single hungry deer will eat 5 to 15 pounds of plant material each day.What keeps deer away from flowers naturally? ›
Lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme, catmint, garlic, and chives are just a few of the aromatic plants that deer avoid because of their powerful smells.Are black eyed Susans deer resistant? ›
Because its covered in course hair, deer and rabbits stay far away from it. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for a late summer or fall bouquet.
These amazingly tough roses provide us with intoxicatingly fragrant flowers; long lasting, vitamin-rich rose hips; interesting leaf texture - as well as drought tolerance, disease resistance, and deer resistance. They'll even grow and bloom in partial shade.What do deer not like to walk on? ›
Deer don't like to walk on unstable surfaces. If they make a beeline for certain plants, place a sheet of welded-wire fencing on the ground in their pathway.Does Irish Spring soap keep deer away? ›
It may seem silly, but sprinkling soap is a tried and true method of deterring deer from entering and destroying your garden. Cut Irish Spring Original soap into cubes, and place the pieces into the ground around newly growing plants.How do farmers keep deer away? ›
Fencing, the construction of a barrier between the crop and the deer, is the most effective long-term solution to deer damage. The basics of fencing apply to both electric and non-electric fencing. It is important to understand that deer can easily jump a fence 10 feet high, but much prefer not to.Do coffee grounds keep deer away? ›
Deer have a strong sense of smell, which means that the bitter smell of coffee grounds can be used to keep deer away from your property. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that coffee grounds repel deer, but ground coffee does exude a bitter odor that can support deterring deer nearby your home.Are hostas deer resistant? ›
When it comes to hostas, only the artificial ones are deer proof! Or in other words, ALL hostas are susceptible to deer damage unless control measures are taken to prevent it. Green (non-variegated) hostas and those with fragrant flowers are reported to be the most vulnerable.Do deer dislike geraniums? ›
Annual geraniums, more accurately known as pelargoniums, are long-flowering, beautiful plants that come in many varieties. These plants are fairly easy to grow and fortunately, not appealing to deer and most other garden pests.Are geraniums deer proof? ›
5) Both perennial geraniums and Pelargoniums (annual geraniums) are extremely pest resistant. Deer, rabbits, and other furry pests leave them alone completely.What fall plants are deer proof? ›
Some deer resistant fall flowers, such as alliums, daffodils, hyacinths, muscari, snow drops, and fritillaria, are planted as bulbs. Bulbs should be planted at a depth that is about three times the height of the bulb with the pointy end up.How do I protect my shrubs from deer? ›
Barriers include: tree shelters, wire mesh, Vexar®, drain tile, spiral wraps, paper tree wraps, snow fence, or other material. Deer may still browse plants that grow out the top of shorter barriers, but if the barrier is 5-6 feet tall the plant can often grow past the reach of deer.
The most popular deterrents are bars of deodorant soap. Simply take several bars of soap, punch a hole in each one, and use twine to hang the bars of soap from the trees and fencing around your garden. Deer will smell the soap and steer clear of your crops.Do deer eat daylilies? ›
Some varieties of Daylily are deer-resistant; however, deer will eat most types of Daylilies. According to Rutgers University, this plant is C on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged.Does vinegar repel deer? ›
Deer have a strong sense of smell and will often stay away from fragrances they consider overpowering and dangerous. Vinegar is one of them. The scent of vinegar would be too pungent to them that they would likely stay away from your garden.Are lilacs deer resistant? ›
Lilacs are also deer resistant and thrive in full sun. These easy-to-grow shrubs are beautiful both in the garden and cut for beautiful fragrance in the home.What scares deer away? ›
Auditory deterrents can repel deer with their noise, and include noisemakers like gas or propane exploders, whistles, and ultrasonic devices. Gas or propane exploders produce loud, banging noises, which frighten deer away, and have been used to help protect orchards, row crops and truck crops.Do wind chimes keep deer away? ›
Because deer are so skittish, adding wind chimes or even the static from a radio can be enough to scare them away. Anything unfamiliar will throw them off and make them too nervous to come any closer. Adding plants that deer dislike can keep them from exploring other areas of your yard.What is the best homemade deer repellent? ›
A mixture of hot sauce, garlic powder, liquid dish soap, and water keeps deer away. Other scents they don't like are mint, oregano, sage, and thyme. Add these to your garden to repel deer.Do deer eat impatiens? ›
While Impatiens are certainly beautiful plants, they are also admired by animals like deer and rabbits, but not for their good looks. Animals are likely to eat Impatiens and can quickly clear out a flower bed.What daylilies are deer resistant? ›
Daylily 'Stella d' Oro' is an extremely popular, ever-blooming selection. It's fragrant, drought tolerant, deer resistant, and pest resistant. As a low maintenance, flowering ground cover it's hard to beat.Is butterfly bush deer resistant? ›
Since butterfly bushes are deer resistant, planting them along the forest edge or in a shrub border shouldn't be a problem. In cold winter areas, don't plant butterfly bushes in windy locations, or protect them with a barrier of burlap erected in fall to reduce dieback of the stems.
Knock Out® Roses are not deer resistant and unfortunately, as you probably know, when deer are hungry, they'll munch on anything. Don't worry though, Knock Out® Roses are really tough. They bloom repeatedly throughout the season, so hopefully when it's time for them to bloom again, you will see more flowers.Do deer eat zinnias? ›
Fortunately, deer do not like zinnia flowers. They are, in reality, one of the best deer-resistant flowers you can add to your garden. Zinnias are also safe to cultivate around other animals, as they are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.Do deer eat marigolds? ›
All varieties of marigolds are a turnoff for deer because of their strong, pungent scent. However, signet marigolds (pictured) have a lighter citrusy smell and flavor, making them popular for culinary use.What animal are deer most afraid of? ›
Deer are afraid of predators like dogs and are likely to steer clear if they suspect one is nearby. Keep Fido outside more often or stake a silhouette of a dog in the yard. Even the decoy will frighten deer.Does human hair keep deer away? ›
The scent of human hair can also prevent deer from entering a garden. Ask your barber or hairdresser for some clippings. You may need to sweep them up yourself, but they should be free of charge.Can deer smell where you walk in? ›
ANSWER: Under normal conditions, a deer can smell a human that is not making any attempt to hide its odor at least 1/4 mile away. If the scenting conditions are perfect (humid with a light breeze), it can even be farther. So they are pretty impressive.What happens when you put Irish Spring soap in your yard? ›
Irish Spring soap repels mammal pests, such as mice, rabbit and deer. It does not repel insect pests. Irish Spring soap does not always eliminate pests completely , but can be a helpful tool to reduce the rate of attack on plants.Do rats avoid Irish Spring soap? ›
While they may take a bite out of it and not be pleased with the taste, it won't really affect them much and may not even deter them.What is the best bar soap for deer repellent? ›
Irish Spring soap is a staple around this house, as it can help repel mice, spiders, chipmunks, and even DEER!How do you get a deer to leave? ›
Certain odors and tastes can help deter deer. Use a store-bought deer repellent, hang a bar of soap from a tree limb or try a suggestion below for a homemade deer repellent: Spray a 20/80 mixture of egg and water around the yard. Utilize a smelly spray or essential oil deer repellent.
An adult deer can easily jump 7 ft. or higher, and can squeeze through small gaps in vertical or horizontal slatted fences.How do I keep deer from eating my hostas? ›
Garlic, eggs and urine of predators offer strong fragrances that deter deer and other animals from making a meal of your hostas and other garden plants. Just remember, you need to periodically reapply fragrance deterrents so they continue to work.Does sprinkling cinnamon keep deer away? ›
Some not-so-awful smells that keep deer away include mint oils (often combined with pepper and garlic), cloves and cinnamon, and citrus.What herbs keep deer away? ›
Other attractive and traditional aromatic herbs that usually repel deer are lavender of all kinds (Lavandula), catnip (Nepeta), germander (Teucrium ) and lavender cotton (Santolina). For shrubs, try aromatic ones like sagebrush (Artemisia), Pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica) or fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatic).What food keeps deer away? ›
Try Bitter Foods: Deer won't eat every type of birdseed, and bitter-tasting seeds such as safflower and Nyjer aren't to their general tastes. Opting for seeds with hot pepper treatments can also deter deer, but birds don't mind the spiciness.Which plants keep deer away? ›
- Lamb's ear.
- Bleeding heart.
- Russian sage.
- Bee balm.
Hostas are beautiful, elegant, and the go-to plant for shady spots in both warm and cold climates. They're also at the top of the list of plants that deer love and actively seek out. If your hosta is just a bunch of stems sticking out of the ground with no leaves, that's a sure sign that deer got to them!What perennials keep deer away? ›
Alyssum, irises, peonies, foxgloves, poppies, and even certain herbs like lavender and sage are popular plants that deer avoid. Some of these plants are toxic to deer, while others produce strong smells that deer avoid.What can I sprinkle to keep deer away? ›
Lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme, catmint, garlic, and chives are just a few of the aromatic plants that deer avoid because of their powerful smells.What is the number one predator of deer? ›
Yet, wolves probably have been the most significant predator of deer since the Pleistocene. Research has shown that wolves are tremendously efficient in killing deer, and packs can have a devastating impact on deer populations.
Deer don't like to walk on unstable surfaces. If they make a beeline for certain plants, place a sheet of welded-wire fencing on the ground in their pathway.Is there a hosta that deer won't eat? ›
When it comes to hostas, only the artificial ones are deer proof! Or in other words, ALL hostas are susceptible to deer damage unless control measures are taken to prevent it. Green (non-variegated) hostas and those with fragrant flowers are reported to be the most vulnerable.Do deer like daylilies? ›
Deer will eat all parts of your daylilies, buds, flowers and leaves. If other food is not available, they will come up to the edge of your home and eat the foundation plantings around your house.