Deer Resistant Plants: The 17 Best Shrubs, Perennials, and Annuals (2023)

If deer are common in your area, deer-resistant plants are an essential addition to your garden.

Deer can be shy animals, but when they're hungry, they tend to get lost in gardens and eat precious plants, wreaking havoc on yours.backyard ideas.

“One thing to keep in mind is that when deer are hungry, they will eat almost anything. Even if a plant is considered deer resistant, it can still be attacked," says Jo Ellen Meyers-Sharp, gardening trainer and inventor of theoutfielder indiana(opens in new tab), and member sincestate gardens office(opens in new tab).

Because of this, it's also important to consider how hardy your plants are and whether they will easily recover from a deer-chewing session.

"Gardeners don't spend money on their plants to be a salad for deer, so many gardeners use repellents to keep deer away."

While you cannot create a 100% deer-proof garden, there is a strong voice for deer-resistant plants to deter deer and minimize damage.

The best deer resistant plants

Whether you're looking for evergreen shrubs to serve as the backbone of your garden plan 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 add structure and interest to our gardens all year round. Some are evergreen, adding color and interest any time of the year.

1. Collect hydrangeas

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panicle hydrangea - respHortensia paniculata– are moderately fast-growing shrubs that are not preferred by deer. But even if they have something to eat, the plants are hardy and therefore should recover well.

"Panomace hydrangeas have flowers that range from white to pink to bright red. They bloom during the summer months and the flowers last well into the fall, often fading to a fairly light tan when temperatures drop before winter," says Sam Schmitz , gardener ofhorticulture ball(opens in new tab).

“There are many different varieties that range in adult size from 2ft x 2ft to 8ft x 8ft. These shrubs do best in full sun, but will also tolerate light shade.

make sure you knowhow to grow hydrangeasto get the best out of them.

2. Osmanto

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“Osmanthus is an easy-to-grow shrub that tolerates different soils and light conditions. It is often used for coverage and privacy,” says Michael Giannelli ofJardins de East Hampton(opens in new tab).

It produces clusters of tiny white flowers that exude a sweet scent reminiscent of magnolia and gardenia.

Its scent and the plant's prickly leaves also make it unappealing to deer. “As a result, they are difficult to handle, although there are softer varieties like Carl Wheeler,” adds Giannelli.

You can grow osmanthus in USDA zones 7-10.

3. Lavender

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The smell of lavender may be divine to us, but deer generally don't like it, making it an ideal shrub for your garden.

"Lavender grows best in well-draining soil with full sun exposure," says Lindsey Hyland, founder ofUrban Organic Production(opens in new tab).

(Video) 10 Best Deer Resistant Perennial Plants For Your Home Yard 🌻 Perennial Plants to Resist Deer 🦌

"It's low maintenance, but can sometimes be susceptible to pests like spider mites and aphids."

Learnhow to grow lavenderit's easy for gardeners in most climates, but the plant doesn't like moisture. Expect to be able to farm it in zones 5a to 9a.

4. Look at it

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Ninebark – oPhysocarpus opulifolius– is a medium to large, fast-growing shrub that produces frothy white flowers typically in late spring and early summer.

"There are also plants with red-bronze, burgundy, purple, yellow-green, and a few other foliage colors," says Schmitz. '

“These bushes are very beautiful and very easy to care for. They prefer to be planted in full sun, but will also tolerate a few hours of shade each day.

Ninebark is also a good choice for cooler climates and can be planted in USDA zones 2-7.

5. Japanese Andromeda

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Japanese andromeda, or pieris, has a distinctive odor that some gardeners like and others avoid, but it is a particularly unpleasant odor for deer.

"Andromeda is sometimes known as the lily-of-the-valley plant because their early spring flowers look similar," says Giannelli.

"It's a beautiful evergreen shrub that changes color throughout the season and forms long clusters of flower buds in the fall for great winter interest."

However, keep in mind that Andromedas are picky about soil type. "They need very well-draining acidic soil," adds Giannelli.

If your soil is more alkaline, it's best to grow them in containers. They should thrive in USDA zones 5-8.

6. Dogwood with red branches

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(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

"Redtwig dogwoods are primarily grown for their attractive foliage and bright red stems," says Schmitz. These come to life in winter.

The bushes are deer resistant plants, but when deer try to eat them, the good news is that redtwig dogwoods grow quickly and can withstand heavy pruning, which means they grow back easily.

“They are adaptable to a variety of environmental conditions. You can grow them in full sun or up to 50% shade,” adds Schmitz.

“Keep in mind that red dogwoods can grow quite large over time, but maintaining their size is easy. These can be cut all year round and can be easily transplanted.

Remember maintenance by removing old or diseased canes and keeping the bush clean.

Cover them in USDA zones 3-8 and also consider other types of dogwoods that can be used, from medium shrubs to small trees.

deer resistant perennials

There are many deer resistant perennials available that will make a beautiful feature in your beds. Discover the best options with the experts.

1. Buddleia

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(Video) 10 Great Deer Resistant Plants and Flowers For Your Garden 🌱 Deer Resistant Perennial Plants

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Also known as butterfly bushes because they are highly attractive to these valuable pollinators, buddleia are not attractive to deer.

"Although shrubby, buddleia behaves more like woody perennials, regaining color almost to the ground each winter in colder areas and returning to normal size as the season progresses," explains Schmitz.

If the plant doesn't completely die, it's a good idea to cut it right away anyway.

“They grow quickly when they grow back and can reach 2-2 meters in height in a single season. Flowers can be white, blue, blueberry, purple, lavender and pink with many shades in between."

Buddleia requires full sun to thrive and can be grown in USDA zones 4-10, depending on the variety.

Since it's growing so fast, make sure you knowhow to prune buddleiato keep it in check and look your best.

2. Equinacea

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Also known as echinacea, purple echinacea is a popular plant with pollinators, but its smell and spiky center make it unattractive to deer.

"A native perennial purple echinacea prefers moist, well-draining soil, but is drought tolerant once established," says Millie Davenport, director of theClemson Extension Home and Garden Information Center(opens in new tab).

Plants die back into the soil in winter and can grow up to 4 feet tall during the growing season.

"Not only are they a great source of nectar for pollinating insects, but they're also enjoyed by birds in the fall," adds Davenport.

You should be able to grow purple coneflowers in USDA zones 3-9.

3. Bartiris

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The scent and taste of the bearded lily is off-putting to deer, but its exotic-looking flowers make a beautiful addition to the spring and summer garden.

"Some varieties like Immortality will bloom again in late summer and early fall," says Meyers-Sharp.

"Each flower can be one color or two or more colors."

You can grow bearded lilies in a sunny location in well-draining soil in USDA zones 3-9 - learnhow to grow irisescorrectly to ensure they flourish.

"Trim the leaves in the fall," adds Meyers-Sharp. “When planting, make sure the rhizome (underground stem) is just above or slightly above the surface of the soil. If planted too deep, the iris will not bloom.

4. Baptism

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"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-draining soil, but is sometimes drought tolerant. You should be able to farm it in zones 5-9.

"Although deer don't like it, it is a host plant for the larvae of several butterfly species, including Orange Sulfur, Clouded Sulfur, Frosted Elfin, Eastern Tailed Blue, Hoary Edge, and Wild Indigo Duskywing," adds Davenport.

(Video) Deer Resistant Plants That Bees & Butterflies Love In My Garden

Deer Hardy Annuals

When choosing deer-resistant plants for your garden, don't forget about annuals - they take up a lot of space and many have long flowering periods.

1. Cosmos

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Not only are they resistant to cosmos deer plants, they are also popular with pollinators, make excellent cut flowers, and fill in wonderful summer borders.

"Cosmoses are beautiful, breezy plants that thrive in full sun, though they're also happy with a little shade," says Teri Knight, radio show host and founder of the Garden Bite web(opens in new tab).

"They're easy to grow in hot, dry conditions and you can grow them from seeds or potted plants."

it's so easy to learnHow to grow the cosmosas annuals in most climates, and do just that in the garden. Choose from iridescent pink, buttercup yellow and the purest white.

2. Tobacco in bloom

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"Tobacco in bloom - theNicotiana alata– has wonderfully fragrant flowers, especially at night, so plant in a sunny spot where you can enjoy the scent,” says Meyers-Sharp.

However, deer will not appreciate its heavenly scent as much, making it a great deer-resistant plant.

"Hummingbirds, moths and other nocturnal pollinators also visit these native plants," adds Meyers-Sharp.

"Nicotiana sylvestris, or forest flower tobacco, is also shade-tolerant and fragrant."

As old-fashioned plants, flowering tobaccos are also a great addition to your country garden ideas, doing well in borders and containers.

3. Dusty Miller

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While technically a perennial herbaceous, dusty miller, orSenecio Aschenpflanze– usually grown as an annual and prized for its silver-grey foliage that serves as a perfect complement to nearby flowers.

"Dusty Miller is such a fantastic silvery plant that it brings out the colors of other plants," says Knight.

It adapts to different types of soil and adapts well to dry conditions. Being a Mediterranean plant, it likes full sun, so don't plant it in the shade.

"Plant potted plants in soil or a well-draining container," adds Knight.

4. Lantana

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Lantana is another perennial plant grown as a summer annual. "If you live in the South and Southwest, you might find it tough," says Meyers-Sharp.

Due to the strong scent of the flowers and the rough texture of the plant, Lantana is often avoided by deer. However, it is a magnet for pollinators and hummingbirds.

“Lantana can soak up as much heat and sun as you're willing to give it. It's also quite drought tolerant," adds Meyers-Sharp.

(Video) 🦌 ~ Deer resistant ~ Low maintenance Plants ~ 🌱

It's great for adding colorful borders and it also grows beautifully in containers.

Deer-resistant plants for shade.

"It's easy to find deer-resistant, sun-loving plants, but shade plants can be tricky," says Knight.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to add shaded spots in your garden.

1. Bleeding heart

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Also known asspectacular dicenterBleeding Heart is a shade-tolerant perennial named for its heart-shaped flowers, which repel deer.

Native to the forests, it emerges on edges in the spring, providing much-needed color before dying just in time for the summer sensations to take its place.

"Bleeding Heart is an old-fashioned plant with a lot of eternal appeal," says Knight. "There are now many varieties, including 'Golden Hearts Bleeding' with its yellow-green leaves.

"At a compact 2' x 2' size, this beauty snuggling around your hostas can offer them some shelter."

You can grow Bleeding Heart in USDA zones 3-9.

2. Do some

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Ferns with lush leaves are often overlooked by deer, but they make a lovely textured addition to a shady garden.

"I'm particularly fond of fall ferns, Christmas ferns, and Japanese painted ferns, which range in height from 10 to 36 inches tall," says Davenport.

"Ferns prefer moist, well-draining soil that is high in organic matter."

Its hardiness depends on the variety, but you should find ferns that grow in zone 2.

3. Nieswürz

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Hellebore not only provides winter interest for gardens, but is also highly resistant to deer. Evergreens with colorful flowers tolerate dry shade.

"Depending on the variety, hellebores bloom from early winter through June and bloom even in the snow," says Meyers-Sharp.

it's easy to learnhow to grow hellebore, with cultivars suitable for USDA zones 3-9.

"Many gardeners cut winter-damaged leaves in the spring when the plants begin to flower, but it's not necessary," Meyers-Sharp says.

What plants do deer hate the most?

"Deer generally don't like fragrant leafy plants like rosemary and sage," says Hyland. "They also avoid sculptural plants like yew, holly and boxwood."

Anything prickly or fuzzy is also off-putting to deer, so consider the texture of the plant.

What plants do deer eat the most?

Deer tend to adapt well to their local habitat and enjoy many of the crops grown there. They are especially fond of eating tulips and hostas.

“In rural areas, they're often looking for crops like soybeans, grains, vegetables and fruits,” says Davenport.

(Video) Tour of Deer Resistant Plants - P1

“But the bottom line is that no plant is deer proof. They prefer some plants over others, but will eat what's available when they have no other choice."

For more information, seeSite Clemson Extension Home and Garden Information CenterYHGIC deer resistant plants for the landscape: annuals and perennials.


What plants do deer hate the most? ›

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 flowers do deer hate the most? ›

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 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.


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