Deer-Resistant Plants For Your Garden

Do you have a problem with deer eating all of your plants and garden seedlings?

I’ve got a solution for you! Deer-resistant plants you can plant in your gardens to deter them and save your gardens!

Those deer are so cute!

But maybe not so cute when they’re in your yard and garden, destroying everything.

You’ve got to get some plants that deer don’t like.

What Can I Do To Deter Deer?

You could try to build a very tall fence around your yard or garden to try to keep them out. Deer can jump very high and could possibly scale over your fence.

I’ve been asked to find out which plants are deer-resistant.

I’ve made a list for you of deer-resistant plants that I’ve planted in my own gardens. And they seem to work since the deer haven’t eaten them or destroyed them yet.

Deer Will Eat Almost Anything – Really

The first rule of deer-proofing is this: there are no plants that are absolutely deer-proof.

Deer have been known to eat almost anything. So, when their food is scarce, watch out! There are no plants that are deer-resistant for your garden!

What Do Deer Like To Eat?

arborvitae leaves
Arborvitae Leaves

Let’s cover what deer like to eat first.

Avoid planting narrow-leafed evergreens like arborvitae and fir. Deer love these plants!

Deer also love to munch on hostas, daylilies, and English ivy. My neighbor had a huge hosta garden. One night the deer came and ate. every. one.

Interesting fact: studies have shown that deer prefer eating plants that have been fertilized to those that haven’t.

What Deer Don’t Like To Eat

yellow daffodils on green stems

Deer will stay away from poisonous plants.

Consider planting daffodils, foxglove, and poppies. They contain toxicity that deer will avoid.

Deer will stay away from plants with strong scents.

These include herbs like sage, ornamental salvia, and lavender. Flowers like peonies and bearded iris.

Deer don’t like too much texture.

Include plants that are prickly in your garden. Lamb’s ear is suggested. Maybe a cactus or two would work too.

Deer-Resistant Plants for Shade Gardens

Astilbe japonica red flowers with green leaves

The shady areas of your yard are not safe from deer appetites either. They will munch plants equally destructively in sunshine or shade.

A perennial for the shade you could plant is the bleeding heart. It’s beautiful and will discourage deer.

Astilbe and Corydalis are also deer-resistant plants that thrive in the shade These are two of my favorites for lighting up shady areas with their color and movement.

Deer-Resistant Plants for Sunny Gardens

echinacea flowers on green stems
Echinacea Flowers

Deer will munch their way through your sunny garden areas too. You’ll want to have deer-resistant plants here too.

Be sure to include coreopsis, echinacea, salvia and Shasta daisies in your sunny gardens.

These will all attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden but will discourage deer.

Rutger’s List of Deer-Resistant Plants

Here’s an invaluable resource that I found while doing my research.

Rutgers University has a long list of plants that are deer resistant that they compiled with input from nursery and landscape professionals, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), Cooperative Extension personnel, and Rutgers Master Gardeners in New Jersey,

Impressive! I guess they know about plants.

But remember when reading this list, no plant is absolutely deer-proof. Depending on the season

The Rutgers list is arranged according to their resistance to deer damage.

There are four categories with ratings ranging from “A” to “D,” with “A” rating plants being the most deer-resistant and least likely to be damaged by deer.

If you live in an area that is prone to deer damage, pay attention to plants in the “A” and “B” categories.

Here are Rutger’s four categories:

  • A. Plants with an “A” rating are Rarely Damaged.
  • B. The “B” rating plants are Seldom Severely Damaged.
  • C. The plants with a “C” rating are Occasionally Severely Damaged.
  • D. The plants with a “D” rating are Frequently Severely Damaged. It’s probably not a good idea to plant these plants in your garden if you have deer strolling through.

If you have landscaping and gardens that are prone to deer damage, choose plants in the “A” Rarely Damaged and “B” Seldom Severely Damaged categories.

You might be able to keep your gardens looking nice all season long if you use some of these plants.

Some Of My Favorites

Here are some of my favorites that happen to be in the Rutgers A rating category, Rarely Damaged. They are all deer-resistant plants and rarely damaged by deer.

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order. I’ve also added an Amazon link for your convenience.

Basket of Gold (Aurina saxtilis)

My mom had some beautiful basket of gold plants growing in her rock wall. They came into bloom every spring and usually faded away when summer came. But what a show! Mom grew the basket of gold and white sweet alyssum paired together. They were a welcome sign of spring!

Basket of gold is a clumping plant with small, bright gold flowers that grow in large clusters. It makes a great ground cover, will grow in rock walls, is drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant. This is a win-win plant for your garden!

  • Light: Sun
  • Soil: Average, well-draining
  • Water: When the soil is dry
  • Height: 1 foot tall by 2 feet wide clumps
  • Foliage: Gray-green
  • Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7

You can get Basket of Gold seeds here.

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

An old-fashioned perennial, the bleeding heart loves shady gardens. It was called the finest hardy plant of the 19th century. It’s also called lady’s locket, lady’s heart, and lyre flower.

I remember the first bleeding heart I saw was in my grandma’s garden. It was a relatively tall plant in the back under a large tree and had lovely flowers of dangling hearts. They were red hearts with white tails.

The bleeding heart blooms in the spring and finishes its growing cycle as the warmer weather comes. The flowers will fade and the leaves will die back. The plant goes into dormancy in late spring or early summer depending on how hot your area is. Cut it back then and plant other shade loving plants in the area.

Romantic like a Valentine and deer resistant too. What more could you want in a garden plant?

  • Light: Partial to full shade
  • Soil: Rich and moist
  • Height: Up to 3 feet tall
  • Flower: pink, red, white
  • Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9

You can get Bleeding Heart here.

Corydalis (Corydalis sp.)

Popular for shade gardens, corydalis produces showy, tubular blossoms in the spring and early summer. Once it’s done blooming, the plant dies back. This is a perennial, so it will reappear next spring.

Depending on your planting area, it might bloom again in summer or fall. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so our corydalis blooms in the spring into summer and fall.

Definitely deer resistant, this is a beautiful addition and must-have for your garden.

  • Light: Part sun, shade
  • Soil: Well-drained, humus-rich, moist
  • Growth: 1 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Leaves: Blue-green compound
  • Flowers: Blue, purple, white, pink, red, yellow
  • Hardiness Zones: 5 to 7

Corydalis is available in several colors. This page will show you some of the prettiest.

You can get pink Corydalis Solida here. This is what I have.

Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

This is an attractive ornamental grass that grows in mounds. The cascading leaves on this plant have a fountain-like appearance with flowers that look like small fox tails.

The foliage will remain throughout the year, providing fall and winter interest in the garden.

Clumping or mounding grasses are ideal to place in many areas, as they fill the area without being invasive.

Fountain grasses are very adaptable and easy to take care of. Grow them as a specimen or in a group. Fountain grasses can add beauty and chase the deer away too.

  • Light: Sun to light shade
  • Soil: Fertile, well-drained
  • Growth: 3 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deep green
  • Flowers: Mauve to Lilac
  • Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

You can get Fountain Grass here.

Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica)

This grass is very dramatic and I love it in a garden.

The leaves are green at the base, with red tips that become more intense over the summer. As fall nears, the grass looks like a red-hot bonfire.

It is just beautiful and a fun addition to a rock garden, a mass planting, or as an edge.

  • Light: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil: Normal
  • Growth: 18 to 20 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Foliage: Red, variegated with green
  • Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

You can find Japanese Blood Grass here.

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantine)

Blooming in the spring, the soft fuzzy leaves are fun to touch. Kids love lamb’s ear and it attracts birds in the garden. But, deer find them prickly and stay away from these plants.

  • Light: Sun, part sun
  • Soil: well-draining, evenly moist to dry
  • Foliage: blue-green, gray-silver
  • Flower: Purple, white, red, pink
  • Height: 6 to 12 inches, 1 to 3 feet, depending on variety
  • Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

You can find Lambs Ear here. This variety has larger leaves than usual.

Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

Lavender has many uses and there are many varieties of lavender available. Naturopathic by Nature lists 50 ways to use lavender on their site.

The dried flowers can be made into a delightful potpourri or brewed into a relaxing tea. Tuck a few. under your pillow at night might help you sleep.

Lavender is edible too. One suggestion is to make a lavender vanilla syrup and add to champagne or over ice cream.

The darker flowers have more intense aromas and flavors. Depending on where you live, your lavender might be evergreen and keep its foliage all year.

Lavender produces beautiful purple-blue blooms in the summer and into fall. Every part of the lavender plant is infused with aromatic oil, filling the garden with sensory delights. It does attract pollinators, but deer don’t like it.

Place lavender along walkways or near outdoor seating so you can enjoy the wonderful fragrance while being close to it or brushing up against it.

  • Light: Sun
  • Soil: well-drained, sandy, even poor soil
  • Foliage: Gray to green
  • Flower: Blue, purple
  • Height: 1 to 3 feet
  • Hardiness Zones: 5 to 10

You can find Lavender plants here.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

You can find Lemon Balm plants here and organic seeds here.

Mint (Mentha sp.)

Available in many different varieties, each one tastes a bit different from the other ones. Interestingly, even though there are different varieties each with its different leaves, all mint has square stems.

The leaves are very fragrant and have a fruity, aromatic flavor. Spearmint is used in savory dishes and peppermint is generally used in desserts. You’ll often find mint in Middle Eastern dishes.

Beware, mint can be a vigorous spreader and will aggressively take over any pot or garden you put it into. You might want to keep it contained in a pot.

But regardless of where you decide to plant it, deer don’t like mint and will likely stay away from it.

  • Light: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Moist but well-drained
  • Height: 1 to 2 feet tall

There are several varieties of Mint. You can find peppermint here, orange mint here, and mojito mint here. These are plants, not seeds.

Oregano (Origanum sp.)

A perennial herb, oregano tastes a bit like thyme and has cute rose-purple or white blooms. It is self-seeding so new plants will grow back next year.

Plant oregano as a companion to any of your vegetables in the garden. It’s deer-resistant and might help keep deer away from your vegetable gardens.

We always have a few plants in pots and use fresh oregano year-around in many Italian dishes, tomato sauces, and soups.

But the deer don’t like it and will avoid munching around it.

  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained
  • Water: When the soil is dry
  • Height: Clumping 4 to 6 inches tall

You can find Italian Oregano plants here.

Peony (Paeonia sp.)

Peonies bloom from late spring to early summer, depending on your location and the peony variety you’re growing. You can plant several varieties and stretch the blooming season out so you can enjoy the fabulous blooms for several weeks.

Peonies are available in six flower types: anemone, single, Japanese, semi-double, double, and bomb. Some have a strong fragrance, some have no smell at all.

The petals are edible for people, but the deer don’t like them very much and will avoid them!

  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, fertile, moist
  • Leaves: Glossy Green
  • Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

My favorite Peony is the Sarah Bernhardt pictured above. It is a late-season bloomer and the blossoms last for weeks. You can find the bare root here.

If you want to look at the available Peony varieties, you can go here. They’re all beautiful.

Poppy (Papaver sp.)

Blooming from spring through summer, poppies can make a showy addition to any garden. They will self-seed so you will enjoy them year after year.

They come in almost any color, can grow to over 3 feet tall, and are an important source of drugs (opium), latex, and foods (oil and seeds). 

Poppies are well known the world over. And they are a member of the deer-resistant plant group.

The small red-flowered corn poppy is the poppy of wartime remembrance. This one is called Red American legion

The brilliant orange poppy is the California state flower. You see it everywhere by the highways and byways in all colors.

  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: any
  • Water: When the soil dries out
  • Leaves: Lobed or toothed silver-green foliage
  • Flowers: Any color
  • Growth: 2 to 6 feet tall, depending on variety

You can find Poppy seeds and poppy roots here.

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)

Often found growing in moist sites, shady forests, streambanks, red elderberry is often used for erosion control.

The deciduous plant can grow into a large shrub or small tree. Add this bush to your native plant garden scheme.

The raw berries can cause gastric upset and need to be cooked. Once cooked, the berries are used to make jelly, sauce, or wine. Elderberry wine anyone?

Deer might eat the ripe berries but will probably look for other more desirable plants to munch on.

Light: Full sun to part sun

Soil: Moist

Water: When the soil dries out

Leaves: Lance-shaped

Flowers: Tiny, white to creamy flowers that turn to red berries

Growth: 3-9 feet tall

You can find organic Red Elderberry seeds here. These will deliver inside the supplier’s frozen seed capsules.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Originating in the Mediterranean, its name means “mist of the sea” as the grey-green foliage is thought to resemble mist against the Mediterranean sea cliffs.

Rosemary blooms during spring and summer, smelling a bit like pine. Deer don’t like plants with strong fragrances, so this qualifies as a plant that is deer-resistant.

Since rosemary doesn’t like extreme cold, it’s best to plant in containers so it can be moved indoors in winter if you live in an area with cold winters. When choosing your container, consider terra cotta as it dries out.

  • Light: Full sun, at least 6-8 hours per day
  • Soil: Well-drained, sandy
  • Water: Prefers drier soil, water when dry
  • Growth: Up to 5 feet tall, can be sheared back for compact foliage
  • Leaves: Needle-like, evergreen
  • Flowers: Brilliant blue flowers

You can find live Rosemary plants here.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)

What’s not to love about snapdragons? They make beautiful cut flowers, they attract birds, bees, and butterflies, the self-seed, and come back every spring.

Cool-weather lovers, snapdragons should be placed out in late winter for spring and early summer blooms. When hot summer begins, clip to half its height to encourage more blooms when temperatures begin to fall in autumn.

Snapdragons are deer-resistant. Plant snapdragons in your vegetable garden to help deter the deer from munching your veggies.

  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-draining, moist
  • Growth: 6 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on variety
  • Colors: available in most colors except blue

You can find the Premium Heirloom Snapdragon seeds here.

Sweet Box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana)

Very easy to care for, Sweet Box plants have glossy green leaves and an incredible perfume in the late winter. These plants are evergreen and offer interest in the winter garden when all else is dormant.

These are deer-resistant plants and will also deter rabbits.

  • Light: Full shade
  • Soil: Well-draining, evenly moist, rich in organic matter
  • Growth: 3 to 5 feet tall, can be sheared back for compact foliage.
  • Leaves: Lance-shaped, up to 2 inches long, evergreen
  • Flowers: Fragrant tiny white flowers followed by small round black or red fruits later in the season.

You can find Sweet Box plants here.

Tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus)

Grown for its aromatic leaves and peppery-like flavor, tarragon is a hardy herb. It can be used to flavor many foods and is especially popular for flavoring vinegar.

Bonus: tarragon is a plant that deer don’t like.

  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, fertile
  • Growth:
  • Leaves: Lance-shaped, up to 2 inches long, evergreen

You can find Tarragon seeds here.

Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillate)

This perennial plant provides hardy, long-blooming flowers and drought-tolerance. Plus it’s a deer-resistant plant!

Fun to grow in the flower beds, Coreopsis will attract butterflies and other pollinators. They might self-sow but are not invasive.

Deer don’t like the plant and will avoid eating them.

  • Light: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained
  • Growth: 1.5 to 2.5 feet tall, 1 to 1.5 feet wide
  • Leaves: Wispy green foliage
  • Flowers: Showy, golden yellow to orange, pink
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

You can find yellow Threadleaf Coreopsis here and pink Threadleaf Coreopsis here.

Thyme (Thymus valgaris)

This fragrant herb is evergreen with a pleasant and pungent flavor. Used to flavor soups, grilled meats, vegetables, and tomato dishes, it smells and tastes a bit like clover.

Plant thyme near cabbage or tomatoes to help keep pests away. If you’re growing it in a container, plant with rosemary as they have the same watering needs. Attractive to bees, thyme is a deer-resistant plant to add to your garden. Since it’s a plant that deer don’t like, perhaps it will save you.

  • Light: Full sun, part sun
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy, well-drained
  • Growth: 6 to 12 inches tall
  • Leaves: Small, fragrant leaves on woody stems
  • Flowers: Small flowers
  • Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

You can find Thyme plants here.

Oh, To Find Plants Deer Don’t Like!

brown deer in the garden

I’ve found some plants that have been rated as plants that are rarely damaged by deer for you.

I hope you try to plant some of these this summer. Let me know if they work for you. I’ll continue to research for more plants that are deer-resistant and bunny-resistant for you.

But remember, deer will eat almost anything when they’re hungry! Even plants that are designated as deer-resistant.

If you want to learn more about gardening, two posts might be of interest. Raised Bed Gardening and The Best Vegetables To Grow In Containers.

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