Deer-Resistant Vs. Deer-Proof
They prefer bland tasting, non-toxic and non-odorous plant material. Whether or not your plant is eaten can also depend on factors external to the plants such as natural area food sources, weather, and numbers of deer. No plant is deer-proof; however, there are a number of factors that allow non-preferred plants to get eaten. These include succulent new growth (may make the plant more palatable than usual); easy availability (why walk by a free lunch?); and familiarity (develop a taste for it after minimal nibbles over two or three years). Something “resistant” may get browsed each year, but usually not devastated. The next year, a different plant may be browsed. Many plants recover and bloom the following year. Listed are a few suggestions.
Plants to Use
ACHILLEA – Yarrow
Aromatic leaves protect big, flat flower clusters from hungry deer. Yarrow loves full sun and blooms most of the summer. Not fussy about soil. Several plants fill into a nice mass in just a few years.
ACONITUM – Monkshood
Long, recemes of flowers from late summer into fall, spectacular height for the middle to back of the garden and eye-catching color in the shade garden or on the table as cut flowers.
AJUGA – Bugleweed
Colorful foliage adds visual interest all season. Useful as ground cover with flower spikes as a bonus.
ALCHEMILLA – Lady’s Mantle
Useful accent for edging even in partially shaded areas, with bounteous chartreuse flowers in June. Water droplets stay on the hexagonal leaves long into the day for an eye-catching, jeweled appearance.
ALLIUM – Ornamental Chives
Globe-shaped flowers with gravity-defying structure. Even though they remain under a foot tall, they catch your eye. Foliage has enough onion smell to keep deer at bay.
ANTIRRHINUM – Snapdragon
A kids’ favorite – plant them once and enjoy for years.
ARABIS – Rock Cress
Part of the wild mustard family that generally is too tangy for the deer palate. Valued for its small flowers and low-growing habit in rock gardens, in containers, and as edging, Arabis blooms from April to June.
ARTEMISIA – Wormwood
The foliage not only saves this easy-to-grow perennial from the deer (it’s aromatic) but provides a great garden contrast with its silver or gray-white coloring. Fast spreading.
ASTILBE – Astilbe
Clumps of fern-like foliage topped with spires of bright color make this a favorite for the shade garden.
AUBRIETA – Purple Rock Cress
Low, spreading mounds, perfect for rock gardens, path edging or borders.
AURINNA – Basket of Gold
Popular edging or rock garden plant.
CALAMINTHA – Calamint
Aromatic foliage provides maintenance-free resistance to deer. Easy to grow.
DICENTRA – Bleeding Hearts
Grows easily. Sprouts in early spring.
DIGITALIS – Foxgloves
Long-blooming plant that is toxic if eaten. Favored for its height and long bloom time.
ECHINACEA – Coneflower
Long, long bloom period, easy to grow in ordinary soil and deer ignore it.
ECHINOPS – Globe Thistle
Unusual globe-shaped flowers stand out in midsummer.
Shade lovers with airy spikes of foliage.
GALIUM – Sweet Woodruff
Nice woodland ground cover.
GERANIUM – Hardy, Scented Geranium, Cranesbill
Spread slowly to form long-blooming mats of color.
GRASSES – Ornamental Grasses
Very natural, dramatic texture that also provide winter interest.
GYPSOPHILIA – Baby’s Breath
Adds a delicate, billowing texture to any garden.
IRIS – Siberian Iris
Beautiful, grassy foliage makes a good contrast in any garden. Drought resistant.
LAMIUM – Dead Nettles
Colorful leaves, popular ground cover.
LYCHNIS – Campion
Fuzzy leaves send deer browsing elsewhere. Self seeds freely.
MENTHA – Mint
Definitely too smelly for the deer, but you’ll love it.
MYRICA – Northern Bayberry
Semi-evergreen shrub with glossy, aromatic foliage and waxy blue-gray berries.
MONARDA – Bee Balm
Hummingbirds will fight each other for the air rights over your Monarda. Very aromatic foliage that spread rapidly.
NEPETA – Catnip
You’ll enjoy the delightful fragrance.
PHLOX SUBULATA – Moss Pinks
The evergreen, needlelike foliage and spring bloom time add visual interest to your garden during the winter and early spring.
PICEA – Spruce
This evergreen has stiff needles and a bad flavor for protection.
POTENTILLA – Cinquefoil
Summer-long flowering quality that thrives in almost any soil.
RHEUM – Ornamental Rhubarb
Cooks and deer know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous.
RHUS – Sumac
Low-spreading ground cover with glossy green foliage and superb orange-red fall color.
SEMPERVIVUM – Hens and Chicks
Drought-tolerant, evergreen rosettes in exciting colors.
SOLIDAGO – Goldenrod
Fall color in the deer-resistant garden is in short supply so Solidago is a must.
SPIRAEA JOPONICA – Spiraea
Easy to grow and tolerant of average soils. Ample flowers that provide medium-height interest in deep gardens.
STACHYS – Lamb’s Ear
Fuzzy leaves protect this easy-to-grow foliage plant from deer. Excellent for edging and ground cover.
SYMPHYTUM – Comfrey
Multiple ivory-yellow bells borne over rich green foliage in spring.
TANACETUM – Tancy
Aromatic varieties contain volatile oils or insecticidal compounds that may cause unpleasant reactions if handled or consumed in excess.
THYMUS – Thyme
Foliage, flowers, and fragrance. Use for edging walks.
YUCCA – Adam’s Needle
This evergreen becomes the focal point in your garden twice a year – once when the rest of the garden has died back for winter and again in early summer when it sends up showy stalks of white flowers.