25 Best Deer-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

25 Best Deer-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

25 Best Deer-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

Deer are beautiful, but when you own a garden, they might not be what you want to see when you look out your window. That’s because deer are grazers. They usually walk the same basic route each day, eating all the while—and that includes your garden! Their heaviest feeding takes place in the early morning and late evening. They also like to bed down to sleep or rest both at night and throughout the day. If you’re going to keep deer from devouring your plants, it’s important to understand their habits. 

From there, use these tips and tactics to deer-proof your yard. 

  1. You want your yard to be as unattractive to deer as possible, so keep your yard clean of unmown grass where  deer love to bed down. Plus, be sure to pick up all fallen apples and acorns—two favorite treats for deer! 
  2. A deer-proof fence is the best way to keep deer out, but it needs to be a minimum of eight feet tall so the deer can’t leap over it. The downside is that these fences are expensive and may not be allowed in your community. You’ll also have to decide if you want to live in a fortress.
  3. There are great pest control products available to use against deer. They come as sprays or in bags that hang in your trees and shrubs. These products smell offensive to deer, often like a known predator. They contain ingredients like garlic, dried blood or coyote urine, but there’s a catch—they must be reapplied regularly to be effective.
  4. You can actually plant your solution to the deer problem to keep them away naturally. It could be as simple as a barrier of shrubs or trees that deer don’t like. But there are also plenty of plants, too! 

So, what types of plants do deer hate?

  • Plants with lots of thorns or sharp points.
  • Plants with textures that are fuzzy or furry.
  • Plants that are poisonous.
  • Plants that are highly scented.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite deer-resistant plants, shrubs, vegetables and more:

Shrubs

1. Holly Bushes

Holly has stiff, pointed leaves that deer don’t like to chew. Since holly is evergreen, it is a good deterrent all year. The combination of the unappetizing holly and the inability to see what is beyond the holly hedge may be enough of a barrier to deter the deer.

2. Barberry and Russian Olive

Russian Olive and Barberry have lots of thorns that deer won’t want to chew. These plants should be as effective as the holly bushes.

Lilacs

3. Lilacs

Lilacs have a very strong scent that deer hate. Strong scents make it difficult for deer to smell predators. Since deer don’t have great vision, they rely on smell to sense possible danger.

4. Boxwood

Deer can’t see through boxwood’s thick hedges. If you have planted a barrier that obscures a deer’s sight, ,it’s poor vision may stop it from noticing the tempting plants in your yard. Also, deer are wary of entering enclosed spaces because they can’t tell if there are predators waiting inside. Plus, there may not be any way out.

5. Other shrubs

Some other unpopular shrubs for deer include juniper, spruce, pine, willows, and arrowwood viburnum.

Poisonous Plants

1. Daffodils.

Most gardeners plant spring-blooming bulbs for the earliest flowers of the growing season, but this is also when deer are at their hungriest. They have just endured a long winter and the does have just given birth to their fawns. They need to eat a lot in order to regain what they lost during the winter. Deer love tulips and will eat all of your beautiful flowers in one night. If you want tulips, plant them as close to the house as possible sodeer are reluctant to approach–even if they are hungry. Daffodils are a better option because they are poisonous to deer.

2. Poppies. 

Poppies bloom from late spring into summer. Their colorful blooms bring a pop of color to the flower border and deer won’t eat them. These flowers also contain a chemical that is poisonous to deer.

Foxgloves

3. Foxgloves

Foxgloves are tall, stately, perennial flowers. They have  vertical stems that are covered with tubular flowers that make the foxglove attractive to the hummingbirds who eat the nectar. Digitalis is a potent heart medication that is derived from foxglove plants. Still, they’re not fit for consumption! In fact, every single part of a foxglove is poisonous to people and animals. Because of this, you won’t have to worry about deer bothering this flower in your garden. 

Fuzzy and Furry Plants

1. Lamb’s Ear

Lamb’s ear is a summer perennial grown for its leaves–not its underwhelming flowers. This plant is usually grown for its soft silver green color and the texture of its furry leaves. While lamb’s ear leaves may be perfect for petting, deer dislike the texture and usually opt to move on. 

2. Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller is grown mostly as a border plant or used in containers. The lacy shaped silver- white leaves provide a nice contrast to the neighboring flowers. Since dusty miller  leaves are also fuzzy, deer won’t eat them either.

Herbs and Vegetables

1. Onions

Onion plants are very aromatic. The entire plant is fit for cooking, and every part gives off the recognizable smell and flavor. Humans may love it, but deer sure don’t.

2. Garlic

Similar to onion, garlic also gives off a strong scent that is disagreeable todeer. They aren’t attracted to the taste and the scent is powerful enough to mask the scent of possible predators, making the deer feel unsafe.

Sage

3. Sage

Sage is a pungent herb usually associated with Thanksgiving, and it is the main spice in sausages and other savory recipes. Sage leaves are also fuzzy, and the combination of smell and texture makes sage unattractive to deer.

4. Tarragon

Strongly scented and flavored, this annual (unless grown in the deep south) is a lovely herb for your herb garden. It is also attractive enough to feature in a container or  garden bed. Luckily, the strong scent makes this herb unappealing to deer.

5. Lavender

How lucky we are that the lovely scent of lavender is unattractive to deer. This beautiful plant is a favorite for potpourri and laundry products. Plant lavender seeds to enjoy this calming herb and repel those pesky deer.

6. Mint

Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow. In fact, it spreads so easily that we usually tell people to grow it in a pot to control the plant from spreading too much. These plants are lovely to grow where you can brush by them. Just a touch will release the fresh, beautiful mint scent. A sprig of fresh mint in your tea is the perfect garnish. For a deer, however, the smell of mint is too overpowering.They will avoid stepping on it or eating it.

7. Rosemary

Besides the strong scent, the prickly, needle-like structure of the rosemary plant makes it unattractive to the deer in your yard. Those same features make rosemary a favorite in the herb garden or a potted plant on your patio. Plant several because if you don’t cut it regularly for kitchen use, rosemary will produce lovely blue flowers.

Flowers

1. Peony

Every garden should include peonies. Peony seeds are easy to grow and will last for generations with almost no care. The big, luscious flowers rival roses in both beauty and scent. Best of all, the deer won’t touch them due to the smell and high phenol content.

Marigolds

2. Marigolds

This annual flower is one of the easiest and most popular flowers to grow in the flower garden.  Plant marigold seeds as a companion plant in the vegetable garden to attract pollinators and repel damaging insects. Deer also dislike the pungent smell of marigolds and may help deter the furry creatures if they discover your vegetable garden.

3. Forget-Me-Not

This flowering plant is actually a biennial, but it self-seeds so readily that you will think it is a perennial. The flowers turn color as they mature, so it is not at all unusual to have flowers in shades of white, pink, andblue on the same plant at the same time. They sow well in the shade, and both rabbits and deer don’t like these pretty mounds of flowers. 

4. Bee Balm

Bee balm is popular in many gardens because it attracts pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The flavorful leaves can be used in teas and applied to bee stings for relief. The bee balm plant is resistant to most diseases and pests, including deer.

5. Iris

Deer just don’t like iris, and that’s good news for gardeners. With the broad selection of colors and types, irises are an important part of every flower garden. There are even irises that do well in wet areas of your garden or by fountains and ponds.

Grasses

1. Blue Fescue

This bluish-green colored grass grows in mounds about 12 inches round. They make a great border plant and also work wonderfully in rock gardens. The best part is that they are easy maintenance plants that deer don’t like.

2. Golden Hakone Grass

This plant is becoming very popular as an edging plant along sidewalks and paths. Its draping habit softens the edge of  gardens, and deer don’t like to eat these grasses because of the sharp edge blade.

Black Mondo Grass

3. Black Mondo Grass

Black Mondo Grass is popular because of its upright habit and of course, its color contrast to all the greens in the garden. Another easy-care grass, this is a good choice as a deer-resistant plant.

There are many deer-resistant plant options. Look for plants with textures that deer won’t like, along with poisonous plants (as long as you don’t have animals yourself) and plants with high levels of smell. These are the plants that are likely to be resistant to deer. Try a few throughout your garden to test how they work. Remember, plants that are repulsive to deer in one area may be a gourmet treat in another area. At least by choosing plants that are deer-resistant and incorporating other methods, like sound, predator scents and barriers, you will have a good chance of winning the battle against deer.

Tip: If there is a plant that you really don’t want to give up, but is also a deer favorite, these tricks may help: 

  • Locate these plants close to the house, where  deer are more reluctant to go. 
  • Surround your favorite plant with plants that are noxious to deer, like onions or garlic. 
  • Faithfully use and renew garden pest control products.
  • Cover the plant with netting or wire, but remember to apply the cover each evening and remove it during the day.