Growing Deer Resistant Plants

Most of us find out the hard way that hungry deer and rabbits will eat almost any vegetation within their reach. However, you can make your garden a little less inviting by including plants they dislike and avoiding those they prefer. In general, deer avoid plants with a sticky, rough or fuzzy texture (like Euphorbia, Pulmonaria, Dusty Miller or Lamb's Ears ) and plants with spiny protection (like Barberry).  Not surprisingly, deer stay away from poisonous plants! Daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers that have toxicity that deer avoid. Deer also turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents.  Deer use their sense of smell to detect predators. Strongly-scented plants may confuse a deer's sense of smell, which makes them uneasy. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, lavenders, thyme, peonies, and bearded irises are too stinky for deer.

Plants that Help Keep the Deer at Bay

  • Any plant can become edible to a deer when food is scarce. Deer are capable of remembering plants that normally would turn them away and may start browsing them regularly in future years. Some gardeners have successfully planted a perimeter garden of deer fodder to provide food so the garden plants are left alone.
  • Deer will often rub the felt off their antlers on your most tender tree trunks; the potential for damage is high. To protect trees, wrap trunks loosely with chicken wire up to several feet off the ground beyond the height deer can reach.
  • There are a number of commercial products which are used as repellents for deer.
  • People also use their own recipes for homemade sprays. Gardeners should be advised to use caution when trying home remedies. These remedies are not necessarily 'tried and true' and may not be safe for use on all plants.
  • Often a plant's mature foliage is resistant and usually, deer eat new growth of the plant or nibble or bite off flower heads and buds.
  • Fawns will try just about anything and will expand their menu when necessary.

Plant list

Achillea spp ( Yarrow)

Aconitum spp (Monkshood)

Actea rubra (Red Baneberry)

Agastache foeniculum (Giant Hissop)

Ageratum houstonianum (Ageratum)

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle)

Allium spp (Onion)

Alyssum maritimum (Alyssum)

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny Serviceberry)

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly Everlasting)

Antennaria dioica (Pussy Toes)

Anthemis tinctoria (Golden Marguerite)

Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon)

Armeria maritima (Sea or common Thrift)

Armoracia rusticcana (Horseradish)

Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon)

Artemisia absinthium (Lambrook Silver)

Artemisia stelleranna (Beach Wormwood)

Artemisia schmidtrana (Silver Mound)

Arisaema triphylum (Jack in the pulpit)

Aruncus dioicus (Goatsbeard)

Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)

Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)

Aster spp (Aster)

Berberis spp (Barberry)

Borage officinalis (Borage)

Buddleia spp (Butterfly Bush)

Buxus sempervirens (Boxwood)

Helleborus spp (Lenten or Christmas Rose)

Cactaceae spp (Cactus sp)

Calendula officinalis (Calendula)

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebells)

Caryopteris clandonensis (Blue Mist Shrub)

Centaurea cineraria (Dusty Miller)

Centaurea cyanus (Bachelor's Buttons)

Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer)

Chrisanthemum coccineum (Pyrethrum)

Chrisanthemum superbum (Shasta Daisy)

Cleome spp (Spider Flower)

Colchium spp (Autumn Crocus)

Consolida ambigua (Larkspur)

Convallaris majalis (Lilly of the Valley)

Coreopsis verticillate (Threadleaf Coreopsis)

Corydalis spp (Corydalis)

Cytisus spp (Broom)

Daphne spp (Daphne)

Dianthus caryophyllaccae (Pinks family)

Digitalis purpurea (Common Foxglove)

Dryopteris marginalis (Wood Fern)

Echinacea spp (Coneflower)

Echinops ritro (Small Globe Thistle)

Endymion sp (Bluebell)

Eranthus hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Euphorbia spp (Spurge)

Fragaria virginiana (Wild Starwberry)

Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops)

Gypsophila spp (Baby's Breath)

Helichrysum (Strawflower)

Heliorope arborescens (Heliotrope)

Hemerocallis spp (Daylilies)

Hyssopus officinalis (Hyssop)

Ilex opaca (American Holly)

Ilex verticillate (Winterberry Holly)

Iris sp (Iris)

Juniperus (Juniper)

Lantana spp (Lantana)

Lavandula spp (Lavender)

Limonium latifolium (Statice)

Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum)

Lysimachia numularia (Creeping Jenny)

Matteucia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern)

Marrubium vulgare (Horehound)

Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)

Mentha spp (Mint)

Myosotis spp (Forget-Me-Not)

Myrica pensylvanica (Bayberry)

Narcissus spp (Daffodil)

Nepeta spp (Catmint)

Ocimum basilicum (Basil)

Oenothera (Primrose)

Pachysandra terminalis (Pashysandra)

Paeonia spp (Peony)

Papaver (poppy)

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

Picea glauca 'Conicva' (Dwarf Alberta Spruce)

Pimpinalla anisum (Anise)

Pinus (Pine)

Portulaca grandiflora (Portulaca)

Potentilla (Cinquefoil)

Primula spp (English Primrose)

Pulmonaria MR. Moon (Bethleham Sage)

Ranunculus spp (Buttercup)

Rhus aromatic (Fragrant Sumac)

Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

Rudbeckia spp (Black Eye Susan)

Ruta spp (Rue)

Salix (Willows)

Salvia officinalis (Garden Sage)

Sedum spp (Stonecrop)

Stachys byzantine (Lamb's Ear)

Senecio Cineraria (Dusty Miller)

Syringa vulgaris (Lilac)

Tagetes (Marigolds)

Tanacetum vulgare (Common Tansy)

Teucrium chamaedrys

Thymus spp (Germander)

Yucca (Yucca)

Veronica spicata (Speedwell)

Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum)

Zinnia (Zinnia)


Native and Ornamental Grasses (Canada)

  • Agrostis scabra (Hair Grass)
  • Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem)
  • Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama Grass)
  • Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue grass)
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue OatGrass)
  • Hierochloe odorata (Sweet grass)
  • Koeleria cristata (June grass)
  • Molina caerulea variegata (Moor Grass)
  • Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)
  • Sisyrinchium montanum (Common blue Eyed Grass)

Occasionally Nibbled Plants

  • Astilbe tacquetti (Superba Astilbe)
  • Aquilegia canadensis (Common Columbine)
  • Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold)
  • Daffodils (Daffodils)
  • Dicentra spp (Bleeding Heart)
  • Echinacea (Coneflower)
  • Eryngium planum (Sea Holly)
  • Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye weed)
  • Gaillardia grandiflora (Blanket flower)
  • Liatris spicata (Gay Feather)
  • Linum perenne (Perennial flax)
  • Lychnis chalcedonia (Maltese cross)
  • Lychnis coronaria oculate (Rose blush)
  • Monarda didyma (Bee Balm)
  • Osmorrhiza longistylis (Sweet cicely)
  • Veronica spicate (Speedwell)
  • Viola spp (Violet)