12 Hardy, Deer Resistant Proven Winners Perennials
There is nothing worse than walking out into the garden, only to find that the deer have devoured your favorite plants overnight. Short of installing a nine-foot-tall fence and repeatedly applying repellants, there are few sure cures for the problem, but planting things they don’t prefer to eat will help. Let’s look at 12 plants that deer typically will pass by in your garden in favor of tastier treats down the road.
A favorite of native enthusiasts, these colorful perennials attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds with their vibrant blossoms each summer. They are dwarf, clump-forming varieties that return reliably every year in zones 4-8 and are exceptionally resistant to powdery mildew. Deer steer clear once they catch a whiff of their minty-scented foliage. Plant Leading Lady bee balm for earlier color, then Pardon My varieties to extend the bloom season through midsummer. Best in full sun to part shade.
The fuzzy, fragrant foliage of catmint is detested by deer. ‘Cat’s Meow’ is a lower maintenance selection that is prized for its naturally neat, dense habit that won't need trimming to keep it in bounds like older varieties. It is very easy to grow in zones 3-8 in full sun and well-drained soil. Just plant it and forget it (that’s right—no extra water or plant food needed), and it will return the favor with bushels of bright lavender purple blossoms in early summer and early fall.
If you want to attract pollinators to your garden, plant salvia. While its fragrant foliage is not preferred by deer, all sorts of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are dazzled by its blooms which appear around early summer. Hardy Color Spires salvias are super easy to grow in full sun in zones 3-8. They are drought tolerant once established. These lovely perennials are a staple item for every spring garden.
The finely textured, fragrant, fuzzy leaves of Sweet Romance lavender are rarely on the menu for deer and other critters. You will love its heady sweet fragrance, so be sure to pick a few stems for bringing indoors. This variety is particularly long blooming with rich violet purple flower wands produced continually from early summer into fall in full sun in zones 5-9. It is very drought tolerant once established.
By now you’re probably sensing a theme here—perennials with fragrant foliage are rarely bothered by deer. Russian sage is certainly no exception. Its fragrant foliage is highly deer resistant, while its bright amethyst blue flowers are a favorite of bees and hummingbirds. ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ has a tidy habit that won’t spill over onto its neighbors in the garden. Full sun and dry, unfertile soil will keep it happiest for many years to come in zones 4-9.
The leathery, serrated foliage and spiky flowers of Ligularia are typically not preferred by deer meandering down your shady pathways. They would much rather eat your tender hostas instead! (Think kale salad v. baby lettuce--which would you rather eat?) ‘Bottle Rocket’ is an improved cultivar with greater heat tolerance, thicker textured leaves, and bright yellow flower spikes that are held just above the foliage. Its flowering performance is best when planted in part shade and moist soil in zones 4-9.
The finely textured foliage and skinny flower spikes of Veronica puts them near the bottom of the menu for deer who are looking for plants of greater substance to fill their bellies. Luckily, that means gardeners can plant swathes of vibrantly hued purple, pink or white veronicas in their sunny to lightly shaded landscapes in zones 4-8 with no worries. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy their blooms for many weeks beginning in early summer.
These shorter selections of our native prairie Baptisia may be scaled down to fit in urban gardens, but they haven’t lost their deer resistance in the process. Bees and butterflies enjoy their late spring blooms, which come in a broad range of colors in this series. Baptisias are highly drought tolerant, enjoy full sun, and are extremely long-lived in the landscape in zones 4-9. Choose a permanent place when planting, as they resent being moved once established.
Blue star is a classic native perennial that thrives in zones 4-9 in full sun to part shade. Its finely textured foliage doesn't offer much sustenance for deer, so they typically pass it by in favor of something meatier. ‘Storm Cloud’ is named for its unique near-black foliage and stems that emerge in spring before transitioning to deep green. It sets the perfect backdrop for the periwinkle blue flowers in late spring. This long-lived perennial is a good choice for low maintenance landscapes.
Goatsbeard has great potential to become your newest favorite perennial. It’s just starting to be discovered by gardeners who are impressed by its versatility of growing in sun and shade, and love of plain ole average soil. Deer haven’t discovered it yet either, maybe because its lacy foliage and wispy white blooms get stuck in their teeth. Whatever the reason, we’re happy to offer this easy to grow, low maintenance perennial for zones 3-7.
Every shade garden needs a few foamflowers like ‘Cutting Edge’. Why? They are easy to grow across North America in zones 4-9 in partial to full shade, they provide an early season pollen source for bees in spring, and they aren’t bothered by deer. Our theory? Their low growing, slightly hairy foliage requires way too much effort to bend all the way down to eat. Deer would much rather go after taller, more succulent plants. So go ahead and grow a carpet of foamflowers. You’ll be glad you did come springtime!