22 Deer Resistant Perennial Plants from Proven Winners
There’s nothing worse than walking into the garden to find that deer have devoured your favorite plants. Short of installing a nine-foot-tall fence and repeatedly applying repellants, there are few sure cures for the problem. But, planting deer-resistant perennials they don’t prefer to eat will help.
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Let’s look at 22 options that deer typically pass by in favor of tastier treats down the road:
1. BEE BALM
A favorite of native plant enthusiasts, these colorful perennials attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds with their vibrant blossoms each summer. They are clump-forming varieties that return reliably every year 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 and Upscale varieties to extend the bloom season through midsummer. Best in full sun to part shade.
‘Cat’s Pajamas’ Nepeta
The fuzzy, fragrant foliage of catmint is detested by deer. ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ is a very dwarf selection that makes a perfect edging for vegetable gardens, rose beds or sunny walkways. It is very easy to grow 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 bundles of bright lavender-purple blossoms beginning in early summer. If you'd prefer something a little bigger that keeps its neat shape, try 'Cat's Meow'.
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. Color Spires and Profusion salvias are super easy to grow in full sun. They are drought tolerant once established. These lovely perennials are a staple item for every spring garden.
SWEET ROMANCE® Lavandula
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. It is very drought tolerant once established.
5. RUSSIAN SAGE
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. Proven Winners varieties of Russian sage have tidy habits that won’t spill over onto their neighbors in the garden. Full sun and dry, unfertile soil will keep them happiest for many years to come.
6. ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
Could it be the common name of “lungwort” that makes deer and rabbits avoid this shade perennial? We hope it won’t deter you, too! It’s far prettier than it sounds and is such an easy-care variety to add to your collection of critter-resistant plants. Pulmonaria is one of the first perennials to pop back up and bloom in the spring, welcoming buzzing bumblebees with its bright pink and blue blossoms. Silver-speckled foliage keeps things interesting for the whole season.
8. SPIKE SPEEDWELL
MAGIC SHOW® Veronica
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 with no worries. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy their blooms for many weeks beginning in early summer.
9. FALSE INDIGO
The vibrant spires of blue, purple, yellow, pink, maroon, cream and bicolor blooms of Decadence false indigo will be something both you and pollinators look forward to each year as they bloom in late spring to early summer. As the plants mature, they become denser with more flowers, persisting 50 years or more in the landscape. Choose a permanent place when planting, as their deep tap root which makes them highly drought tolerant also makes them difficult to transplant.
11. ORNAMENTAL ONION
Not everyone is a fan of eating onions, and that definitely includes deer and rabbits. They steer clear of ‘Serendipity’ which is an ornamental onion that blooms with whimsical purple ball-shaped blossoms from mid to late summer. You’ll find bees foraging for pollen on them during every sunny afternoon that they’re in bloom, plus butterflies often join in the fun. Unlike bulb-type alliums, this perennial produces many flowers per plant and becomes denser with more blooms each year.
12. HEARTLEAF BRUNNERA
The glint of silver will catch your eye as the leaves of brunnera reflect any bit of light that reaches them in the shade garden. Touch those heart-shaped leaves and you’ll know why deer leave them be—they have the texture of sandpaper. Bees will drop by when this perennial is in bloom in the springtime, visiting each tiny blue blossom that dances above the foliage. Brunnera makes a beautiful companion for ferns, foamflowers and other deer resistant shade perennials.
13. JAPANESE ANEMONE
Fall in Love® ‘Sweetly’ Anemone
Extend the seasonal interest in your garden with this fall blooming perennial that bears a profusion of semi-double, bright rose pink flowers. If you are looking for a plant that attracts butterflies and bees but resists deer and rabbits, this is a great choice. Pair it with ornamental grasses and sedum for a beautiful fall border.
Summersong™ Firefinch™ Echinacea
Add incredible color to your garden with this relatively petite, 12-16" tall coneflower that blooms nearly all summer long. It is thought that deer may leave coneflowers alone due to their spiny cones. Once the flowering period is finished in the fall, leave the spent blooms on the plants to provide winter food for goldfinches and other birds. They also offer architectural interest in the winter garden. Looking for coneflowers in more colors? Check out our Color Coded® series.
15. HARDY GERANIUM
‘Boom Chocolatta’ Geranium pratense
This showy perennial geranium, also known as cranesbill, is grown for its showy bronze foliage and prolific, bright blue-purple flowers which cover the plant in early summer. The scent and texture of the foliage make it less appealing to deer and rabbits, but bees will enjoy its blooms.
16. FERN-LEAVED BLEEDING HEART
‘Pink Diamonds’ Dicentra
Unlike many other bleeding hearts which require shade, this alpine variety thrives in full sun and very well-drained soil. Deer tend to avoid it because of its toxic qualities, but bees and hummingbirds enjoy its blooms. 'Pink Diamonds' is one of our longest blooming perennials, beginning the show in late spring and continuing all the way into early fall.
‘Firefly Sunshine’ Achillea
Light up your summer garden with these bright yellow flowers. Yarrow is an easy perennial to grow and a good choice for beginners. Its finely textured foliage gives off an herbal scent which helps to deter deer. Our Firefly series is particularly upright and well-behaved in the landscape, staying where you plant it.
‘Bottle Rocket’ Ligularia
These fuzzy, mustard-yellow flower spikes will gladly brighten up the shady side of your house. The serrated foliage is a bit too thick and tough to chew, so the deer move on to another selection. However, if you look closely, you will notice bees enjoying the flowers' pollen when in bloom. This unusual perennial is a highlight of partly shaded gardens with moist soil.
‘Paint the Town Magenta’ Dianthus
Glam up your garden with broad swaths of flashy color. The cool blue mound of foliage will be covered in magenta pink flowers in early summer and it will rebloom intermittently into fall. Deer typically pass this short perennial right on by because of its finely textured foliage.
‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Astilbe
Though you may be used to growing Astilbe only in the shade, you'll love this dark foliage selection which grows and blooms best in full sun to part sun. It combines rich chocolate colored foliage with rosy purple flower plumes for a colorful garden show in mid to late summer. Though they are easy to grow, Astilbes have one critical requirement—lots of water. Do not let this perennial dry out.
‘Chantilly Lace’ Aruncus
Similar in appearance to astilbe but much larger, this showy perennial produces beautiful sprays of lacy, cream-colored flowers atop deep green fern-like foliage in early to midsummer. Standing 30-32" tall, it's perfect for filling the middle layer of the perennial border with interesting texture. This is a low maintenance perennial that grows in sun or shade in average to moist soil. In warmer climates, it will need some protection from the hot afternoon sun.
22. RED HOT POKER
Bring unique drama to your landscape with this tropical-looking yet hardy perennial. Butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinating bees will all visit your red hot poker when it's in bloom, but deer and rabbits won't be interested. Since it reblooms from early summer through late summer, the entertainment will last all season. When not in bloom, its grassy foliage adds texture and movement in the landscape.
Want to learn more?
Check out a list of 22 deer-resistant shrubs.
Discover 30 top deer-resistant flowers.
Find more plants and get deer-proofing tips from GardenDesign.com.