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12 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 12 options that deer typically pass by in favor of tastier treats down the road:


BEE BALM

LEADING LADY and PARDON MY Monarda
Zones 4-8

A favorite of native plant 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 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.

CATMINT

‘Cat’s Pajamas’ Nepeta
Zones 3-8

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'.

SALVIA

COLOR SPIRES® and Profusion Salvia
Zones 3-8

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.

LAVENDER

SWEET ROMANCE® Lavandula
Zones 5-9

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.

RUSSIAN SAGE

‘Denim ‘n Lace’ and 'Sage Advice' Perovskia
Zones 4-9

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.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES

PRAIRIE WINDS®
Zone varies by type

The finely textured foliage of ornamental grasses tends to keep them out of the mouths of deer that are looking for more succulent food to eat. Grasses also provide shelter for them and other little critters throughout the fall and winter months. Proven Winners offers a number of native and non-native ornamental grasses, each with its own unique set of benefits. 

LUNGWORT

‘Spot On’ Pulmonaria
Zones 3-9

Could it 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.

SPIKE SPEEDWELL

MAGIC SHOW® Veronica
Zones 4-8

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.


FALSE INDIGO

DECADENCE® Baptisia
Zones 4-9

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. 

BLUE STAR

‘Storm Cloud’ and 'String Theory' Amsonia
Zones 4-9

Blue star is a classic native perennial that thrives in full sun to part shade. Its finely textured foliage doesn't offer much sustenance for deer, so they typically pass it by. ‘Storm Cloud’ is named for its unique near-black foliage and stems that emerge in spring before transitioning to deep green. 'String Theory' forms a sturdy mass of feathery textured, green foliage that intensifies to bright golden orange in the fall. These long-lived perennials are a good choice for low-maintenance landscapes. 

 

ORNAMENTAL ONION

‘Serendipity’ Allium
Zones 4-8

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.

HEARTLEAF BRUNNERA

‘Jack of Diamonds’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’ Brunnera
Zones 3-8

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.

 

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