Deer Say Yuck: Easy-To-Grow Deer Resistant Plants
By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder & Chief Horticulturist
As deer populations have been exploding in many parts of the country, especially in the eastern US, the damage they inflict on gardens and landscapes follows. While no plant is 100% deer-proof, there are many varieties that deer are highly unlikely to browse in your garden. We’ve made it easy to find deer-resistant plants that have natural defenses against browsing critters. Plus, find tips for establishing deer-resistant plants.
Aromatic Deer Resitant Plants
There are many plants that deer don't favor when they're out looking for a meal. In general, plants with strongly aromatic foliage are deer resistant, since the aromatic oils contained in the plants are bitter and generally unpalatable for critters. Culinary herbs, such as Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, and Lavender, are great choices in offering deer resistance because they have the added bonus of being for cooking or aromatherapy. These scents, while often pleasant for the gardener, are distasteful to deer, so they are less likely to choose those plants as a snack.
Our Favorite Aromatic Deer Resistant Plants
- Achillea (Yarrow)
- Artemisia (Silver Sage)
- Culinary Herbs
- Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
- Hyssop and Hummingbird Mints (Agastache): The rupestris varieties are particularly fragrant and deer resistant.
- Lavender (Lavandula): Reliably fragrant and well known for its essential oil content that's highly unpalatable to deer.
- Monarda (Bee Balm)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
- Russian Sage (Perovskia)
- Sage (Salvia): Fragrant, resinous foliage is highly deer resistant once established.
More Deer Resistant Plants With Natural Defenses
Throughout our website, you can use shopping filters to find plants with the "Deer Resistant" advantage. Below are some of our favorite plants with natural defenses once established.
- Centranthus (Jupiter's Beard or Valerian): Showy fragrant flowers (though due to its ready reseeding, it is prohibited in some states.) Colors include: White Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Albus'), Pink Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Roseus'), Red Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Coccineus').
- Coreopsis (Tickseed): With attractive fine foliage and long-blooming flowers that are generally a sunny yellow or deep red
- Foxglove (Digitalis): This plant is in fact poisonous when eaten, so it's practically deer and rabbit proof. See Spanish Peaks® Foxglove (Digitalis thapsi) and Sunset Foxglove (Digitalis obscure).
- Ornamental Grasses: Including Giant Sacaton Grass (Sporobolus wrightii Windbreaker).
- Oenothera (Evening Primrose): Low-growing flowers perfect for pairing with taller plants.
- Cacti & Yucca: These tough and prickly plants have a built-in defense system against snacking deer, as do Century Plant (Agave).
Agapanthus: A vigorous South African native plant with elegant flowers 'Cold Hardy White' Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus sp.)
Agastache: Some of High Country Gardens' most popular plants. The rupestris varieties are particularly fragrant and deer resistant, including Glowing Embers® Hummingbird Mint and Agastache rupestris.Salvia: Aome of High Country Gardens' most popular plants. Fragrant, resinous foliage is highly deer resistant once established. Some of our bestsellers include 'Little Night' European Sage (Salvia sylvestris), May Night European Sage (Salvia sylvestris), and Desert Purple Sage (Salvia dorrii)
Lavender: Some of High Country Gardens' most popular plants. Reliably fragrant and well known for its essential oil content that's highly unplatable to deer. 'Wee One' Dwarf English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Mitcham Gray Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
including Showy Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosus rosea)
Establishing Deer Resistant Plants
Browsing animals and new transplants are a bad combination. Nothing is more annoying than going out the morning after the previous day’s labor of planting, only to find all your plants bitten off at the soil line! The lesson here? It’s important to understand that deer-resistant plants need some initial protection from our hoofed neighbors after planting.
Experience has shown me that deer-resistant plants generally do not come that way from the nursery. Most plants that depend on aromatic oils and bitter compounds to repel animals need time to build up their natural defenses. After a few months of growing in your garden, transplants will accumulate these deer-resistant compounds in their leaves and stems, and their deer resistance increases greatly. I strongly recommend creating a strategy to deter deer while your plants establish to protect young transplants from being eaten.
Learn More: 7 Strategies For Deterring Deer
Explore Our Deer Resistant Plants
Calamintha nepeta glandulosa ‘White Cloud’ (Nepeta) fills the late spring garden with clouds of delicate, nectar-rich, white flowers. Flowering until frost bites, ‘...Learn MoreWhite Cloud Calamintha White Cloud Calamintha Calamintha nepeta glandulosa 'White Cloud'As low as $13.49Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
An easy-to-grow groundcover, Phlox subulata ‚Purple Beauty‚ (Creeping Phlox) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are lo...Learn MorePurple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'As low as $11.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
2-3„ tall x 18-24„ wide. Teucrium aroanium (Gray Creeping Germander) blooms with fragrant honey scented pink flowers in summer that are held over equally fragrant thin li...Learn MoreGray Creeping Germander (Teucrium) Gray Creeping Germander (Teucrium) Teucrium aroaniumAs low as $9.34Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed...Learn MoreFernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Chamaebatiaria millefoliumAs low as $14.99 Sale $12.74Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Sedum rupestre ‚SunSparkler® Wildfire‚ PP#28621 (Stonecrop) blazes with ruby red petals edged in hot pink. Late summer brings clusters of long-blooming pink flowers. It&...Learn MoreSunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum SunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum Sedum 'Wildfire' PP#28,621As low as $11.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Deer Resistant Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Don’t overlook spring-blooming bulbs when choosing plants for deer resistance. These flowers have compounds or fragrances in them that are unpalatable - or sometimes toxic - to deer and critters. They’ll provide early season color and fragrance in your garden, early-season nectar and pollen for bees, without the worry. We offer Daffodils, Bearded Iris, Hyacinths, Muscari, and more.
Tulips are often favored by deer, and unfortunately, once the deer eat the blooms, the tulips won't bloom again until the next spring. If they are a “must have” for your spring garden, you may be able to keep the deer at bay if Tulips are planted amid other deer resistant plants. Wildflower Tulips are a good deer-resistant option.
Learn More: Daffodils & Other Deer Resistant Spring-Blooming Bulbs
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