Deer Resistant Plants
 (Plants that deer don't usually eat)

 (Continued From "Making Your Landscape More Deer Repellent")

Terry L. Yockey


          I like deer as much as the next person. Okay, maybe that isnít exactly true. As a gardener, I know all too well how much damage deer can do to my gardens and landscape and it does tend to color my attitude towards them. I have always been willing to coexist peacefully with the ever-growing deer population; however, the deer donít seem to want to cooperate with me. They have a nasty habit of coming in at night and eating everything Iíve planted right to the ground. Now is that nice? 

            I was extremely optimistic when we first moved into our present home. I went right out and planted a huge perennial bed and over a hundred shrubs. Not long after that I discovered that my yard was smack dab in the middle of one of the main deer trails going up the hill behind our house. Needless to say, my poor perennials and shrubs took a nasty beating every night for the first season.  

            So what did I do to stop them from decimating everything in my yard? I built a very tall (and electrified) fence.  I could have said that I only planted things I know they don't like, but hey...I have to be honest!

            A woman recently called asking for plants that deer donít like and then proceeded to tell me how the deer had eaten her rhubarb right to the ground.  Now everyone knows that rhubarb leaves are extremely poisonous, which only illustrates a very important pointógiven enough time, deer will eat almost anything.

            A peculiar thing about deer is how their likes and dislikes vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Iíve actually had people tell me that the deer eat everything in their yard except the hosta, which is usually on their all-time favorite food list. (Iíll bet they ate their rhubarb instead!). 

            So why am I telling you all this?  Because next to this article is a list of plants that deer donít usually eat and chances are that the deer have eaten at least one of them in your yard.  Thatís just the way it is, contrary creatures that they seem to be. 

            There are a few things that might help when choosing plants that they tend to avoid.  Deer never eat ornamental grasses.  Yes, I did say never (please donít email me if they eat yoursóIíd rather not know).  They also donít usually eat herbs or plants that have a strong fragrance such as sage, lemon balm, monarda (bee balm), Russian sage (Perovskia), etc. They donít generally like plants with thorns or ďpricklesĒ either, roses being the exception. Some of the prickly flowers and shrubs they avoid are cleome, barberry, and purple coneflower

One last thing, please do not feed the deer.  You arenít doing yourself, your neighbors or the deer a favor.  I wonít belabor the point, but by feeding deer you are bringing many diseases and parasites into your yard, which can then transfer to your pets or your children.  Deer over browse the areas around feeding stations (yours and the neighborís yards) and when well fed will produce more offspring adding to the overpopulation problem.  Because deer feeding usually occurs near roads, the deer are also more likely to be involved in collisions with motor vehicles.  All in all, it just isnít a good idea. 

That said, here is my list of  perennials, biennials, annuals, shrubs, trees and ground covers that the deer donít usually eat:


Achillea spp. (Yarrow)

Aconitum spp. (Monkshood)

Allium schoenoprasum (Chives)

Anaphalis triplinervis (Pearly Everlasting)
Amsonia tagernaemontana

Anemone spp. (Windflower)

Aquilegia spp. (Columbine)

Arabis spp. (Cress)

Armeria maritima (Sea Pink)

Aruncus dioicus (Goatsbeard)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed)

Artemisia spp. 

Astilbe spp. 

Aubrietia spp. (False Rockcress)

Belacamda chinensis (Blackberry Lily)

Bergenia spp.

Boltonia asteroids (Boltonia)

Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass)

Campanula carpatica (Harebell)

Chelone glabra (Turtlehead)

Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)

Coreopsis spp. (Tickseed)

Dianthus spp.

Dicentra spp. (Bleeding Heart)

Dictamnus albus (Gas Plant)

Digitalis spp.(Foxglove)

Dryopteris spp. (Wood Fern)

Echinacea spp. (Coneflower)

Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle)

Euphorbia spp. (Cushion Spurge)

Eupatorium (Joe-Pye Weed)

Filipendula (Meadowsweet)

Festuca spp. (Blue Fescue Grass)

Gaillardia spp. (Blanket Flower)

Gypsophila paniculata (Babyís Breath)

Helleborus spp. (Lenten Rose)

Heuchera spp. (Coral Bells)

Hypericum spp. (St. John's Wort)

Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft)

Iris spp.  

Lavandula (Lavender)

Liatris (Gayflower)

Lychnis spp. (Rose Campion)

Mentha spicata (Spearmint)

Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass)

Monarda didyma (Bee Balm)

Nephrolepis (Sword fern)

Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely)

Nepeta spp. (Cat Mint)

Origanum spp. (Marjoram)

Paeonia lactiflora (Peony)

Papaver orientale (Oriental poppy)

Perovskia spp. (Russian sage)

Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)

Polemonium caeruleum (Jacobís Ladder)

Pulmonaria (Lungwort)

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque flower) 

Salvia spp. 

Stachys byzantina (Lamb's ear)

Tanacetum (Tansy)

Trillium spp. (Trillium)

Veronica spp. (Speedwell)

Yucca spp. (Yucca)




Campanula medium (Canterbury Bells)

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)

Hesperis matronalis (Dame's Rocket)

Lychnis (Rose Campion)

Myosotis sylvatica (Forget-Me-Not)

Verbascum (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Verbena)



To find more information on planting to deer-proof your yard, try the books

"Creating A Deer Proof Garden" by Peter Derano. Paperback - 144 pages (Dec. 2007) This book details and describes 117 deer proof/deer resistant plants. Covers the plant gamut from annuals, perennials, groundcovers, vines, deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. With over 255 spectacular, full color photos, it is visually beautiful as well as informative.

"Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice and Strategies for Outwitting Deer and 20 Other Pesky Mammals" by Neil Soderstrom. Paperback - 368 pages (Feb. 2009) Recommended by Northern Gardener magazine, this book arms homeowners with the proven strategies they need to repel and combat deer and 21 other troubling pests, from chipmunks, and gophers to rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and squirrels.


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