How to Landscape Your Yard with Deer-Resistant Plants

By: Julie Day


Barberry is a popular deer-resistant shrub.

If you live in an area with foraging deer, you’ve likely watched with dismay as some of your favorite plants disappeared overnight. But before you give up on gardening altogether, try making your yard less appealing to deer by choosing plants that deer find less appealing.

The Deer-Proof Garden

It’s important to remember that unless you build a very tall fence, there is no such thing as a deer-proof garden. Deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough, and they can adapt and eat plants that are considered “resistant.” However, they do have their favorites, and they’re more attracted to places where their favorite food is easily available.

The idea behind deer-resistant gardening is to fill your yard with plants they don’t prefer, in hopes the deer will simply give up and go someplace more appetizing.


Add herbs, such as lavender, to discourage deer.

In general, deer prefer:

  • Plants with lush foliage and high water content, such as hostas
  • Early spring plants like tulips, crocuses, and forsythia
  • Fruiting and berry-producing plants, including vegetable gardens
  • Native plants

Deer are less likely to be attracted to:

  • Herbs and strongly flavored plants
  • Heavily scented foliage
  • Plants with fuzzy or hairy leaves
  • Prickly plants
  • Ferns
  • Grasses

If you’re planting a new border or garden, start with heavily scented and deer-resistant plants on the outside perimeter. Once you’ve established an area and encouraged the deer to browse elsewhere, you can add other plants inside the perimeter.

List of Deer-Resistant Plants

Always check with local gardeners and your cooperative extension service to find out what has (and hasn’t) worked for gardeners in your area. The following is a list of plants that research has indicated are less appealing to deer:


Rosemary is an evergreen herb that works well in flower gardens, too.

Herbs and Scented Plants

Most herbs are great choices for deer-resistant gardens, such as:

  • Chives, ornamental (Allium sp.)
  • Garlic, ornamental (Allium sp.)
  • Ginger (Asarum sp.)
  • Lavender (Lavandula sp.)
  • Onion, ornamental (Allium sp.)
  • Mint (Mentha sp.)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Sage, ornamental and culinary (Salvia sp.)
  • Thyme (Thymus sp.)


Deer generally leave ornamental grasses alone.

Ornamental Grasses

Most ornamental grasses are deer-resistant, including:

  • Fescue (Festuca sp.)
  • Flame grass (Miscanthus sp.)
  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum sp.)
  • Giant Reed (Arundo donax)
  • Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)
  • Purple Moor grass (Molinia caerulea)
  • Sedge (Carex sp.)
  • Silver grass (Miscanthus sp.)
  • Zebra grass (Miscanthus sp.)

ferns around base of tree
Most species of ferns are also considered deer-resistant.

Ferns

Most species of ferns, including:

  • Christmas fern (Polystichum arcostichoides)
  • Hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)
  • Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)
  • New York fern (Thelyptens noveboracensis)
  • Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
  • Osmanthus (Osmanthus sp.)
  • Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
  • Wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis)


Annual vinca is less appealing, although annuals are often devoured.

Annuals

  • Ageratum (Ageratum sp.)
  • Annual Vinca (Catharanthus roseus)
  • Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria)
  • Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sp.)
  • Poppy (Papaver sp.)
  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
  • Strawflower (Helichrysum)


Lamb’s ear has fuzzy leaves that discourage deer.

Perennials and Groundcovers

  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
  • Artemisia (Artemesia sp.)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra sp.)
  • Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
  • Catmint (Nepeta sp.)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea sp. & Rudbeckia sp.)
  • Coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.)
  • Daffodil (Narcissus sp.)
  • Epimedium (Epimedium sp.)
  • Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sp.)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
  • Iris (Iris sp.)
  • Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)
  • Lenten rose (Helleborus sp.)
  • Ligularia (Ligularia sp.)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.)
  • Monkshood (Aconitum sp.)
  • Pachysandra (Pachysandra sp.)
  • Potentilla, Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.)
  • Rock-Cress (Arabis caucasica)
  • Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)
  • Russian sage (Perovskia sp.)
  • Spurge (Euphorbia sp.)
  • Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium sp.)
  • Tarragon (Artemesia sp.)
  • Thistle (Echinops sp.)
  • Yarrow (Achillea sp.)
  • Yucca (Yucca sp.)


Creeping juniper is a popular groundcover shrub.

Shrubs and Trees

  • Barberry (Berberis sp.)
  • Birch (Betula sp.)
  • Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris clandonensis)
  • Boxwood (Buxus sp.)
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.)
  • Elderberry (Sambucus sp.)
  • Holly (Ilex sp.)
  • Juniper (Juniperus sp.)
  • Lilac (Syringa sp.)
  • Mahonia (Mahonia sp.)
  • Maple (Acer sp.)
  • Peashrub (Caragana sp.)
  • Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
  • Spruces (Picea sp.)
  • Sumac (Rhus sp.)

Printable Deer-Resistant Plant List

Further Information

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Comments

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2 Comments on “How to Landscape Your Yard with Deer-Resistant Plants”

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  • Ingrid Says:
    February 9th, 2012 at 11:43 am

    A great book on this topic is Creating a Deer & Rabbit Proof Garden by Peter Derano

    Features coverage on over 160 plants with 400 full color photo’s.
    Great tips



  • Angie Wright Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I would like to know how to keep my Pennisetum Grass alive through the winter?


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