Harmful animals

Plants Deer Don’t Like

By Larry Hodgson

Throughout North America, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are causing more and more damage to gardens, not only in the countryside, but increasingly also in the suburbs. And when a deer eats, it can empty a flowerbed or vegetable garden in just one evening, especially as it often comes with a group of friends.

There are several ways to deter deer – repellents such human hair or coyote urine, lure crops, motion-activated sound or spray devices, deer fencing, etc. – but it is also possible to grow plants that deer simply don’t like or at least, aren’t too attracted to.

This group includes :
• Poisonous plants or ones with milky sap;
• Plants with prickly stems and leaves;
• Plants with leaves that are very aromatic or have a strong taste;
• Plants with hairy leaves.

List of Deer-resistant Plants

The following list is not cast in stone. On one hand, deer have widely varying tastes from one region to the next and it is very possible that in some they learn to eat things they don’t eat elsewhere. Even more important, though, deer will eat almost anything when they are starving, as sometimes happens at the end of a very hard winter.

That said, if the bulk of your garden is planted with the following varieties, you’ll be creating a landscape that simply won’t interest deer… and that should ensure you an essentially deer-free garden experience!

  1. Alyssum, sweet (Lobularia maritima) annual
  2. Andromeda, Japanese (Pieris japonica) shrub, zone 5b
  3. Anemone (Anemone spp.) perennial or bulb, zones 3-6
  4. Anemone, rue (Anemonella thalictroides) perennial, zone 4
  5. Angelica tree (Aralia elata) shrub, zone 5
  6. Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) annual
  7. Anise (Pimpinella anisum) annual herb
  8. Anise hyssop (Agastache spp.) perennial, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  9. Ash (Fraxinus spp.) tree, zones 2b 7
  10. Asparagus (Asparagus spp.) hardy vegetable, perennial or climbing plant, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  11. Aster, Japanese (Kalimeris pinnatifida) perennial, zone 4
  12. Astilbe (Astilbe spp.) perennial, zone 4
  13. Baneberry (Actaea rubra and others) perennial, zone 2
  14. Baptisia (Baptisia spp.) perennial, zone 3
  15. Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) shrub, zone 4
  16. Basket of gold (Aurinia saxatilis) perennial, zone 3
  17. Bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica) shrub, zone 4b
  18. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) shrub, zone 2
  19. Beard grass (Andropogon spp.) ornamental grass, zone 3
  20. Beautybush (Kolkwitizia amabilis) shrub, zone 4
  21. Beebalm (Monarda spp.) perennial, zone 3
  22. Beech, American (Fagus grandifolia) tree, zone 4
  23. Beech, European (Fagus sylvatica) tree, zone 6
  24. Bergenia (Bergenia spp.) perennial, zone 3
  25. Betony (Stachys spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  26. Birch, paper (Betula papyrifera) tree, zone 2
  27. Birch, river (Betula nigra) tree, zone 3
  28. Birch, weeping (Betula pendula) tree, zone 2
  29. Bittersweet (Celastrus spp.) climbing plant, zone 3
  30. Bleeding heart (Dicentra spp. and Lamprocapnos spectabilis) perennial, zone 3
  31. Blue hair grass (Koeleria glauca) ornamental grass, zone 4
  32. Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) ornamental grass, zone 4
  33. Blue thistle (Echinops spp.) perennial, zone 3
  34. Bluebeard (Caryopteris spp) shrub, zones 5-8 depending on the species
  35. Bluebell (Hyacinthoides spp.) hardy bulb, zone 4
  36. Bluestar (Amsonia spp.) perennial, zone 4
  37. Bluestem, little (Schizachyrium scoparium) ornamental grass, zone 3
  38. Borage (Borago officinalis) annual herb
  39. Boxwood (Buxus spp.) shrub, zones 4-9
  40. Brugmansia (Brugmansia spp.) annual or shrub, zone 10
  41. Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) perennial, zone 3
  42. Buckeye, bottlebrush (Aesculus parviflora) shrub, zone 4
  43. Bugbane (Cimicifuga spp.) perennial, zone 4
  44. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) perennial, zone 3
  45. Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.) perennial, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  46. Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) shrub, zone 6b
  47. Cacti (various genera) perennial or shrub, zones 4-11 depending on the species
  48. Calamint (Calamintha spp.) perennial, zone 3
  49. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) annual
  50. Calla (Zantedeschia spp.) tender bulb
  51. Campion (Lychnis spp. and Silene spp.) perennial, zones 2-6 depending on the species
  52. Canna (Canna spp.) tender bulb, zone 8
  53. Castor bean (Ricinus communis) annual or tropical shrub, zone 10
  54. Catnip (Nepeta spp.) perennial, zone 4
  55. Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita) annual herb
  56. Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) medicinal herb, zone 5
  57. Chastetree (Vitex spp.) shrub or tree, zones 6-10 depending on the species
  58. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) herb, zone 2
  59. Cinquefoil (Potentilla spp.) perennial, zones 2-5 depending on the species
  60. Cinquefoil, shrubby (Dasiphora fruticosa, syn. Potentilla fruticosa) shrub, zone 2
  61. Clematis (Clematis spp.) climbing plant, zones 2-9
  62. Cleome (Cleome spp.) annual
  63. Cobra lily (Arisaema spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  64. Colchicum (Colchicum spp.) hardy bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  65. Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) perennial, zone 3
  66. Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.) annual or perennial, zones 3-6 depending on the species
  67. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) annual
  68. Corydalis (Corydalis spp. and Pseudofumaria spp.) perennial or bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  69. Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) shrub, zones 3-9 depending on the species
  70. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) perennial, zone 3
  71. Crocosmia (Crocosmia spp.) bulb, zones 4-8 depending on the species
  72. Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) vegetable
  73. Culver’s root (Veronicastrum spp.) perennial, zone 3
  74. Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) perennial, zone 4
  75. Currants (Ribes spp.) small fruit, zone 3
  76. Daffodil, narcissus or jonquil (Narcissus spp.) hardy bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  77. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) perennial, zone 4
  78. Daphne (Daphne spp.) shrub, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  79. Delphinium (Delphinium spp.) annual or perennial, zone 3
  80. Dogwood (Cornus spp.) shrub or tree, zones 3 to 7 depending on species
  81. Dropseed, prairie (Sporobolus heterolepsis) grass, zone 4
  82. Dune grass (Leymus arenaria ‘Glauca’) ornamental grass, zone 4
  83. Dusty miller (Centaurea cineraria and Senecio bicolor) annual
  84. Elder, American (Sambucus canadensis) shrub, zone 3
  85. Elder, red (Sambucus racemosa) shrub, zone 4b
  86. Elephant ear (Alocasia spp., Colocasia spp. and Caladium spp.) tender bulb, zone 10
  87. Elm (Ulmus spp.) tree, zones 2-5 depending on the species
  88. Enkianthus (Enkianthus spp.) shrub, zones 5b-9 depending on the species
  89. Epimedium (Epimedium spp.) perennial, zone 3
  90. Euonymus (Euonymus spp.) climbing plant or shrub, zones 4-7
  91. Euphorbia (Euphorbia spp.) annual or perennial, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  92. Everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) annual
  93. Everlasting, perennial (Anaphalis margaritacea) perennial, zone 3
  94. False indigo (Baptisia spp.) perennial, zone 3
  95. Fargesia (Fargesia spp.) bamboo zone 4
  96. Ferns (most species) zones 1-10 depending on the species
  97. Fescue, blue (Festuca glauca) ornamental grass, zone 4
  98. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) perennial, zone 3
  99. Flag (Iris spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  100. Flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum) annual
  101. Flowering onion (Allium spp.) hardy bulb, zones 2-8
  102. Foamflower (Tiarella spp.) perennial, zone 3
  103. Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.) biennial or perennial, zones 3-4 depending on the species
  104. Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) shrub, zones 4-7 depending on the species
  105. Fountain grass (Pennisetum) ornamental grass, zones 5b-10 depending on the species
  106. Foxglove (Digitalis spp.) perennial or biennial, zone 4
  107. Fritillary (Fritillaria spp.) hardy bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  108. Fumitory (Corydalis spp. and Pseudofumaria spp.) perennial or bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  109. Gas plant (Dictamnus albus) perennial, zone 3
  110. Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) annual or perennial, zone 6
  111. Geranium, bigroot (Geranium macrorrhizum) perennial, zone 3
  112. Giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) perennial, zone 3
  113. Globe amaranth (Gomphrena spp.) annual
  114. Golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) perennial, zone 3
  115. Gooseberry (Ribes spp.) small fruit, zone 3
  116. Goutweed (Aegopodium podagaria) perennial, zone 3
  117. Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.) hardy bulb, zones 2-6 depending on the species
  118. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) tree, zones 3-6 depending on the species
  119. Hazel (Corylus spp.), small fruit, zones 2-6 depending on the species
  120. Heath, spring (Erica carnea) shrub, zone 5b
  121. Heather, common (Calluna vulgaris) shrub, zone 4
  122. Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) annual or shrub, zone 10
  123. Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) perennial, zone 5
  124. Hen and chicks (Sempervivum spp.) perennial, zone 3
  125. Heuchera (Heuchera spp.) perennial, zone 4
  126. Holly (varieties with prickly leaves) (Ilex spp.) shrub, zones 4b-9 depending on the species
  127. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) herb, zone 3
  128. Houseleek (Sempervivum spp.) perennial, zone 3
  129. Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) hardy bulb, zone 4
  130. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) herb, zone 4
  131. Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) ornamental grass, zone 4
  132. Iris (Iris spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  133. Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) perennial, zone 3
  134. Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium spp.) perennial, zone 3
  135. Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’) ornamental grass, zone 5
  136. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) ornamental grass, zone 4
  137. Jerusalem sage (Phlomis spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  138. Juniper (Juniperus spp.) conifer, zones 1-7
  139. Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) tree, zone 5
  140. Kerria (Kerria japonica) shrub, zone 5b
  141. Laburnum (Cytisus spp.) shrub, zones 2-9 depending on the species
  142. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) perennial, zone 3
  143. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) perennial, zone 4
  144. Lamium (Lamium maculatum) perennial, zone 2
  145. Lantana (Lanata camara) annual or tropical shrub, zone 9
  146. Larkspur (Consolida ambigua) annual
  147. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) herb, zones 5-8 depending on the species
  148. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) herb, zone 3
  149. Leucothoë, drooping (Leucothoe fontanesiana) shrub, zone 6
  150. Ligularia (Ligularia spp.) zone 3
  151. Lilac, common (Syringa vulgaris) shrub, zone 2
  152. Lilac, Japanese (Syringa reticulata) tree, zone 3
  153. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) perennial, zone 1
  154. Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) perennial, zone 3
  155. Lupin (Lupinus spp.) perennial, zone 3
  156. Maple, Japanese (Acer palmatum) shrub or tree, zone 6
  157. Maple, Manitoba (Acer negundo) tree, zone 2
  158. Maple, paperbark (Acer griseum) tree, zone 6
  159. Maple, red (Acer rubrum) tree, zone 4
  160. Maple, striped (Acer pensylvanicum) tree, zone 4
  161. Marjoram, sweet (Origanum majorana) herb, zone 7
  162. Mayapple (Podophyllum spp.) perennial, zones 4-7 depending on the species
  163. Meadow saffron (Colchicum spp.) hardy bulb, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  164. Meadow rue (Thalictrum spp.) perennial, zones 2-6 depending on the species
  165. Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) perennial, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  166. Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) tree, zone 6b
  167. Mint (Mentha spp.) culinary herb, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  168. Miscanthus (Miscanthus spp.) ornamental grass, zones 4-6 depending on the species
  169. Mitsuba, purple (Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’), perennial, zone 4
  170. Monarda (Monarda spp.) perennial, zone 3
  171. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) perennial, zone 3
  172. Monkshood (Aconitum spp.) perennial, zone 3
  173. Mugwort (Artemisia spp.) perennial or shrub, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  174. Mullein (Verbascum spp.) perennial or biennial, zones 2-7
  175. Nicotiana (Nicotiana spp.) annual
  176. Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) ornamental grass, zone 5b
  177. Oleander (Nerium oleander) houseplant or shrub, zone 9
  178. Onion (Allium cepa) vegetable
  179. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) herb zone 5
  180. Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.) shrub, zones 5-9 depending on the species
  181. Pachysandra, Japanese (Pachysandra terminalis) perennial, zone 4
  182. Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) ornamental grass, zone 8
  183. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) biennial herb, zone 3
  184. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) fruit tree, zone 6
  185. Penstemon (Penstemon spp.) perennial, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  186. Peony, herbaceous (Paeonia spp.) perennial, zone 3
  187. Peony, tree (Paeonia suffruticosa) shrub, zone 4b
  188. Perennial sage (Salvia spp.) perennial, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  189. Periwinkle, dwarf (Vinca minor) perennial, zone 4
  190. Periwinkle, Madagascar (Catharanthus rosea) annual
  191. Phlomis (Phlomis spp.) perennial, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  192. Pine (Pinus spp.) Conifer, zones 2-8
  193. Plum yew, Japanese (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) conifer, zone 7
  194. Poppy (Papaver spp.) annual, biennial or perennial, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  195. Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) annual
  196. Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) perennial, zones 3-9
  197. Pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.) vegetable
  198. Purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) ornamental grass, zone 4
  199. Reed grass (Calamagrostis spp.) ornamental grass, zone 3
  200. Rockcress (Arabis spp.) perennial, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  201. Rockcress, false (Aubretia spp.) perennial, zone 3-5 depending on the species
  202. Rodgersia (Rodgersia spp.) perennial, zone 4
  203. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) herb, zone 8
  204. Rue (Ruta graveolens) herb, zone 5
  205. Rush (Juncus spp.) ornamental grass, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  206. Russian cypress (Microbiota decussata) conifer, zone 3
  207. Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) tree, zone 2b
  208. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) perennial, zone 4b
  209. Sage (Salvia officinalis) herb, zone 5
  210. Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) annual or perennial, zone 7
  211. Savory (Satureja spp.), herb zone 4
  212. Scabious (Scabiosa spp.) annual or perennial, zone 3
  213. Sea holly (Eryngium spp.) perennial, zones 4-8 depending on the species
  214. Sedge (Carex spp.) ornamental grass, zones 1-10 depending on the species
  215. Sedum (Sedum spp.) perennial, zones 2-10 (Note: fall sedums [genus Hylotelephium] are more susceptible to deer browsing that other sedums)
  216. Senna (Senna marilandica and S. hebecarpa), perennials, zones 4 to 9
  217. Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) shrub, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  218. Silphium (Silphium spp.) perennial, zone 4
  219. Skimmia, Japanese (Skimmia japonica) shrub, zone 6
  220. Smoke bush (Cotinus coggyria) shrub, zone 5b
  221. Snakeroot, white (Ageratina altissima ‘Chocolate’, syn. Eupatorium altissima) perennial, zone 4
  222. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) annual
  223. Sneezeweed (Helenium spp.) perennial, zone 3
  224. Snowdrop (Galanthus spp.) hardy bulb, zone 3
  225. Snowflake (Leucojum spp.) hardy bulb, zone 4
  226. Soapwort (Saponaria spp.) perennial, zone 3
  227. Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum spp.) perennial, zones 3-6 depending on the species
  228. Speedwell (Veronica spp.) perennial, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  229. Spiderwort (Tradescantia x andersoniana) perennial, zone 4
  230. Spirea (Spiraea spp) shrub, zones 2-7 depending on the species
  231. Spruce (Picea spp.) conifer, zones 1-7 depending on the species
  232. Spurge (Euphorbia spp.) annual or perennial, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  233. Squash (Cucurbita spp.) vegetable
  234. Squill, Siberian (Scilla siberica) hardy bulb, zone 2
  235. Statice (Limonium spp.), annual or perennial, zone 3
  236. Sumac, fragrant (Rhus aromatica) shrub, zone 4
  237. Sweet box (Sarcoccoca hookeriana) shrub, zone 6
  238. Sweet flag (Acorus spp.) ornamental grass, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  239. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) perennial, zone 4
  240. Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) ornamental grass, zone 4
  241. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) perennial or herb, zone 3
  242. Taro (Colocasia spp.) tender bulb, zone 10
  243. Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) herb, zone 5
  244. Thrift (Armeria spp.) perennial, zones 3-5 depending on the species
  245. Thyme (Thymus spp.) perennial or herb, zones 3-8 depending on the species
  246. Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) annual
  247. Tuber oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius bulbosum ‘Variegatus), ornamental grass, zone 4
  248. Valerian, red (Centranthus ruber) perennial, zone 3
  249. Viburnum (Viburnum spp.) shrub, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  250. Waxbells, yellow (Kirengeshoma spp.) perennial, zone 4
  251. Wild ginger (Asarum spp.) perennial, zones 3-7 depending on the species
  252. Winter aconite (Eranthis spp.) hardy bulb, zone 4
  253. Wisteria (Wisteria spp.) climbing plant, zones 4b-9 depending on the species
  254. Wolfwillow (Elaeagnus commutata) shrub, zone 1b
  255. Wormwood (Artemisia spp.) perennial or shrub, zones 2-8 depending on the species
  256. Yarrow (Achillea spp.) perennial, zone 3
  257. Yucca (Yucca spp.) shrub, zones 3-10 depending on the species
  258. Zelkova (Zelkova spp.) tree, zone 6
  259. Zinnia (Zinnia spp.) annual

Article adapted from one appearing in this blog on July 7, 2015.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

4 comments on “Plants Deer Don’t Like

  1. Wow, that is a list.

  2. Unfortunately, deer can not read this list.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: