There are no deer proof plants, only plants that deer don't prefer and even that varies from garden to garden. When deer are hungry, they will eat your plants. The only real deer deterrent is a fence. However, there are some perennial plants that are rarely eaten by deer, giving them the reputation of being deer resistant
. It pays to include some of these in any garden, since you never know when a deer or two might wander in.
Yarrow is such a garden workhorse. It's drought tolerant. It repeat blooms. It makes a nice cut flower. And it's deer resistant. The old adage that deer don't like plants with fuzzy leaves, gray leaves or scented leaves applies here.
Photo Courtesy of STEPABLES®.
Ground covers don't often get respect and Ajuga basically grows itself, so it really gets taken for granted. But there are many really nice newer cultivars of Ajuga that are worth taking a look at. They come with colorful foliage, so once the spectacular burst of blue is gone in the spring, you still have great foliage. Many Ajugas can spread to the point of annoyance, but if you have room to let them roam, it's a great, deer resistant plant.
A word of caution: Deer don't particularly like Astilbe
, but groundhogs love it. However aside from groundhogs, Astilbe have very few problems. They don't need staking or deadheading. They're fine in sun or partial shade. And there are varieties that bloom at different times in the season, to extend your bloom.
Bellflowers look so delicate with the pastel colored, bell-shaped blossoms. For the most part, bellflowers can look after themselves. Many varieties will self-seed
throughout your garden, making them ideal cottage garden plants. And the deer don't seem nearly as enchanted with them as gardeners are.
Coreopsis has been a garden staple for years, but the introduction of buttery yellow Coreopsis 'Moonbean' made it a garden favorite. Unfortunately 'Moonbean' is rather short lived and can be temperamental. But plant breeders have continually developed new varieties of Coreopsis with hardier constitutions and still boasting deer resistant.
Photo Courtesy of Novalis
You'll notice I didn't say purple coneflower. It's hard to find a garden without purple coneflowers in it. They're dependable favorites. But coneflowers have moved way beyond purple with the introduction of orange, red, burgundy and russet coneflowers. These new varieties are also deer resistant. The main drawback to using them is they are still so expensive to purchase and they've haven't been fully tested in a wide range of gardening situations. Still, they are hard to resist.
I would guess that most of you don't need to be told that lavender is deer resistant. Of course, who needs an excuse to grow lavender? The real surprise may be how adaptable lavender is. Cooler climates may never get their lavender to grow into a hedge, but it will return year after year. And tropical climates who can provide regular water will be able to enjoy it too. Seems like only the deer will have to do without lavender.
Catmint may call every feline in the neighborhood to your garden, but it won't impress the deer. Some varieties can be weedy and self-seed aggressively, but if you stick with some of the newer cultivars, you'll have vivid blue color most of the season. Shear it back after the first flowering and wait for it to burst into bloom again. Just keep the cats from rolling all over it.
Russian Sage is often suggested as a lavender alternative, but I think you should grow Russian Sage for its own merits. The foliage isn't just gray, fuzzy and scented, it's lacy and attractive. The flowers start out a soft pale blue and just keep getting more vibrant as they mature and open fully. And the only maintenance is a pruning in the spring.
Balloon Flower is a plant many people remember from their childhood. Those expectant puffs that suddenly pop open into lavender blue flowers were too tempting to resist helping along. If you've outgrown the need to pop balloon flower buds, you'll be happy to know that they are perfectly capable of opening on their own and they are quite deer resistant, too.
11. Solidago (Goldenrod)
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you still think of goldenrod as a weedy plant that makes you sneeze, think again. Something this hardy had to be cultivated and it was, many times. There are now some spectacular goldenrods that are well behaved enough to invite into your garden. What's especially nice about goldenrod is how late in the season it blooms. Just when you think the garden is done for the year, golden showers burst forth.
Lamb's ear, another gray, fuzzy-leaved plant that deer avoid, is often forgotten by gardeners. OK, lamb's ear isn't going to be a show stopper in your garden, but it sure makes for a nice edge. And the silver gray leaves have an almost glowing quality. Usually soft pastel colors disappear at a distance, but lamb's ear demands to be noticed, except by deer.