If you have had enough of deer or other wildlife making a meal out of your perfectly landscaped yard, it is time to invest in some deer resistant perennials. Before we start looking at those deer resistant perennials, you need to understand what the term means.
Deer resistant perennials are less attractive to deer than other perennials plants. The name deer resistant doesn’t guarantee that deer won’t eat them, but they will usually give them a wide berth when other choices are present.
The best way to prevent your garden from becoming a buffet for the local wildlife is to plan out a deer proof garden. Carefully consider your landscape design to ensure you select plants that repel deer rather than attract them. Finding deer repellent plants is not as difficult as you might think, as most plants that repel deer share specific attributes.
Attributes of Deer Resistant Perennial Plants
Deer repellent plants have specific characteristics that make them unappealing for deer and other wildlife like raccoons, rabbits, and stray cats. Most deer resistant perennials have a strong scent, thorny stems, and a bitter flavor to deer.
Many of these perennial plants also have prickly or rough leaves that deer tend to pass up for more accessible plants with soft, pliable leaves. Others offer tough, thick leaves or sap that deer don’t enjoy when biting into them.
What perennial plants do deer like?
If you live where deer are known to forage, it helps to understand what perennial plants attract deer. Knowing what plants they like allows you to either avoid those plants or mix them further back in your garden beds so that the deer cannot reach them as easily.
In general, deer prefer to much on perennial plants that offer a lot of lush foliage with high water content, such as hostas. Deer also love early spring plants and any fruiting or berry-producing plants.
Tips for Planting a Deer Resistant Garden
If you are planting a new garden in a deer-prone area, the last thing you want to do is fill it with deer-attractive plants. Just because you have deer in your area though, doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautifully landscaped yard full of color and texture. You can even include deer attractive plants, but you want to start small and build things up from there.
Never start your garden bed with hostas, roses, and daylilies, as those are the three most attractive plants to deer — instead, plant deer resistant perennials along the outside perimeter of your garden. Heavily scented plants, as well as ornamental grasses, get your deer proof garden off to a great start.
Once you have established your garden and have encouraged the deer to go elsewhere to eat, you can begin adding other plants inside the garden bed. Always keep the outside perimeter filled with deer repellent plants to keep deer out.
As deer love the newly emerging shoots of various groundcover plants in early spring, find a way to deter them. Use one of the best homemade deer repellent recipes to create a barrier the deer will not cross.
You can also use blood meal or fish emulsion, which double as a chemical-free fertilizer and a way to keep deer out. Only use a small amount, though, as too much “fertilizer” encourages the growth the deer love; all you want is the strong scent to keep them out.
Beautiful Deer Resistant Perennials
Fragrant Deer Resistant Perennials – Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Russian Sage attracts hummingbirds while repelling deer at the same time. The drought tolerant plant offers aromatic foliage with beautiful sky blue flowers that bloom from mid summer to mid fall. The upright deer resistant plant will spread up to 38 inches with a maximum height of 32 inches.
Russian Sage is an easy to care for perennial that requires full sun and well-draining soil. It can survive in poor soil conditions but needs to be spaced at least three feet apart. To continue healthy growth in the early spring, prune away any old foliage.
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
As a popular herbaceous perennial plant that deer avoid, the False Indigo doesn’t do well in clay soils or waterlogged soils. Instead, this plant prefers sandy, well-drained soil in full sun. The plant dies in the winter. While the plant is dormant, cut old shoots to ground level. Dividing clumps should also occur when False Indigo is dormant.
These hardy plants are an upright perennial native to grassland and woodland areas in the eastern US. The erect stems offer mid-green leaves that come in threes and are clover-like. Shoots from this perennial plant emerge in early April and produce lupine or dark blue pea flowers with a bit of white at the center.
Lavender may smell pleasant to us, but it is the strong fragrance that makes it deer and rabbit resistant. Lavender belongs to the mint family. The gray-green leaves are on square stems, and in warmer climates, the leaves are evergreen. The bluish-purple flowers bloom from late spring until early summer.
Lavender is of medium height, making it an excellent choice for mid-level color, but it has been used as a low hedge as well. The mature size of the plant is 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The plant requires full sun and needs medium to dry well-drained soil. Woody stems should be cut back to ground level every year.
Columbine Flowers (Aquilegia chrysantha) – Bright Deer Repellent Plants
The bright yellow flowers of Columbine look very similar to jester’s caps and come in a more than just yellow. Blossoms of this herbaceous perennial are available in salmon, white, pink, blue, purple, and bi-colored varieties. The attractive foliage adds interest to your landscape, but what draws your attention is the spurs on the back of the flowers.
The mature size of this perennial plant vary based on the particular type you buy, but you can expect heights to reach up to 2 feet with a similar width. They bloom from late spring to early summer and is one of the best deer resistant shade perennials.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Bleeding Heart plants are deer resistant plants that are widely grown and can become quite large when grown in the right conditions. The bigger the Bleeding Heart becomes, the more spectacular it looks, although the smaller ones are beautiful, as well.
What makes these proven winners in all gardens is the unique flowers that are shaped like hearts. They add a touch of whimsy wherever you grow them and are quite spectacular to look at.
The Bleeding Heart seems to disappear in the summer after the flowers bloom but they come back year after year with proper care. These plants can handle full sun in the spring but are deer resistant shade perennials as the temperatures begin to climb. Plant these deer resistant perennials in moist soil with excellent drainage.
Andromeda (Japanese pieris)
Native to Japan, the Andromeda is an upright broadleaf evergreen shrub that is resistant to deer. The glossy green leaves provide a beautiful backdrop for the drooping clusters of white flowers.
Bloom time for these garden plants is late winter through early spring. A slow growing shrub, Andromeda can grow up to 7 feet tall and roughly 7 feet wide.
Although Andromeda can tolerate full sun, they are one of the best deer resistant shade perennials along borders. The shrub needs to be in a location that protects it from high winds to prevent damage to the foliage. The plant prefers well-drained moist soil.
Deer Resistant Foliage – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow needs sandy soil with excellent drainage and prefers full sun if you want it to thrive. This plant is perfect for any garden that needs to keep deer away thanks to its aromatic leaves. The spicy scent and fern-like foliage are what makes this plant so unattractive to deer.
The drought tolerant Yarrow plant comes in various shades and can reach up to four feet tall. Although it is not one of the most drought tolerant shrubs, it requires minimal watering even in the summer months.
Yarrow saturates gardens with lots of color from June until September. The plant requires pruning in the late spring to encourage new growth and also prevents the plant from looking scraggly.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
A deer resistant, easy to care for perennial plant, the Black-Eyed Susan grows up to 2 feet tall and thrives in even the worst soil conditions. The plant is an excellent choice for middle-level color in mixed garden beds; all it needs is plenty of light to ensure it grows.
Orange and yellow flower blooms appear on the Black-Eyed Susan starting in the early summer. The plant continues blooming until the first frost appears. Deadheading the blooms not only encourages more flowers but prevents the plant from spreading out as it self-sows.
Larkspur or delphinium is known for its brightly colored blossoms, which, despite its dark purple flowers, the plant belongs to the Buttercup family. The leaves of the plant resemble maple leaves, but the packed flower spikes of dark purple flowers reach upwards above any other perennial you will find in the garden. Growing up to 7 feet tall, the flowers on this plant bloom in mid-June and last until early July.
A herbaceous perennial, Larkspur is prone to powdery mold. One of the best neem oil uses for plants is to kill powdery mold, but mix in a bit of capsaicin with the neem oil and it doubles as a deer repellent. Larkspur does well next to fences in full sun, but as it grows tall, it needs to be in the back of any mixed garden beds.
Bee Balm (Mondarda) – Colorful Deer Resistant Perennial
Bee Balm is a deer resistant plant that offers brightly colored blooms from spring until early fall. There are several different varieties available, and none of them are prone to deer damage. How tall the plant grows depends on the specific plant selected, but heights of four feet are standard.
What makes Bee Balm so attractive in gardens is the crown-shaped flowers that thrive in a variety of climates. Warmer climates with high levels of humidity will do better with a variety of Bee Balm that is mildew resistant. When choosing a planting location, look for an area that offers full sun to partial shade.
Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)
For those of you that need a showstopper in your garden, consider the deer resistant Lenten Rose. The name comes from its rose-shaped flowers and when the plant blooms, which is during the Lenten season in spring. The showiest part of the plant is not technically a petal, but sepal.
The sepals are about four inches in diameter and grow downwards in clusters on thick stems. Planting for the Lenten Rose should be done in the early fall or the late spring. Its foliage is an attractive ground cover, and the plant will spread as it reseeds.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) – Deer Resistant Shade Perennials
A low maintenance, deer resistant shade perennial, Coral Bells is a must have for even the newest gardeners. An interesting part of this plant is the rounded, hairy leaves, which come in a variety of colors. Above the leaves are stalks that grow pink or white bell-shaped flowers that bloom in the early summer.
The plant requires full sun to part shade, but be mindful of how much sun it gets in the late summer heat. Too much heat and the sun washes out the beautiful colors and scorches the leaves. The mound-shaped plant grows up to 20 inches tall, making it better suited for the front of gardens.
When you cut flowers from spurge, white sap that comes out of the stem. It is this white sap that causes deer, as well as rabbits, to steer clear of the foliage.
It can also irritate the skin, so be mindful when cutting flowers for a bouquet. The easy to grow perennial is a robust plant that makes an excellent addition to rock gardens and borders.
The colored leaves and unusual looking flowers require full sun to partial shade in well-draining soil. The low maintenance plant should be divided every three years during the early spring or early fall. The plant benefits from being cut back by a third after the flowers finish blooming.
Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana)
The Bluestar offers beautiful foliage with pale blue flowers that begin blooming in the spring. The basal crown forms a dense, shrubby plant where numerous stems emerge to reach heights of up to 3 ½ feet tall.
Lance-shaped leaves whorl up the long stems that are topped with star-shaped flowers that grow to about ¾ inch. After blooming is over, the plant often grows narrow beanlike pods for continued interest.
Bluestar is tolerant in a variety of conditions but does best in organically fertile soil and partial shade. Once established, it survives in lean soils and full sun. In the summer, cut the plant back by 1/3 to help control its shape. In some areas, pruning is necessary to prevent the plant from flopping.
Deer Repellent – Monkshood (Aconitum)
Monkshood, also known as Wolfsbane, is poisonous to animals and humans alike when ingested. This makes Monkshood unattractive to deer, and they avoid eating it at all costs.
The plant gets its name from the sepals that look quite similar to the cowls worn by monks. The blue/purple flowers and attractive foliage makes it a popular choice in gardens.
The perennial grows up to 4 feet tall and reaches 2 feet wide, so it works best as a background plant. Hand-shaped leaves feature toothed edges and come in light to dark green. The bloom time for this plant ranges from late summer or early fall depending upon where it is grown.
Ornamental Onion (Allium)
The biggest turn off for grazers such as deer is the flavor of the ornamental Onion. This plant only gets eaten by wildlife if they are starving, and then only as a last resort. Although they belong to the onion family, these are not the ordinary onions you grow in your vegetable garden.
This ornamental also works well to tackle the problem of how to repel stray cats, too. They don’t like the aroma or taste either. Allium can grow in just about any kind of soil, making ideal for all parts of the yard; it only has to be well draining to keep dampness from causing root rot.
Allium loves sunlight and thrives when planted in areas that receive endless amounts of sun. They multiply naturally and continue to come back even when left untouched for years. As drought tolerant plants, Allium prefers dry soil.
This plant can only be planted in the fall, so make plans accordingly when designing your garden beds. You won’t have much luck with them if you try to plant them in spring.
Deer proof gardens don’t have to be boring, but they do take planning. There are several deer resistant perennials that you can add to your garden that are not only easy to grow but provide the color you want.
We hope our ideas for deer repellent plants help you plan the perfect deer proof garden. If you found any of these deer resistant perennial tips helpful, please take a minute and share these perennial plants with others on Facebook and Pinterest.