Dolores has landscaped for private clients, maintained one client's small orchid collection, and keeps 30 houseplants.
The features of deer resistant plants include:
- fuzzy leaves or flowers
- spiny, or sharp edged leaves
- strong or pungent scents
- plants that exude sticky or milky sap.
- Deer also avoid plants which are poisonous to them. Ferns and ornamental grasses are usually not on the menu.
While you may crave those tender-leaved garden favorites like hosta or hydrangea, only to find they have been eaten up, there are many plants that deer avoid. Placing an occasional plant that is popular with deer in the midst of resistant ones may be an option.
While deer were once woodland, meadow, and country browsers, the lack of predators has increased deer populations throughout North America. Deer now populate the suburbs and even city areas. They can decimate a garden.
Fences may not deter them. I once saw a large deer clear a six foot fence in the city. Hanging or spreading strong smelling deterrents like Irish Spring soap will work for a while but need to be replaced after several periods of rain.
Sometimes deer will eat plants we think of as deer resistant. A starving or very hungry animal may wind up eating a plant that is ordinarily unappealing to them.
Here is a list of popular, easy to find plants that deer avoid.
Annuals are warm climate plants that may be perennials in the south or south west. Frost sensitive annuals will not live through a cold winter. They are inexpensive and readily available at garden departments of big box stores.
The following annuals are not a favorite of deer.
Castor bean or Ricinus communis is a tender perennial that is grown as an annual in areas with cold winters. In a very sort time, this large leaved plant can grow to 12 feet tall with a four foot spread. Reddish stalks and deep green to maroon leaves can add to a tropical look, Round, spiny, bright red flowers appear in summer.
Plant in full sun.
This plant is poisonous.
In US zone 10 and higher, it can be grown as a perennial.
Dusty Miller features deeply lobed silvery foliage. Growing one to two feet tall, this plant also deters rabbits. Its whitish protective coating shields leaves from excess sun and protects against moisture loss.
Plant in full sun in well drained soil.
There are several plants that are called Dusty Miller including Artemisia stelleriana, Senecio cineraria, and Senecio viravira. While these plants flower, they are grown mostly for their pretty foliage.
US zone 2 - 11.
Floss flower or Ageratum houstonianum has many cultivars, and comes in many sizes and colors including shades of blue, pinks, and white. Deer are put off by the fuzzy flowers and rough textured foliage. It has a long bloom time. Dead head for repeat blooms. Various types bloom from six to thirty-six inches tall.
Plant in full sun, in rich, well drained soil
US Plant zone 2 - 11.
Licorice plant or Helichrysum petiolare is a shrubby plant with fuzzy, heart shaped leaves. Tiny hairs on the leaves make the plant look silvery. Growing from six to nine inches tall, the strong licorice aroma deters deer.
Grown in full sun to partial shade.
Licorice plant will usually not flower unless it is planted in a frost free area. Grown as an annual in colder areas, it is a perennial in U.S. Plant Zones 9 - 11.
There are a wide variety of marigold or Tagetes plants. They feature lacy leaves, and strongly scented flowers. African marigolds grow up to 3 feet tall and feature brilliant, double flowered blooms up to five inches across. Colors range from shades of yellow, orange, and cream.
French marigolds are smaller with single or double blooms. Both types are easily grown from seed. Dead head for repeat blooms. Save the dry seed head for use the following spring. Plant in full sun.
Perennials are herbaceous plants that may be evergreen or go dormant over the winter but return to growth in spring. While perennials are expensive, they can be a worthwhile investment in a garden. Many perennials spread or can be divided at the root to create more.
Astilbe features pretty toothed leaves that add interesting texture to your garden. It sends up feathery plumes of flowers in early or late summer. Blooms come in white, cream, pink, orchid, salmon, and shades of red. Varieties grow from one to four feet tall.
Plant in shade. Astilbe prefers cooler summer weather.
US Plant zone 4 - 8
Bigroot geranium or Geranium macrorrhizum is also called Scented cranesbill. This hardy geranium has soft, fuzzy, bright green, lobed leaves. Clusters of one inch magenta flowers appear in late spring. The small plants grow to one or two feet tall. Deer do not like the pungent scent.
Plant in full sun to partial shade in well drained soil.
US Plant zone 3 - 8