Deer Combat-Using Deer Proof Plants Is the Best Strategy

Electric fence around veggie garden

Electric fence around veggie garden

 

I have done lots of plant portraits on my blog and always mention if it is “deer proof” or not.  As a designer, I am constantly updating – adding and subtracting plants from a mental list in my head that are reliably avoided by deer. I don’t want to plant a perennial or shrub for a client that disappears in a day or a week. I want something that deer won’t even consider including in their daily buffet choices.  Consolidating some of my favorites in one post was my goal, so that someone who is planning a new garden or renovating a “deer torn zone” that they call their garden, will be able to use a variety of plants other than boxwood, daffodils, and plastic!

Most people know that daffodils are immune from deer because they are poisonous

Most people know that daffodils are immune from deer because they are poisonous

Solutions for warding off the Bambi plague are legion. There are deer fences, deer sprays, deer gadgets such as water sprays, repellents, and ultrasonic solutions, which work sometimes, but deer get used to anything. Electric fences are the most effective but impractical for many people. Making the plant choices unappetizing and not on their menu, is really key to combat the deer problem, forcing them to search out greener pastures, like your neighbors!

Don't plant hostas or day lilies  in deer frequented areas

Don’t plant hostas or day lilies in deer frequented areas

Deer tend to beat the same path through properties, so be aware of this and plant really unappetizing selections along these routes, avoiding attractive favorites like hostas, daylilies, and azaleas which attract deer for miles around.

Learn Deer Dislikes

Because of fuzzy leaves, bitter taste, or strong fragrance, there are plants that deer universally will not touch. A few are obvious because of the pungency of the foliage and flowers, like lavender,  catmint, and Big Root geraniums. Brushing against these plants releases a strong pungent odor which is your clue that deer will hate it!

Favorite Deer Proof Perennials

Deer proof for me simply means rarely touched, if ever. I have seen Hellebores nibbled on once or twice, but I think deer tried it and then rejected it as inedible.

Hellebores 

Floating Hellebore blossoms

Floating Hellebore blossoms

One choice that everyone should plant who have deer browsing are Hellebores.  See more info at, What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Deer Resistant? . A tough shade loving perennial, a full stand of Hellebores will stop you in your tracks, and wow you with their beautiful blooms that can last for 4 months. A little pricey initially, these stalwart plants will repay you many times over the years for your investment.

collage of helleborus

Collage of Hellebores

Catmint

Catmint or Nepeta is a beautiful choice that I have found universally rejected by deer, but loved by cats. It is a great edger, reliably comes back every year and is drought tolerant. Blooming prolifically for weeks, a cut back in midsummer will begin a new round of fresh blooms until frost. This is an unsung hero of perennials! And don’t worry that hordes of cats will descend on you. I have found my cat visits this plant only occasionally.

 

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Cat in the catmint or nepeta

 

Lambs Ears

Fuzziness or hairy leaves is also a big indicator of a deer repellent plant. Just consider Lambs Ears, the softest wooliest leaf, almost like a cashmere blanket, and deer will spurn this totally. On the other end of the spectrum, deer regularly browse on hollies and roses, the prickliest plants in my garden. Go figure!!

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Lambs ears, Stachys byzantia ‘Helene von Stein’

Salvias

Salvias are my go-to plant for deer infested areas. Another strong fragrance plant that deer disdain, salvias are a diverse group of plants that bloom for weeks and weeks during the summer, so you could plant just salvias in your garden and get bloom all season long in a spectrum of luscious colors. Check out my post on Salvia Amistad to see great selections.

Wide variety of salvias

Wide variety of salvias

 Agastache

Agastache or Anise Hyssops are gaining in popularity because of the staying power of the blooms- about 3 months, and the attractant power for pollinators. Just stand by an Agastache in full bloom and you will notice a cloud of insects covering the blooms. Hybridizers are coming out with a new palette of colors, like yellow, oranges and reds, but I find that the old stand-by ‘Blue Fortune’, is the most reliable.

Agastache or Anise Hyssop

Agastache or Anise Hyssop

Big Root Geraniums

Geranium's autumn color

Geranium’s autumn color

Named because of the large fleshy roots that hold the foliage up, this extremely fragrant ground cover, Geranium macrorhizzum, thrives in all kind of conditions – sun, shade, wet, and dry. It is a very tough plant that blooms with nodding flowers in spring, and turns a russet color in the fall. In mild winters the foliage will remain, shrinking down a bit, but remaining for most of the winter.

Geranium 'Karmina'

Geranium ‘Karmina’

Alliums

Alliums

Alliums

In the onion family, Alliums are perennial bulbs known for their star like flowers that are quite spectacular. Easy to grow as accent plants, the seed heads are useful for dried arrangements.

Dianthus

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Dianthus, Tiny Rubies

Looking for a stellar edging perennial with evergreen blue-green foliage that is covered in bright pink flowers for weeks?  Dianthus is your plant!  Not many perennials have evergreen foliage, and dianthus is one of the best. Easy to grow and easy to split up and move around. Buy just a couple and end up with many.

 

Dianthus

Dianthus

 Iris

Variegated Iris

Variegated Iris

When I am looking for a plant to give some vertical height in a garden, that is tough and attractive even when not in bloom, I turn to the Iris family. The variegated form is a bonus, striking gold-toned foliage!

Iris

Iris

If you are on Pinterest, go to my board of deer resistant plants at http://www.pinterest.com/clairetjones/plants-deer-hate

Here are further examples of beautiful perennials that deer avoid. Take your pick for a beautiful garden!

About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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5 Responses to Deer Combat-Using Deer Proof Plants Is the Best Strategy

  1. zipcoffelt says:

    What a super list! I have many of these in my flower beds. I broke down and planted some tulips for my husband and think the dogs ran off any foraging deer. Now if I could just get rid of the slugs eating at my hostas! Thanks for posting, Claire. Love your Blog!

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  2. If you can grow tulips, your are golden. I tell my clients that tulips are plant candy for deer!

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  3. What beautiful photos! A good list. There are a few more which the deer leave alone for us, like St. John’s Wort, Caladium, Colocasia, Monarda, Culinary Sage, and especially the scented geraniums. It is possible to create an unappetizing garden, but it takes commitment and discipline. Love your layout on this post, Claire, WG

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  4. What a wealth of information. Don’t know if I have deer in my new place but will soon find out, I hope. Would kind of like to plant something for them just to see them and then something further down the hill for me. I know that’s odd. Thank you for all the wonderful photos. Found your Pinterest site and started following. 🙂

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