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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
Big Root Geraniums
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
September is one of the hardest months to have beautiful fall bloomers as it is usually bone dry, and your spring and summer bloomers have peaked and shriveled up and are only a memory. This time of year I look for the big bloomers that were putting on lots of green growth all summer, things that you didn’t notice in May, June, and July, but now have come into their own.
One all-star is Nictotiana sylvestris, which carries its stately tiered white bloom for weeks in the fall.
Nicotiana sylvestris is a stalwart performer that I can always count on, and I do nothing to make it happen! It reseeds every year in different unexpected places, and I am glad it does that because not only is it not invasive, it comes up in great locations. I notice a rosette of the sticky, gummy leaves in mid-summer, and let it do its thing. As it slowly adds girth to the rosette, the flower suddenly shoots up with a tall stalk topped with long-stalked tubular white flowers that have a heavy scent at night. This whole plant shines at night and will bloom for weeks on end.
Solidago or Goldenrod is not well-respected in the US, probably because you see it everywhere on the side of the road. A native wildflower that is vigorous and provides a much-needed pollen source in the late summer and fall, the blooms resembles the lacy patterns of fireworks. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is a phrase that comes to mind when I think of this plant. The English recognize a good plant and admire it greatly, and plant it extensively in their gardens for the late summer color. A butterfly and bee magnet, it is invaluable as a food source for pollinators. The cultivar ‘Fireworks’ is my favorite as it intertwines with other plants for a color show.
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’
Anise Hyssop or Agastache is my absolute favorite for fall blooms. The whole plant is impregnated with a pungent licorice odor and deer give it a wide berth because of that attribute. The flowers start to bloom in July and just keep on coming for weeks on end. You never see the flowers without hordes of pollinators working the spikes. Agastache comes in blue, pink and peach colors.
No fall garden would be complete without Rudbeckias, or Black Eyed Susans, also known as Gloriosa Daisies. But I like the unusual ones, like Rudbeckia hirta, which has a huge (7 inches across) flower and is neon yellow, and is treated as an annual here in zone 6b. My other favorite is Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’, which is a solid perennial here and is notable for its narrow petalled flowers with a ‘spoon’ topping off the ends.
- Add the Rudbeckia Indian Summer Flower to Your Garden (gardening.answers.com)
- Summer Glow Agastache (gardening.answers.com)
- Planting the Award Winning Rudbeckia Hirta Prairie Sun (gardening.answers.com)
- Got hay fever? Don’t blame goldenrod (mercedsunstar.com)
- Rudbeckias in My Garden – BHG Online Great Garden Site – Black-Eyed Susans (jackikellum.wordpress.com)
- Goldenrod, A Great Pollinator Plant (blogs.mcall.com)
- Got hay fever? Don’t blame goldenrod (kansascity.com)
- Got hay fever? Don’t blame goldenrod (miamiherald.com)
- Rudbeckia (a.k.a. black-eyed susan) (naturesurrounds.wordpress.com)
- Fall beauties (naturesurrounds.wordpress.com)
I love putting containers together and saw some especially beautiful ones this spring that stopped me in my tracks. I did not create them, but I wished I had! I took pictures and thought maybe one day I would duplicate them. I am constantly amazed at what others put together so creatively.
Like a canvas waiting for paint, containers are seasonal so you can experiment and go wild with your colors and combos and try something else next year.
The one above would be for shade. Who says a shade container has to be uninteresting and not colorful like sun ones? I would rather create a shade or partial shade container than a full sun one.
This container which is a quiet study of leaf shapes and textures, has Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’, Helleborus, Ferns, Creeping Variegated Fig, and a gold Coleus. For shade only, this container will winter over minus the Coleus and the Fig, giving you the opportunity to add something else for next season.
This window box is showcasing some beautiful forms and colors of succulents. You hardly have to water it and it can take full baking sun. I found this at Ladew gardens.
The above ‘carnival of oranges’ container has Orange Wave Petunia, Coleus, Lantana, Tuberous Begonia, Croton, Ferns, and Shrimp Plant. I wasn’t sure how this would perform in the long haul, as the Lantana, Shrimp Plant, and the Petunia like full sun, and the others like partial shade or shade. But it is a stunner.
This container is playing off the reds and burgundies with a touch of white and yellow. Calibrachia, Vinca, Dahlia, Hibiscus, Cordyline, and Angelonia are included to make this a full sun containers. The designer chose a plant with visual punch, which is the beautiful pink-edged Cordyline, and built the plants around it, echoing those colors. A splash of white adds contrast.
Purple is an uncommon color for a container and this pot was amped up a notch with orange flowers. Gerber Daisy, Agastache, Peach Verbena, Sweet Potato Vine, and I think the small pink flower is Mexican Heather or Lobelia, were combined to make a statement. Full sun is required, and the Gerber Daisy does require cleaning of the old blooms to continue it’s show. This combo has structure, texture, and movement. Beautiful!
The secret to combining the right plants in a container, is to use good color contrast, by picking up the leaf, stem, flower, or container color. Another important element is to vary the form of the plants. Always start with something bold and architectural, like a cordyline, croton, canna, or papyrus, and combine with finer textured plants. Three to five plants is usually enough variety or the container can get too busy. Avoid a rainbow of colors for the same reason. The container which I did below has a rainbow of colors, so I broke the rules on that! But seriously, there are guidelines, but in the end, experiment and make your own statement with what you select.
Try to select plants that will survive the environmental stressors of wind, pounding rain, and extreme heat.
My advice to get these beautiful results is go to a nursery and pick a strong, structural plant that you love, and try different plants next to it at the nursery. Keep in mind the light requirements when gathering your finds, and it is like picking flowers for a beautiful bouquet.
- Containers With Pizazz ! Not Your Ordinary Container! (thegardendiaries.wordpress.com)