Deer Resistant Plants

Although browsing deer are charming to watch, they can cause extensive damage by feeding on plants and rubbing antlers against trees. In urban areas, home landscapes may become the major source of food. This is why you should find a landscaper who is experienced with deer resistant plants.

• It is difficult to move deer out of areas where they are not wanted.
• A hungry deer will find almost any plant palatable, so no plant is “deer proof.”
• The two types of deer repellents are contact repellents and area repellents.
• Netting can reduce deer damage to small trees.
• Adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only sure way to control deer damage.

Deer tend to avoid some plants and relish others. And that’s what the list below is all about. Think of it as a list of Bambi’s least favorite foods. While no plant can be guaranteed to be “deer-proof,” some types of plants are less tasty to a deer making them deer resistant plants.

Try planting the following kinds of deer resistant plants which are less attractive to deer:

1. List of Deer Resistant Perennials

Aurinia Saxatilis
Deer Resistant Plants

You may know Aurinia saxatilis better by such common names as “Basket of Gold,” a reference to both the abundance of its flowers and their striking color.

Bleeding Hearts
Deer Resistant Plants Bleeding Hearts

The most widely grown bleeding heart is Dicentra spectabilis. This deer-resistant plant can become quite large, under the right growing conditions. When that happens, it’s a “spectacular” plant, as the species name suggests. But even as a smaller plant, it can be mesmerizing, as one’s attention is drawn to the uniquely-shaped individual flowers.

Fringed Bleeding Hearts
Deer Resistant Plants Fringed Bleeding Hearts

Fringed bleeding heart is a smaller plant than its showier cousin. As lovely as Dicentra spectabilis is, some prefer fringed bleeding hearts.

Dutchman’s Breeches

Yet another whimsical plant in the Dicentra genus is Dutchman’s breeches, the shape of whose flower matches its common name as perfectly as does “bleeding hearts” for Dicentra spectabilis and Dicentra eximia.

Catmint Plants

Catnip plants are catmint plants, but not vice versa. Any plant listed as being in the Nepeta genus is considered to be a catmint. So when you see that the botanical name for catnip is Nepeta cataria, you know it automatically qualifies as a type of catmint. But there are other deer-resistant plants in the Nepeta genus that are grown for their ornamental value: They are long-blooming perennials.


Like daffodil bulbs, there’s a good reason why Bambi leaves foxglove alone: It’s poisonous! Foxgloves are tall, slender plants at 2-5 feet tall and just 1-2 feet wide. Their height makes them good candidates for the back row of a layered flower bed.

Salvia Plants

Like the related garden sage plants (Salvia officinalis), ornamental salvias are not eaten by Bambi for the same reason that catmints escape his depredations: they stink (well, according to Bambi, anyhow)!

Bearded Iris

It’s not just poisonous plants and plants with pungent odors that Bambi mostly avoids. For some reason, ornamental grasses aren’t one of his favorite foods, either. And in addition to plants with pungent odors, deer don’t eat plants that smell perfumey, for the most part.

Lamb’s ear

Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is another case of a deer-resistant plant that’s hard to figure. It’s easy to see why Bambi would be disdainful towards prickly plants. A drought-tolerant perennial, it also works well in rock gardens. Its soft, silver leaves furnish a luxurious backdrop for companion plants.

Lavender Plants

Since I’ve mentioned aromatic plants quite a bit above, you probably figured I’d eventually get around to lavender, right? Lavender is the poster child for herbs grown for their fragrance. Let’s thank our lucky stars that Bambi isn’t a fan of potpourri! Not only are they a deer resistant plant, ants, too, dislike the smell of lavender, which has made it useful, traditionally, for organic ant control.

2. List of Deer-Resistant Shrubs

• Shrubs grown for their foliage, such as you would place in hedges.
• Shrubs grown for their flowers that can serve as specimens in your landscaping.
• A shrub that fits into both #1 and #2


Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are one of the first plants to pop up in late winter or early spring, sometimes even before the snow has completely retreated (which is why they have “snow” in their name). I’m a big fan of all such precocious plants, because I’m impatient for gardening season after enduring all that cabin fever. Fortunately, Bambi is not a big fan of snowdrops.


Another plant with “snow” in its name, and for the same reason (given above) as for snowdrops. So you know you can rely on this plant to cheer you up with blooms early in the season. And for those of you who aren’t huge admirers of white flowers, such as snowdrops, take note that glory-of-the-snow doesn’t come only in white: other options are light pink (picture) and blue.


Bambi didn’t miss the memo about not eating the crocus. I wish I could say the same for the Easter Bunny. One spring I went out into my yard on one of those mornings that hold so much promise, expecting to view my crocus in bloom. The local rabbit had other ideas. Overnight, he had eaten everything, flowers and leaves alike!

Scilla Siberica

Blue flowers are greatly sought-after by gardeners, and Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) is a wonderful source of blue for the spring garden. The cultivar, ‘Spring Beauty’ is more robust in all ways than the species plant. That’s apparent immediately as the plant first breaks through the ground in spring, unfolding leaves that are much thicker than those on the species. This foliage reminds me of hyacinth.

Hyacinth Plants

Because hyacinth flowers occur in clusters on a flower spike, hyacinth may be showier than any of the plants I’ve mentioned so far. They are also the most aromatic of the early-bloomers. And that’s one reason why Bambi disdains them: powerful fragrance seems to be one of the best protections that plants have against his incursions. But there’s a second reason: hyacinths are poisonous.


Like hyacinths, daffodils are toxic. This fact helps explain why Bambi doesn’t eat them, and why even those pesky squirrels leave them alone. It certainly can’t have anything to do with the way they look (although Bambi isn’t much concerned with aesthetic matters), because daffodils are widely recognized as among the most beautiful flowers hardy in cold regions.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape hyacinths bear smaller flowers that come in a totally different form — more of a bell shape, whereas true hyacinths have flowers shaped like little starfish. The “grape” in the name derives from the fact that the flower clusters resemble bunches of grapes.


The plants mentioned above are the earliest bloomers. Some alliums bloom earlier than others. There are many types of alliums: they come not only in different colors but also in different sizes, and the larger ones will, understandably, come later than the smaller ones.


Lily-of-the-valley is often used at weddings, being fragrant and white, so you may think of it as a romantic flower. But as always, it depends on how you look at things. For some people, romance is the furthest thing from their minds when think of lily of the valley, because it’s an invasive plant in some regions. Constantly having to defend your perennial bed against an unwanted intruder has a way of souring you on the “romance” of a plant.

3. List of Deer-Resistant Ornamental Grasses

Golden Hakone Grass

Hakone grass will grow in partially-shaded conditions, is not invasive, and is a deer-resistant ornamental grass. The ‘Aureola’ cultivar affords an added bonus: golden leaves striped green (often with some red, for good measure).

Blue Fescue

Would you like to give your landscaping a spiky hairdo? Then Festuca glauca‘Elijah Blue’ may interest you, because that’s exactly what a mound of it looks like: a bluish, spiky hairdo sticking up out of the earth!Some growers like to juxtapose it with plants that display a silvery foliage.

Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Gracillimus’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and blue fescue are the Mutt and Jeff of this category. An example of a tall deer-resistant ornamental grass,Miscanthus is one of the most graceful plants you can grow in the landscape, literally: the name of this cultivar means “very graceful.”

Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Zebrinus’

As you can see from the botanical name, this plant is relative of the one in the prior entry. But it’s the common name that will most clearly tell the average shopper at a garden center that this plant may be preferable: “zebra grass.” When comparing the two, think of this one as the striped version.

Pennisetum Setaceum ‘Rubrum’

Purple fountain (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) is my example of a plant that is in-between, height-wise, for this category. Like blue fescue, this deer-resistant ornamental grass is practically defined by its color (‘Rubrum’ means “red” in Latin). And like Miscanthus, it bears attractive seed heads.


This final entry, despite its appearance, doesn’t even really belong in this category. Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) is actually a member of the Lily family, not Poaceae. Nonetheless, for practical purposes, it is often treated in the same manner as the deer-resistant ornamental grasses discussed above, so we’ll bend the rules and include it.

Tree suggestions include white fir, Colorado spruce, pinyon pine, common juniper, Rocky Mountain maple, hackberry and honeylocust.
Why bother with lists of deer resistant plants? It is, after all, a well-known fact that Bambi isn’t fussy about what he eats when he’s really hungry. But unless you’re prepared to install deer fencing, it behooves you to play with the odds on your side, at least.

Lawn Pros offers comprehensive, innovative and creative solutions for all deer resistant plants. Call (719) 963-6267 today for a free Colorado estimate! 

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