Mail Order Gardening

Deer Resistant Plants and Shrubs

I am a cheap and lazy gardener. My soilplay consists of planting, watering, minimal pruning and weeding and keeping my fingers crossed. I have ordered plants with varying degrees of success through mail order, so I wanted to document my experiences here.

Since I originally put up these gardening pages I've moved to a slightly colder climate (Zone 5 from Zone 6) infested with herds of deer. They eat almost everything, even the plants that are labelled "Deer Resistant" at the nursery.

Here's a list of plants the deer HAVE eaten:

Black Eyed Susans, Coneflower, Crape Myrtle, Dogwoods (trees and shrubs), Elderberry (Black Beauty), Forsythia, Fruit Trees, Heuchera, Hibiscus, Hosta, Hydrangea, Japanese Maple, Lilac, Lilies, Magnolia (Sweet Bay), Monarda, Morning Glory, Mountain Laurel, Ninebark, Patio Peach, Redbud, Rhododendron, Rose of Sharon, Salvia (perennial), Sandcherry, Spirea, Stoke's Aster, Sunflower, Viburnum, Weigela.

Bucks are even more of a threat because they will rub the bark off small, flexible tree trunks with their antlers, which damages the tree's vascular system. If the damage goes all the way around the tree, it is said to be "girdled." Girdled trees often die because they can no longer transport water and nutrients from the roots to their crown.

Some people spray their flowers and shrubs with deer repellent which does work, but you must reapply every couple of weeks or after it rains. I've gone the route of purchasing larger shrubs and trees and protecting them with wire cages. Not an aesthetically pleasant solution, but it's temporary until the shrubs grow out of reach of grazing vermin. I've given up on growing flowers and small perennials for the time being. Some plants may get less palatable as they get older; the deer have largely ignored my Shasta Daisies the last two years (they did get munched a bit in 2015), and are less interested in the Goldmound Spirea. Following are the shrubs that have been left to their own defenses.

If you've discovered a deer proof shrub or deer resistant plant not listed here, email me: tips [at] directgardeningtips [dot] com or visit the Contact Page. Many thanks to the contributors for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Deer-Proof: the deer find these unpalatable.

Deer-Resistant: deer will generally ignore these shrubs until it gets harder to forage.

All of my plants were obtained locally, but I have ordered through DirectGardening.com in the past. They were the least expensive online gardening site (click on the banner above to be taken directly to their site) and they also offer the standard one year guarantee. If your plant doesn't survive they will send you a replacement if you request it within one year from date of purchase.

Please note if you place an order through a link to DirectGardening, I will receive a small commission.

Year planted follows description in parenthesis.

For reference, these shrubs were planted in zone 5 in rocky, clay soil.

Updated 06/12/2017.

 
Groundcovers Sun Perennials Shrubs and Trees Shade Perennials Annuals Deer Resistant Cold Hardy Tropical Plants Contact Us
Plant Experience Conclusion
Hardy Boxwood Hardy Boxwood. I have variegated boxwoods and another small boxwood in a vulnerable area facing the woods. They're doing well despite being ignored by both me and the animals. (2009).Deer Proof
Dwarf Bamboo Dwarf Bamboo. INVASIVE, and difficult to pull out. I regret planting this. Only recommended for containers.Deer Proof
Wood Fern Spinulose Wood Fern. Deer avoid this fern that grows wild and spreads quickly.Deer Proof
Cinnamon Fern Cinnamon Fern. They may have nibbled at it, (and I'm not sure it was a Cinnamon Fern). (2007) MIA as of 2011.Deer Resistant
Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver' Pieris, Flaming Silver. The deer will taste this, but don't completely devour it. Flaming Silver is one of my favorite pieris. Evergreen with vibrant red new foliage. (2010). Unfortunately they haven't survived the Zone 5 winter, but we have plenty of other pieris.Deer Resistant
Yucca filamentosa Yucca, Adam's Needle. Great evergreen plant. The deer will nibble on them over the winter. They also eat the flower stalks. Drought resistant. (2010).Deer Resistant
Shasta Daisy Shasta Daisy. These hardy perennials have been spreading nicely. The deer leave them alone for the most part so I get to enjoy some flowers. (2009). Also check out Banana Cream Shasta Daisy and Shasta Daisy, Real Dream.Deer Resistant
Rose Fountain Grass Rose Fountain Grass. The deer seem to ignore all types of ornamental grass. I sometimes plant Purple (not Rose) Fountain Grass (it's an annual in Zone 5). (2010).Deer Proof
Juncus 'Big Twister' Juncus 'Big Twister'. This curly grass should be planted in a moist area, which I did not do. (2009, since perished.)Deer Proof
Lilyturf, Variegated Liriope Lilyturf, Variegated Liriope. As I mentioned on the Groundcovers page, I love Variegated Liriope. I don't think the deer do, however. They will eat the non-variegated version. (2008).Deer Resistant
Pulmonaria or Lungwort Lungwort. One small plant comes back every year, but the deer have ignored it. (2008, died in 2013).Deer Proof
Daffodils Daffodil. We finally planted some in 2014.Deer Proof
Russian Sage Russian Sage. I purchased some after my neighbor claimed deer didn't like Russian Sage. She's right! A must-have. (2012)Deer Proof
Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' Salvia, Hot Lips. Apparently deer eat perennial Salvia. A nursery owner recommended planting annual Salvia. 'Hot Lips' is stunning. 2013.Deer Proof
Cleome (Spider Flower) Cleome. (Spider Flower). These are annuals in zone 5 but reseed themselves.Deer Proof
Magnolia, Hardy Magnolia. I have a White Japanese Magnolia Tree, 'Leonard Messel', that the deer have inspected and walked away. A buck did damage its bark so we reinstated the cage. Deer also don't seem interested in our Jane Magnolias, which were planted in 2014. One is not protected behind wire. Also try Ann Magnolia and Black Lily Magnolia. I highly recommend Magnolia trees, they're beautiful and pest-resistant. 2009.Deer Resistant
Yarrow Yarrow. I've got wild Yarrow which is white. I can't speak for the other varieties.Deer Resistant
Barberry, Red Red Barberry. Thorny.Deer Proof
Veronica Spicata (Spiked Speedwell) Veronica Spicata. I've got the pink version.Deer Resistant
Daisy, Crazy Crazy Daisy. I'm happy to see any perennial flowers in my garden. (2009, since died.)Deer Resistant
Willow Tree, Dappled (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki') Dappled Willow Tree (or Shrub). I bought them locally from Lowe's. I've been told that the leaves contain an ingredient that upsets the deer's stomach. We removed the protective wire cages in 2012. The tree form is being ignored but they have been nibbling the shrubs. (2010)Deer Resistant
Goshiki False Holly Variegated False Holly. A variegated evergreen holly. Prefers partial sun. Deer Resistant
Fine Line® Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) Buckthorn. Feathery foliage, narrow upright habit. Versatile, hardy and low maintenance. It's doing very well. We removed the protective wire cages in 2012. (2010)Deer Resistant
Daylily, Stella D'Oro Stella D'Oro Daylily.I planted these a few years ago. In 2013 I removed the protective cage and the deer ignored them all spring, but they did get munched in August. We replaced the cages.Deer Resistant
Daylily Collection, Reblooming Daylily Collection, Reblooming. A collection of seven different daylilies.Deer Resistant
Catmint, Nepeta 'Walker's Low' Catmint, Walker's Low. Reader Submission. Super hardy. We planted some in 2014 and I now consider it a must-have for the deer garden. Aromatic gray-green foliage, lavender-blue flowers bloom all summer. 2007 Perennial of the Year. Thank you, Patty!Deer Proof
Artemisia Silver Mound Artemisia Silver Mound. This is a soft, perennial groundcover that I have planted on my septic mound to hide the pipes. The deer are not interested. Deer Proof
Fern, Japanese Painted Japanese Painted Fern. I planted this pretty fern at the end of 2013. They survived the brutal winter and now the summer. Deer Resistant
Fern, Regal Red Japanese Japanese Regal Red Fern.. I imagine this would be comparable to the Japanese Painted Fern. Deer Resistant
Fern Collection, Colorful Colorful Fern Collection. A collection of three different colorful ferns. Deer Resistant
Fern Collection, Favorite Favorite Fern Collection. A collection of seven different ferns. Deer Resistant
Lavender, Fragrant Lavender. Reader Submission. Todd has had luck with lavender. Deer Resistant
Marigolds Marigolds. The scent of this annual repels insects and animals. Deer Resistant
Sorbaria sorbifolia False Spirea. Reader Submission. Glenn says the deer pass it to get at his yews. They're hardy plants that can be invasive.Deer Resistant
Hainun Peony Tree Peony. I've heard that Peonies might be deer resistant. I purchased this (or similar) in 2014 and it's gorgeous. We removed the wire cages from our peonies in spring 2016, so far so good! Another must-have for the deer-resistant garden!Deer Resistant
Sambucus nigra 'Eva' Black Lace™ Elderberry. Supposedly elderberry is toxic, so we've removed the protective cages. They've eaten the Black Beauty which is within a few feet of the Black Lace.Deer Resistant
Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' Black Beauty™ Elderberry. See above. We removed the cages from our elderberry, Update: MUNCHED! Not Deer Resistant
Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow Ajuga. I was never a fan of ajuga since it's invasive. However, if you need something with shallow roots to crowd out weeds over a large area, and you (like me) don't want to maintain a lawn, ajuga is a good choice. I've got several types of groundcovers on my septic mound, and the ajuga is spreading best.Deer Resistant
Kniphofia 'Safranvogel' Orange Creamsicle Poker. Red Hot Poker may be deer resistant. We will remove the cages when they're a little more established (2015). Update 2016: Doesn't appear that any of the three Red Hot Pokers survived our relatively mild winter. TBD
Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' Weeping Potted Cherry. While the deer will nibble on the leaves, it's fast-growing so it won't need protection very long. Also try Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry.Somewhat Deer Resistant
Spirea, Gold Mound Gold Mound Spirea. I planted these a few years ago, near the house. The deer have shown less and less interest. Deer Resistant
Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula' Weeping Potted Cherry. While the deer will nibble on the leaves, it's fast-growing so it won't need protection very long. Also try Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry.Somewhat Deer Resistant