Flowers & Herbs / Fruits / Garden of Eatin' / Pests & Diseases / Trees & Shrubs / Vegetables

200+ Deer-Resistant Plants and Flowers For Your Garden

Deer-resistant plants and flowers for your garden

When it comes to deer-resistant plants, the somewhat deceiving term doesn’t mean deer won’t eat those plants—it simply means they prefer to eat other plants. There is little they won’t eat in order not to starve, especially during drought or early in the growing season when food sources are scarce.

Deer get roughly a third of the water they need from plants, so they’ll sometimes turn to eating unusual plants (yes, even deer-resistant varieties) just to avoid dehydration.

But while there’s no such thing as deer-proof plants, there are plants that deer prefer less than others. Curious or hungry deer might sample a bite or two, but find that there are tastier options elsewhere.

What kinds of plants do deer not like to eat?

Anything with unpalatable characteristics, like bitter flavors or strong smells. Pot marigolds, peonies, and heavily fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender tend to turn them off.

Deer also don’t like plants that feel weird or painful on their tongue, like those with coarse, leathery, hairy, prickly, or thorny stems and leaves. (They stay away from the fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ears for this reason, and won’t go after your globe artichoke plants.)

Knowing what they don’t like is also key in designing a garden that helps deter deer from certain areas where their favorite plants might be growing.

You can interplant deer-resistant varieties with your annuals and perennials to discourage them, but remember that there’s no avoiding some deer damage—the goal is to keep the damage to an acceptable level.

Deer grazing on grass

Even the most deer-resistant varieties are vulnerable in the garden, especially in the first few weeks after planting when leaves are nitrogen-rich. (Deer seem to prefer plants that have been fertilized to those that haven’t.)

Mature plants also tend to weather deer damage better than new transplants. They don’t have the young shoots and tender foliage that deer love to eat, and if they do get snacked, they’re usually able to bounce back.

To protect new plants, always use deer repellent spray until the plants establish their roots. These are the best deer repellents that I recommend for both ornamental and edible gardens.

For more ways to keep deer out of your garden (safely and humanely), check out the five strategies laid out in my deer-resistant garden guide.

Forget-me-not flowers
Disclosure: All products on this page are independently selected. If you buy from one of my links, I may earn a commission.

Deer-resistant ground covers

Deer nibbling on leaves from a shrub

Deer-resistant shrubs

Wisteria vines hanging off a pergola

Deer-resistant vines

Close-up of pink crape myrtle flowers

Deer-resistant trees

Deer lying down in the middle of a garden

Deer-resistant perennials

Young deer standing in a flower garden

Deer-resistant annuals

  • Ageratum
  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Bacopa
  • Bachelor’s button
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • California bay
  • Castor bean
  • Celosia
  • Clarkia
  • Dusty miller
  • Flowering tobacco
  • Four o’clock
  • Gazania
  • Geranium
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Heliotrope
  • Ice plant
  • Larkspur
  • Lobelia
  • Marigold
  • Marguerite daisy
  • Monkey flower
  • Nasturtium
  • Nierembergia
  • Roman chamomile
  • Shirley poppy
  • Snapdragon
  • Snow-on-the-mountain
  • Spider flower
  • Strawflower
  • Sunflower
  • Sweet alyssum
  • Sweet william
  • Tuberous begonia
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia
Close-up of orange daylily flowers

Are there specific plants that deer love to eat?

According to a University of Rhode Island study, certain plants are like deer candy. They’re the most frequently (and severely) damaged in the garden and if you have a choice of what to plant, you certainly don’t want to be giving away a free buffet to the neighborhood deer.

If you plant any of these varieties in your yard, be prepared to fence and protect them from being eaten.

Bee landing on a lavender flower

Are there fruits and vegetables that deer don’t eat?

In general, deer are repelled by plants with pungent smells, so it helps to plant highly fragrant herbs (like rosemary and lavender) along the edges of your garden as a first step.

(Bonus: These strongly scented plants are very attractive to bees and other pollinators, so it’s a double win for your vegetable garden.)

And unlike other garden pests (like raccoons and opossums), deer are rather lazy. They probably won’t dig up your garden beds to go after your root vegetables, but they’ll certainly eat the leaves. So while you might lose your carrot tops, the carrots themselves should be safe.

These are the edible plants deer won’t eat:

More posts you might find helpful:

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

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