Top 10 Plants Deer Don’t Like

By Mary Ellen Ellis | March 10, 2018
Image by Nikki Tilley
by Mary Ellen Ellis
March 10, 2018

Few things are as disappointing as putting new plants in the garden, having spent the money on them at the nursery, only to find that you were really putting out deer food. Yes, seeing a majestic deer family on a misty, early morning in your backyard is delightful, but do they really have to chow down on your perennial beds or new trees? You can have both a beautiful garden and wildlife in your yard if you try these 10 plants that are like kryptonite to deer:

1. Forget-me-not. Deer will eat a lot of things, including flowers, but if you use forget-me-nots as perennial borders or clumps, expect to get all the blooms and no bites. Deer rarely, if ever, eat these petite, pretty blue flowers.

2. Daffodils. Another flower your deer neighbors won’t likely touch are daffodils. These popular bulbs are a favorite of many people and for a lot of gardeners the first real flowers of spring. So, go ahead and plant those bulbs with no fear.

3. Geranium. For your annual beds and pots, choose geraniums. You won’t find them mowed down by deer, no matter how many traipse through your yard.

4. Lily of the valley. Deer often feed on ground cover and can ruin a shady patch of your favorite greenery in a matter of days. One flowering ground cover they won’t touch is lily of the valley.

5. Barberry. Shrubs are often popular targets of deer. They love to munch on the leaves, which are right at mouth height. Barberry is one they won’t touch, though, so plant this durable and hardy shrub for greenery, hedging, and pretty fall colors.

6. Boxwood. Boxwood is a classic hedge. You can trim and shape it to fit in any space or along any border. It lends a very clean-cut look to a garden or bed. Best of all is that boxwood is not appealing to deer at all.

7. Butterfly bush. For flowers and a shrub that deer will avoid, choose the butterfly bush. As a bonus, the delicate purple or pink flowers this bush produces will attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard.

8. Honey locust. Maybe it’s the long, sharp thorns or something else, but deer will avoid your honey locust, making this a great tree choice for deer-heavy yards. This tree is easy to grow, grows quickly, and has a pleasant appearance. Just watch out for the thorns if you have little ones.

9. Birch. Another tree that deer avoid like the plague is birch. There are several varieties of this pretty, white-barked tree. It provides a unique decorative element for gardens as well as pretty foliage and spectacular color in the fall.

10. Tomatoes. Growing vegetables can be a major pain when you have hungry wildlife in your yard. If deer are your worst offenders, rest assured that they generally won’t nibble on your tomato plants.

Note: It is important to keep in mind that even if certain plants are deemed resistant, hungry deer will eat just about anything if nothing else is readily available.

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  • Carolyn Demusis
    Comment added March 22, 2021Reply

    I live beside 200 acres of watershed forest. While nice to have the privacy, our over populated deer population are driving me crazy. We can’t shoot them in our suburban area. They are eating everything in my yard !!!
    I use Deer Scram by the 25 lb tubs...I think they actually like it!
    Can I buy some sort of birth control darts to shoot at them? I have an air riflle. BB pellets just bounce off them. I can’t afford to fence my yard. Besides our town has laws against high fences.
    I am investing in Andromada shrubs that deer don’t like but are there any other shrubs? I also plant Vinca flowers along my walkways and driveway.. I might as well live in the middle a city surrounded by cement .it is so frustrating for a gal who loves to garden. The damage is so obvious that it diminishes the value of our home...although that is not reflected in our high New Jersey real Easter taxes. All suggestions most welcome. At 81 years old, my elder years have become very miserable!

  • Kathy Coleman
    Comment added April 24, 2020Reply

    Deer do not like Marigolds

  • Debra Owens
    Comment added January 15, 2020Reply

    Deer do love to pull the tomatoes off by taking a bite and dropping the tomato on the ground.

  • Lori
    Comment added August 8, 2019Reply

    Deer regularly eat my geraniums. I had a summer where they’d trample through my marigold bed and pick around my sweet alyssum to get to them. I only grow geraniums in hanging pots or up on my deck now.

  • Nancy
    Comment added June 28, 2019Reply

    The deer ate all the geranium blossoms from our plants.

  • K Herbert
    Comment added October 1, 2018Reply

    I beg to differ on the tomatoes...I had a beautiful patch of tomato plants in cages some years ago, fenced from the deer (probably not high enough), and went down to check them and they had all been nibbled across the top of all the cages, some of the smaller ones were actually pulled from the ground. Today, still being in a rural area, the fence is over 6 feet and electrified...Bambi needs to get a clue...

  • Ray Masson
    Comment added June 12, 2018Reply

    Deer ate all my rose blooms and buds last night, but didn't touch a big flowering sage bush or the shoots of rosemary.....

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