16 Deer Resistant Flowers + How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden for Good

You know that feeling when you dig a buttload of holes and pour your blood, sweat, and tears into them to build a beautiful garden, and then some asshole deer come along and chomp it all down to little nubs? The worst.

Let’s be real. If the deer are hungry enough, they will eat whatever they can find. They’re not gonna starve to death if there’s some kind of food around. Just like I won’t starve to death if I only have celery sticks in my kitchen. I might hate eating that hairy, crunchy water, but I will do it in some kind of apocalypse scenario. But if your yard is filled with plants deer don’t like while your neighbor’s yard is filled with a veritable deer buffet, guess who’s still gonna have plants left at the end of the season.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for deer resistant plants for shade, deer resistant flowers for full sun, or anything in between. There are plenty of beautiful flowers and plants deer will not eat. Some may be toxic to deer, while others may have strong smells they don’t like. Or they might have spiky, fuzzy, or bristly textures that don’t appeal to deer. Whatever the reason, the plants on this list are some of the best deer resistant flowers around.

Deer Resistant Flowers – Perennials

Okay, so whether a plant is considered a perennial or an annual depends on your location. Something that’s a perennial (comes back year after year) in Florida might not be a perennial in Maine. For the sake of ease, this article will call anything that survives to at least zone 5 a perennial since that includes most of the United States. Otherwise, we’re calling it an annual (dies each year).

Plant Hardiness Zones
Find out your zone using this handy dandy map.

Sorry, Minnesota, Montana, etc. You’ll still see a few options here, but really you’re just too damn cold for most plants. I’ll start with the ones that will survive in your area first though since your life is already miserable enough with all the frostbite and hypothermia you must experience every day.

1. Peony

Photo by Irina Iriser

You would think deer would love these big, soft blooms, but they hate the smell of them. Even if they’re hungry enough to nibble on them, they won’t eat more than a bloom or two. Like me nibbling the corner of a celery stick, gagging repeatedly until I just can’t stand it anymore. Bonus: Peonies are long-lived and virtually pest-proof.

Zones: 2-8
Sun Exposure: Part sun
Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, well-drained

2. Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Hearts
Photo by Pixabay.

Oh, those graceful, arching stems. Ah, those delicate, heart-shaped flowers. Eee, that adorable ferny foliage. Bleeding Heart is an old-school favorite that thrives in shady areas during the cool of spring. Foliage will persist through summer (if they don’t get too much sun) and flowering will continue through summer in cooler climates.

Zones: 2 to 8
Sun Exposure: Shade to part sun
Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, moist

3. Daffodil

Daffodil Meaning

Daffodils have a milky sap when broken open that deters deer, squirrels, and rabbits. You might picture them solely as sunny little trumpets that appear in early spring (one of the first to bloom), but they also come in white, pink, and orange. Bonus: They produce daughter bulbs (free plants!) and can live longer than most humans with proper care.

Zones: 3 to 8
Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

4. Coneflower/Echinacea

Photo by Joseph Yu

One of the most versatile deer resistant perennial flowers around, coneflowers attract butterflies, help sustain bee and wild bird populations, tolerate heat and drought, grow in sun or partial shade–they’ll probably even do your taxes if you ask nicely. Deer don’t like how the fuzz from coneflower stems get stuck in their teeth, so they avoid them as much as possible.

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, well-drained

5. Black Eyed Susan

Black eyed susan
Photo by Amelia Cui

Despite the fact that they sound like domestic violence victims, black eyed susans are actually tall, happy looking flowers with dark brown centers surrounded by soft, golden petals. Just like coneflowers, their stems are covered in coarse little hairs, so deer and rabbits avoid them. Also like coneflowers, they happily tolerate heat and drought.

Zones 3-9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, well-drained

6. Poppies

Photo by Pașca Daniel

I love that my town seeds a ton of poppies along the side of the highway in spring. It looks like a vast green field studded with thousands of bright red floofs. While the blooms only last a couple of weeks, lots of poppies have cool seed pods that last for months afterward. The poppy plants you buy at your local garden center probably aren’t the same variety as the ones grown for opium purposes (they’re bred to have waaaaaay fewer alkaloids–the stuff that gets you high), but deer still hate their toxicity.

Zones: 3 to 9 depending on variety
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

7. Coreopsis

Coreopsis Tickseed
Photo by Fearless Pix

These sunny little flowers bloom from late spring through the end of summer, a longer bloom period than most perennials. Deadheading spent blooms will help keep them looking great and encourage more flowers to bloom. Deer aren’t into coreopsis, but pollinators like butterflies and bees are. Bonus: They’re drought tolerant.

Zones: 4 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained

8. Lavender


You know how most humans looooove the smell of lavender? We’ve got soaps and lotions and room spray and laundry detergent and candles and trash bags and whatever the hell else you can think of scented with lavender because that junk smells amazing. To us. To deer, lavender smells like halitosis.

Zones: 5 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained

9. Russian Sage

Photo by Raisa Nastukova

You think lavender smells good? Try Russian Sage. Whenever I pass by a patch of it, I just want to rub it on my face. Unnnggh. The deer think it stinks, but I don’t care what they think. It attracts pollinators, including hummingbirds (squeee!), and the tall, airy, silvery foliage is studded with tiny blue flowers all summer long.

Zones: 5-9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

10. Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten

Another one that attracts pollinators while repelling deer, it’s called butterfly bush for a reason. You’ll see tons of butterflies and other pollinators flitting about the flowers all summer and into fall. If you’re looking for something that grows like a shrub but with the beautiful blooms of a perennial, butterfly bush is for you. They’re deciduous and can get up to 15 feet tall, with flowers coming in shades of purple, pink, or white.

Zones: 5-9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

Deer Resistant Flowers – Annuals

11. Marigold

Photo by Rebecca Niver

Some people think marigolds smell like weed, others think they stink like skunk, but I think they smell uniquely awesome. If you don’t like the smell of basic marigolds, there are varieties that have more of a citrus or even vanilla smell. No matter what type you get, deer will not mess with them due to their pungent scent. They also repel rabbit and many insects.

Zones: 9-10
Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
Soil Needs: Average, well drained

12. Snapdragon

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani

Any flower with the word ‘dragon’ in its name has to be awesome, and that is definitely the case with snapdragons. They produce dramatic spikes of flowers in a panoply of colors and range in height from just a few inches to 3 feet tall, depending on variety. They bloom best in the cool weather of spring and fall, and you won’t have to worry about deer eating them since they wouldn’t be on this list if they weren’t deer resistant flowers.

Zones: 9-10
Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, well-drained

13. Vinca

Photo by Brijendra Mehra

There are a few different varieties of vinca, some with flowers and some without, but they’re all deer resistant. One of the most popular varieties has glossy green foliage and pink, purple, magenta, or white flowers that bloom from late spring until the first frost of fall. They’re happiest in the heat of summer, although they do get a bit more thirsty than some annuals. Trailing varieties are a popular choice for hanging baskets.

Zones: 9-11
Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

14. Dusty Miller

Photo by Krystsina Radzevich

The leaves of dusty miller are shaped like lace, but they feel like velvet. So soft. The foliage is silvery-gray in color and although it doesn’t produce flowers, I’m including it anyway because what the hell. It’s often used for flowerbed borders or filling in around other flowers. Deer won’t touch it because of the soft, fuzzy leaves. Bonus: Dusty miller is drought tolerant.

Zones: 8-10
Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

15. Verbena

Verbena Annual Variety
Photo by SanjayB

There are both annual and perennial varieties of verbena, both of which are deer resistant, but I’m including it here in the annual section because I had more perennials than annuals. Science! Verbena produces pretty little clusters of five-petaled flowers which come in purple, white, yellow, pink, red, and a bunch of other colors.

Zones: 8-11
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Average, well-drained

16. Lantana

Photo by JamesDeMers

Lantana has both a strong smell and scratchy leaves, so deer avoid it like the plague. But it’s highly attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. It grows anywhere from one to six feet tall, depending on the variety, and comes in white, yellow, pink, orange, purple, and a bunch of combinations of those colors.

Zones: 8-11
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained

Plants That Are NOT Deer Resistant

Plant these in your yard and you’ll end up with the equivalent of a Krispy Kreme with the “hot now” light on–deer will be lining up to chow down on your plants until you’re left with nothing but crumbs. Plants with soft, silky petals or leaves that don’t have a strong smell are going to be their faves. But these are particularly tasty to deer:

  • Impatiens
  • Pansies and violas
  • Petunias
  • Tulips
  • Daylilies
  • Roses
  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Hosta
  • Coleus
  • English Ivy
  • Yews
  • Evergreens like arborvitae
  • Most flowering fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear, plum, etc.)

How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden

There are a lot of ways to repel deer. Obviously a tall fence will work well. But if that’s not an option for you, there are plenty of other things that repel deer.

Does Irish Spring soap repel deer?

Somewhat. Some people put a bar in a mesh bag or wrap it in cheesecloth and tie it to a tree (or even just lay it on the ground) in their garden. Others actually shred the soap and sprinkle the shavings throughout their garden. Either way, make sure you check on it after heavy rains. You may find that it has washed away and is in need of replacing.

Do coffee grounds keep deer away?

Maybe? I’ve heard of people putting coffee grounds in their gardens to both add organic matter to the soil and to repel deer. I haven’t heard great success stories about it though.

What smells do deer hate?

Strong, herbal smells like mint, dill, sage, chives, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Plant yourself an herb garden throughout your regular garden to help keep the deer out.

deer fawn
Who me? Photo by Scott Carroll

What is a good homemade deer repellant?

There are a lot of recipes that call for eggs and/or milk. Now think about spraying that around your garden, where the sun will turn it into a rotten, spoiled mess. Yes, the deer will avoid the smell, but so will you. Instead, try a recipe that uses white vinegar, cayenne pepper, and/or garlic. There’s a good recipe here.

What is the best deer repellant?

My friend, I am going to pass down a secret to you that was passed down to me by a successful hobby farmer who had this secret passed down to him by a successful big-time farmer (we’re talking like acres and acres of crops). The secret is Milorganite.

Wtf is Milorganite? It’s actually a fertilizer. A fertilizer made from human poop. But wait! Before you dismiss it, you should know that the Environmental Protection Agency authorizes it for use without restriction on gardens growing food crops intended for human consumption. It’s made by breaking down doodoo with microbes, then drying it with hot air that’s at least 900° F to kill all the pathogens. This is all done by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District as part of one of the largest recycling programs in the world (it has diverted 10 billion –BILLION with a B– pounds of waste from landfills).

Milorganite doesn’t smell like poop or anything stinky to humans. It only stinks to deer and other fuzzy creatures. My hobby farmer friend sprinkles a bunch of it around his farm about once every 4-6 weeks, and he has zero problems with deer eating his crops or ornamental plants. He literally has a herd of deer living in the woods surrounding his farm (with trail cam proof), but they never bother his plants. Shit works.

What else keeps deer out of the garden?

If you’ve ever encountered a deer in the woods, you know that it will haul ass as soon as you so much as breathe in its general direction. Deer are totally freaked out by loud noises and sudden movements. So you can try hanging wind chimes and putting shiny wind spinners throughout your garden. You could also install a motion-activated sprinkler that blasts them whenever they get near.

One final thing you can try if you have the space is to plant a deer garden away from your human garden. The idea is to feed the deer what they like in their own garden so they won’t bother with your garden. Plant things like blackberries, grapes, elderberries, beautyberry, trillium, sassafras, oats, wheat, sunflowers, honeysuckle, clover, alfalfa, kale, radishes, and turnips. You might also create a nursery for newborn deer. Does leave their fawns hidden in dense vegetation on a bed of fallen leaves while they forage. Creating a space like that not too far from your deer garden, might attract mama deer who don’t want to go too far from their babies.

Video on Designing a Deer Resistant Garden

Check out this video by landscape designer Karen Chapman, author of Deer Resistant Design: Fence-Free Gardens That Thrive Despite the Deer. She talks about using hardscaping, creating a foliage framework, the four levels of deer resistance, how to choose good plant combinations, and a whole lot more.