20+ Deer-Resistant Perennials – The Ultimate Guide

If you live in an area with a deer population, you know the struggle. You spend time and money planting a beautiful garden only to have it decimated overnight by hungry deer. While no plant is completely deer-proof, there are plenty of deer-resistant perennials you can grow to deter “Bambi” and protect your beautiful garden investment.

Let’s dive in!

What Makes a Perennial Deer Resistant?

There are a few key factors that make a perennial less appealing to deer:

  • Strong fragrance – Deer dislike the strong scent of aromatic plants like lavender, sage, and mint.
  • Fuzzy or hairy leaves – Smooth foliage is more palatable. The soft hairs on lamb’s ear and catmint deter deer.
  • Spines, thorns, or prickly foliage – Obviously, deer don’t want to eat anything that will poke or scratch their mouths.
  • Toxicity or bitterness – Plants like foxglove contain toxins deer know to avoid.

While deer tend to shy away from these plants, a hungry deer will eat just about anything.

Ripened fruit and newly planted specimens or tender growth are also more vulnerable. Combining deer-resistant perennials with fencing, repellents, and other deterrents is the best defense.

10 Best Deer-Resistant Perennials: Flowers and Plants

If deer are preventing you from having the garden of your dreams, try incorporating several of these rugged, reliable perennials that deter deer and rabbits.

1. Lavender

deer-resistant perennials - Lavender

With its strong fragrance and undesirable taste, lavender is rarely bothered by deer. The silvery foliage is also unappealing. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the hardest type. ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ are popular compact cultivars. Grow lavender in full sun and well-drained soil.

2. Russian Sage

deer-resistant perennials - russian sage

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) has aromatic silvery foliage that deer steer clear of. The lavender-blue flower spikes are an added bonus, blooming for months in summer. It tolerates heat, drought, and poor soils. Cut plants back hard in early spring to maintain a compact shape.

3. Lamb’s Ear

deer-resistant perennials - lamb's ear

The soft, fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) feel like velvet, which is unappealing to deer. The plants spread readily, making an attractive silvery ground cover in the sun or part shade. Taller cultivars like “Helen Von Stein” produce floral spikes.

4. Euphorbia

deer resistant perennials - Euphorbia

For a deer resistant perennial with unique floral bracts, try euphorbia. The sap of euphorbia is toxic, so deer steer clear. Many types tolerate heat and drought once established. Euphorbia polychroma has yellow bracts in spring. ‘Bonfire’ has red-tipped foliage that intensifies in cold weather.

5. Catmint

deer resistant perennials - catmint

Catmint (Nepeta) offers weeks of lavender-blue blooms atop aromatic, grayish foliage. The captivating scent and flavors of these plants serve as a natural deterrent, effectively discouraging deer from approaching. It thrives in full sun with little care. Shear plants after flowering for a rebloom. Try compact varieties like ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ or ‘Walker’s Low’.

6. Hardy Geranium

deer resistant perennials - cranesbill

Also called cranesbill, hardy geranium is a tough, reliable perennial. The scented leaves and flowers are generally avoided by deer. Cranesbill spreads nicely, suppressing weeds. ‘Rozanne’ has vivid violet-blue blooms for months on end. Plant in the sun or part shade.

7. Columbine

deer resistant perennials - Columbine

With its spring blooms in shades of red, yellow, pink, blue, and white, columbine (Aquilegia) brings charming color to partly shaded gardens. The foliage stays attractive after the blooms fade. Columbines are deer-resistant and spread readily by seed, coming up in unexpected spots.

8. Bleeding Heart

deer resistant perennials - Bleeding Heart

The graceful, heart-shaped blooms of bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) appear in late spring. Fringed bleeding heart (D. eximia) offers finer textured foliage and blooms. The toxicity of bleeding hearts causes deer to avoid them. Provide shade and rich soil.

9. Foxglove

deer resistant perennials - Foxglove

Foxglove’s toxicity earns it a spot on the deer-resistant perennials list. The bold spikes of tubular flowers rise above attractive basal foliage. ‘Camelot Lavender’ has gorgeous rose-pink blooms with white throats. Foxglove prefers part shade.

10. Peony

deer resistant perennials - Peonies

Peonies are prized for their sumptuous flowers and fragrance—and the fact that deer don’t destroy them. White, pink, coral, and red blooms appear in late spring. Foliage turns attractive shades in fall. Plant peonies in full sun; provide support for floppy types.

10 More Fantastic Deer Resistant Perennials

Here are 10 more tough, reliable perennials that deer and rabbits avoid:

  1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  2. Coneflower (Echinacea)
  3. Sedum (Sedum spectabile)
  4. Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
  5. Speedwell (Veronica)
  6. Iris (Iris hybrids)
  7. Salvia (Salvia nemorosa)
  8. Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)
  9. Ornamental grasses (Calamagrostis, Panicum, Molinia)
  10. Siberian Bugloss (also known as Brunnera macrophylla)

Choosing the Right Spot for Deer Resistant Perennials

Where you situate plants in your landscape can influence their likelihood of damage. Here are a few tips for choosing sites that help minimize deer browsing:

  • Plant deer resistant perennials along paths, walkways, and driveways. Deer prefer not to graze near human activity.
  • Choose spots that offer no escape route. Deer don’t like to feel cornered.
  • Place plants within fenced areas or inside protective wire cages.
  • Grow them next to plants that deer find unpalatable like daffodils, lavender, or catmint.

Using Deer Resistant Shrubs and Trees

Don’t forget to include deer-resistant woody plants in your landscape. Shrubs like spirea, potentilla, and sumac are rarely damaged. Trees like Redbud, American holly, and serviceberry deter deer. Blend deer resistant perennials with woody ornamentals for layered beauty.


Living in a deer country poses unique challenges for gardeners. While no plant is 100% deer-proof, choosing the right deer resistant perennials can help deter damage. Combine these unfavorable plants with repellents, fencing, and strategic placement in your landscape. Don’t get discouraged if the deer still nibble from time to time. Gardening in harmony with nature requires patience and perseverance.

I hope that this guide helped you to make one more step towards deer-proofing your garden. Happy gardening!

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