Deer-resistant perennials and bulbs
First: the caveat. With the possible exception of spiny Barberries (Berberis)
there are no absolutely deer-proof plants. If the herd is large enough, and
food is scarce enough, deer have been known to eat almost anything.
That said, there are some plants that are much less palatable to deer.
If you have a problem in your neighborhood, it's probably a good idea to draw
heavily from this list of perennials that are rarely browsed. If you can't live
without certain plants that are candy to deer, you can plant them in an enclosed
area, or use repellents in that bed, to try to minimize the damage.
Although it's the curse of gardeners that we crave what we can't grow (folks
in Florida long for Lilacs, New Englanders for Agapanthus), it is possible
to create a lovely garden using deer resistant plants. It's a challenge, but
not an impossibility.
Deer-resistant plants tend to share certain characteristics: fuzzy or wooly
leaves; pungent-scented foliage (Catmints, Mints, Lavenders, Agastache, Salvias,
etc) and/or foul taste (even poisonous). Spines, thorns, and prickles protect
some plants, such as Barberry, but we've heard from customers who've lost even
Rugosa Roses to browsinghard to believe for anyone who's ever tried to
prune a Rugosa without drawing blood, but true.
If the deer herd is large, the youngsters can do some damage sampling plants
and then spitting them outwe've heard of deer tearing up and then leaving
Narcissus (Daffodils) and Digitalis (Foxgloves), both quite poisonous.
That's how the young learn what's goodor not goodto eat.
Deer also tend to have regional tastes, so we've found the same plants on lists
of both "rarely eaten" and "sometimes eaten." It's always
a good idea to consult your local cooperative extension office and other gardeners
in your neighborhood or town for advice. Deer also seem to have an uncanny ability
to find (and eat) fertilized plants, so go easy on the nitrogen if you feed
Many serious gardeners resist the idea for a long time, but finally enclose
at least some areas of the garden in tall deer fencing. It works. If the deer
population is large, and the depredation severe, fencing becomes the best long-term
solution, if you want to grow plants that deer love. Because deer are just as
happy to wiggle under a fence as to leap over it, be sure the fence is secure
at ground level. A six- to seven-foot tall fence is needed; gardeners in California
developed the idea of using two shorter fences, about 4 feet apart, because
deer are usually cautious about getting into any situation where they might
We've compiled the following list of deer-resistant bulbs and perennials from research
published by several cooperative extension offices in the northeast.