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My 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers

McKana Giant Aquilegia Columbine is an excellent deer-resistant perennial flower.

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Deer can be both a delight and a dilemma in the garden. While their presence adds a touch of nature’s beauty, the havoc they wreak on our carefully tended plants can be disheartening. Selecting deer resistant flowers that deer find unappetizing is key to maintaining a flourishing garden.  

Let me share with you my 10 favorite deer resistant flowers both annual and perennial that can not only withstand the test of nibbling but also contribute to a stunning and diverse garden landscape.

Lavender: The Fragrant Guardian

Lavender is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers.

Lavender, with its intoxicating fragrance and delicate blooms, is a guardian against deer intruders. Lavender’s strong scent and tough foliage make it an unattractive option for deer, who prefer milder flavors in their green buffet. To grow Lavender successfully you will need to provide well-drained soil, lots of sunlight, and occasional pruning to encourage bushiness. Lavender is drought-tolerant once established, so be cautious not to overwater. Water newly planted lavender regularly for the first few weeks to help the roots establish. Its bloom season is long, starting in early summer. If you cutback spent blooms, you’ll have even more later. Lavender is at the top of my list for deer resistant flowers.

Aquilegia: Elegant Columbines

Aquilegia is one of my 10 Favorite Deer-Resistant Flowers.Known for its elegant, nodding blooms, Aquilegia adds a touch of whimsy to deer-resistant gardens. The bitter taste of Aquilegia foliage discourages deer, making it a charming and practical choice for your garden. Aquilegia, also known as Columbine or Granny Bonnets, is a perennial that can grow in shade or full sun. 

Aquilegia’s diversity in color, spurs, and height allows for creative garden designs and is known as a traditional cottage garden plant.  Their exquisite springtime blooms dance high above their mounds of lacy foliage. They are an easy way to bring color to the shady parts of the garden and can bloom well into summer. While deer pass them by, the hummingbirds hover ready to perform their pollinating job. Pairing Aquilegia with complementary deer-resistant plants enhances the visual appeal while creating a resilient ecosystem.

Digitalis: Foxglove’s Deer-Defying Charm

Digitalis or Foxglove is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers.Digitalis, commonly known as Foxglove, have towering spires of tubular flowers, standing tall as both a garden focal point and deer deterrent. Deer instinctively avoid toxic plants, and Foxglove’s presence in your garden sends a clear signal of unpalatability. On the other hand, the hummingbirds in my garden go crazy for the foxglove! Digitalis is a perennial that is shade tolerant but you can also grow it in full sun. Strategic placement of Foxglove amidst other deer resistant flowers maximizes its impact while promoting a diverse and thriving garden.

Monarda: Bee Balm’s Double Duty

Red monarda is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Plants.Bee Balm’s showy blossoms and aromatic leaves make it a garden favorite, serving a dual purpose as a visual delight and a deer-resistant option. Monarda’s strong minty fragrance and slightly bitter taste make it unappealing to deer, safeguarding it from their munching tendencies. Bee Balm’s ability to attract pollinators adds ecological value to your garden, creating a dynamic and balanced ecosystem.

From borders to wildflower meadows, Monarda adapts well to various garden styles, providing versatility and charm. In my garden, the hummingbirds and sphinx moths absolutely love Monarda. They come in lovely shades of pink, salmon, red, scarlet and crimson. This is one of the easiest garden plants to grow and can tolerate both sun and shade. A deer resistant flower like Monarda is a great choice for the garden.

Poppy: Dazzling Blooms, Deer Discouraged

Deer do not eat Poppies.Poppies, with their vibrant and delicate petals, bring a touch of fancy to deer-resistant gardens, while their unique features deter hungry deer. The latex sap and bristly texture of poppies make them an unattractive option for deer, ensuring your garden remains untouched and in full bloom. According to Cornell University, Poppies are rarely damaged by deer.

With their range of colors, Poppies can be integrated into various garden designs, adding a pop of color and a sense of playfulness. Poppies are sun lovers and a long lived perennial. My favorite is Poppy Pizzicato which comes in a mix of colors, have stronger stems then most and are a wee bit shorter than other varieties. Poppies are certainly one of my first choices for deer resistant flowers.

Ageratum: Compact and Deer Dislike

Ageratum is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers.

Ageratum, an easy to grow annual, is an old favorite of mine because it really does everything I want in the garden. The powder blue button blooms of the Ageratum “Blue Horizon” variety grow on 30” strong stems. Cut them for your vase and they still keep coming. We also get lots of butterflies landing on ours especially in the fall during their final migrations. 

The deer have never bothered our Ageratum and are on the deer resistant plant lists from the University of Minnesota and Washington State University. Its slightly bitter taste, makes it a less tempting target for deer, ensuring your garden’s aesthetic remains intact. Easy to grow and maintain, Ageratum offers a burst of blue color throughout the season, contributing to a lively and resilient garden landscape.

Cleome: Spider Flower’s Deer-Defiant Allure

Cleome is one of my 10 Favorite Deer-Resistant plants.Cleome, also known as the Spider Flower, captivates with its unique, spider-like blooms and, fortunately, repels deer with its distinctive scent. Spider Flower’s spiky foliage and pungent aroma act as a natural deterrent, ensuring deer look elsewhere for their munching needs. They love lots of sun and are drought and heat tolerant. Cleome fills out the back of the border beautifully or can stand on it’s own. 

Incorporating Cleome into mixed plantings adds texture and vertical interest, creating a dynamic and visually appealing garden design. Cleome is an annual, yet every year it reseeds so I think of it as a perennial. Proper care, including well-drained soil and adequate sunlight, ensures the health and vigor of Cleome, allowing it to thrive as a deer-resistant garden gem.

Marigold: Vibrant Blooms, Deer-Proof Leaves

The Marigold is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers.Marigolds, with their vibrant hues and distinctive scent, not only add a pop of color but also deter deer with their unpalatable leaves. The aromatic compounds in Marigolds make them a less appealing option for deer, ensuring your garden remains untouched by these hungry visitors. Their leaves and flowers have a most delicate appearance but they are tough in every other way. My favorite variety is the Marigold Lemon Gems. They are truly gems in the garden with their mass of tiny blossoms that are in constant bloom no matter the weather. They will round out the edge of your garden perfectly.

Beyond their deer-resistant qualities, Marigolds serve as natural pest control, making them a valuable addition to any garden seeking a balance between beauty and functionality. From French Marigolds to African Marigolds, each variety brings its own charm to the garden, allowing for a varied and visually captivating landscape. Best of all, they need little else but sun and water to thrive. They are listed in the University of Minnesota guide to Deer-Resistant plants.

Nicotiana: Ornamental Tobacco’s Unappealing Taste

Nicotiana is one of my 10 Favorite Deer Resistant Flowers.Nicotiana is full of colorful small bells that dangle from this lovely plant. When the evening moths pollinate Nicotiana, they help release a lovely fragrance that you get to enjoy. The hummingbirds are crazy for it! We just couldn’t get over how beautiful this plant was in our garden. It can handle some really cold weather, well into late fall. And although an annual, every year it drops its seeds that will sprout naturally next spring. 

The deer definitely don’t like Nicotiana. The alkaloids present in Nicotiana act as a natural defense mechanism and it’s an unappealing taste that discourages grazing. Cornell University puts ornamental tobacco on their deer resistant flowers list. Nicotiana’s tall flower spikes make it an excellent choice for adding height and visual interest to borders, ensuring a deer-resistant and eye-catching garden. Strategically combining Nicotiana with other deer-resistant plants enhances the overall resilience of your garden, creating a harmonious and protective environment.

Salvia: Sage’s Deer-Defying Scent

Salvia is an annual deer-resistant plant.The hummingbirds are grateful for this one while the deer are disappointed. Graceful and pretty to our eyes, they are abundant food to a bird’s eye. My favorite, Salvia Hummingbird Lady In Red, not only adds a burst of color but also defies deer with its aromatic oils and resilient nature. The strong, fragrant oils in Salvia leaves create an olfactory shield, making it an unappealing option for deer and a fragrant addition to your garden. Salvia is considered one of the top plants for attracting hummingbirds! True red tubular flowers adorn the stems and can bloom well into November despite a hard frost. At the same time, they can give your garden a bold new look! 

The University of Minnesota and Washington State University both have Salvia on their deer resistant list. Salvia’s upright growth habit and diverse varieties make it an excellent choice for providing structure and form in your garden design. With proper care, including well-drained soil and regular pruning, Salvia thrives, ensuring your garden remains a sanctuary protected from deer intrusion.

In a Nutshell

In summary, these ten deer resistant flowers—Lavender, Aquilegia, Digitalis, Monarda, Poppy, Ageratum, Cleome, Marigold, Nicotiana, and Salvia—offer a diverse palette for creating a resilient and visually stunning garden. While deer pose a challenge, experimenting with these plants allows gardeners to discover their personal favorites and design a space that thrives against all odds. In the dance between nature and nurture, these deer-resistant plants stand as partners, helping you create a beautiful garden that flourishes, untouched by the persistent nibbling of deer. For other ideas on how to keep deer out of the garden read my recent post: Best Ways To Keep Deer Out Of The Garden.

FAQ – Deer Resistant Flowers 

Why should I choose deer resistant flowers for my garden?

Deer resistant flowers help prevent damage to your carefully tended plants by deterring deer from munching on them. This ensures your garden remains visually appealing and thriving.

What are some key characteristics of Lavender that make it deer-resistant?

Lavender’s strong scent and tough foliage make it unattractive to deer. It requires well-drained soil, lots of sunlight, and occasional pruning for optimal growth.

What is unique about Aquilegia (Columbine) as a deer-resistant plant?

Aquilegia’s bitter-tasting foliage discourages deer. It’s a versatile perennial that can grow in shade or full sun, adding whimsy to your garden.

How does Digitalis (Foxglove) act as a deer deterrent?

Foxglove’s towering spires of tubular flowers contain compounds that deer instinctively avoid. Its presence in the garden signals unpalatability to deer.

What dual purpose does Bee Balm (Monarda) serve in the garden?

Bee Balm’s strong minty fragrance and slightly bitter taste make it unappealing to deer. Additionally, it attracts pollinators, contributing to a dynamic and balanced ecosystem.

Why are Poppies recommended for deer-resistant gardens?

Poppies deter deer with their latex sap and bristly texture. They come in various colors, adding vibrancy and playfulness to the garden. Poppies are one of the perennial deer resistant flowers.

What makes Ageratum a suitable deer-resistant option?

Ageratum’s slightly bitter taste makes it less tempting for deer. It’s an easy-to-grow annual that offers a burst of blue color throughout the season. It is one of the annual deer resistant flowers.

How does Cleome (Spider Flower) defy deer with its allure?

Cleome’s spiky foliage and pungent aroma act as natural deterrents for deer. Its unique spider-like blooms add texture and vertical interest to the garden.

Why are Marigolds recommended for deer-proof gardens?

Marigolds have unpalatable leaves, and their aromatic compounds make them less appealing to deer. They serve as natural pest control while adding vibrant hues to the garden.

What characteristics of Nicotiana contribute to its deer-resistant nature?

Nicotiana contains alkaloids that create an unappealing taste for deer. Its colorful bells and fragrance make it a beautiful addition to the garden.

How does Salvia (Sage) defy deer with its scent?

Salvia’s strong, fragrant oils create an olfactory shield, making it unappealing to deer. It adds bursts of color and structure to the garden design.

Can these deer resistant flowers thrive in various garden styles?

Yes, these plants offer versatility, allowing them to adapt to different garden styles, from cottage gardens to wildflower meadows.

Do these plants require special care to remain deer-resistant?

While these plants are naturally deer-resistant, providing proper care such as well-drained soil and occasional pruning ensures their health and vigor.

Can I create a diverse and visually stunning garden using these deer-resistant plants?

Absolutely! Experimenting with these ten plants allows you to create a resilient and visually appealing garden that thrives despite the presence of deer.

How can I ensure a balance between beauty and functionality in my garden with these plants?

Beyond their deer-resistant qualities, many of these plants serve additional purposes, such as attracting pollinators or acting as natural pest control, contributing to a balanced ecosystem in your garden.

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As part of Graceful Gardens for decades, I’ve garnered a wealth of knowledge about growing Delphiniums, perennials and annual flowers, and I am eager to share these insights with all of you.

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