Deer are creatures of habit. Once they’ve claimed your garden as their favorite lunch spot, it’s difficult to persuade them otherwise. And while there are all manner of foul-smelling repellents and deterrent devices out there, perhaps the best solution is simply to landscape with plants that deer don’t like to eat.
That’s easier said than done, of course. Many garden stalwarts—including roses, daylilies, tulips, rhododendrons, and hostas—are favorites of deer, too. All produce the tender foliage and plump buds that deer salivate over. Plus, almost any plant can be enticing in spring as it’s sprouting soft new growth. More challenging still, taste buds vary by herd, so a plant that gets sidestepped in Missouri might get eaten in Minnesota. And given a harsh winter or a summer drought, these adaptable eaters are notorious for indiscriminate feasting.
Yet, mercifully, deer do have food preferences. Trading damage-prone plants for ones with unpalatable tastes and textures is one sure way to make a yard less deer-friendly. Typically, they snub plants that are prickly, aromatic, fuzzy, or have natural poisons running through their veins. Spiky ornamental grasses and ferns, laden with such toxins, usually go unscathed, as do a number of evergreen garden staples, including boxwoods, plum yews, and most hollies. But there are also plenty of flowering perennials that don’t draw deer near. The following are among the best, compromising nothing in ornamental beauty and performance.
Shown: With its arching habit and brilliant red blooms on stems up to 4 feet tall, masses of ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia make a spectacular display. Planted in spring, these bulbs bloom in late summer. Deer generally steer clear of their strappy, grass-like foliage.
Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find the zone for your town to determine what plants will flourish in your yard.