Deer Resistant Plants


Deer prefer to feed on certain plant species, including some ornamental plants used for landscaping.  

Additionally, ornamental plants may be more attractive to deer because they are fertilized and irrigated.  Deer avoid feeding on some species of plants because they are less palatable.  A technique to reduce deer browsing of landscape plants is to substitute less palatable species of plants for those that deer prefer to eat.  Though no plants are totally resistant to deer browsing, some are less palatable to deer and are less likely to receive heavy damage. 

Whether deer will eat a particular plant species or variety depends on the deer’s previous experience, nutritional needs, plant palatability, seasonal factors, weather conditions, and the availability of alternative foods.  Deer are creatures of habit, and prior movement patterns or foraging experience can help predict where damage can occur.  New plantings added to an existing landscape already severely damaged by deer will likely suffer extreme browsing pressure. 

Deer may sample some less palatable plants until they determine the plants are varieties they do not prefer.  Snow cover may prevent deer from finding food, and high deer numbers can create competition for available food, which can cause hungry deer to eat whatever plants are available. Note that unpalatable landscape plants may still incur antler rubbing damage.  Only physical protection such as exclusion techniques can reduce or prevent deer antler rub damage to trees and shrubs. 

To minimize deer damage, select landscape and garden plants that are less preferred by deer.  

The following lists below provide a guide to the relative likelihood of deer damage to commonly utilized plants.  This information can be useful for both selecting plants that are less likely to be damaged by deer and identifying those ornamentals that frequently require protection.

Plants listed as rarely damaged are infrequently fed upon by deer and are the best candidates for landscapes prone to deer damage.  Deer sometimes feed on ornamentals listed as seldom severely damaged, but the damage is usually minor and has limited effect on the shape or attractiveness of the plant.  The category of occasionally damaged includes plants that may be severely damaged by deer. Finally, ornamental plants in the frequently damaged category appear to be preferred by deer and usually require physical or chemical protection whenever deer are present. 

Before planting any of the following plant species, check to make sure that they are adapted to local climate and soil conditions.

REMEMBER: Under some conditions, deer may eat unpalatable or “deer-resistant” plants — no plant species will be avoided by deer under all conditions.

Additional Resources

  1. Plants Rarely Damaged
  2. Plants Seldom Severely Damaged
  3. Plants Occasionally Damaged
  4. Plants Frequently Damaged




Achillea spp.Yarrow
Aconitum spp.Monkshood
Allium spp.Onion
Allium christophiiStar of Persia
Allium neapolitanumDaffodil garlic
Allium ostrowskianumLily leek
Anemone x hybridaJapanese anemone
Anemonella thalictroidesRue anemone
Aquilegia spp.Columbine
Arabis spp.Rockcress
Arisaema thiphylumJack-in-the-pulpit
Aubrietia deltoideaRock cress
Aurinia saxatilisBasket-of-gold
Bergenia spp.Bergenia
Cerastostigma plumbaginoidesPlumbago
Cimicifuga racemosaSnakeroot
Colchicum autumnaleColchicum
Colchicum speciosumColchicum
Consolida ambiguaLarkspur
Coreopsis verticillataThreadleaf coreopsis
Cyclamen hederifoliumNeapolitan cyclamen
Dicentra spectabilisBleeding heart
Digitalis spp.Foxglove
Dryopteris marginalisWood fern
Echinacea purpureaPurple coneflower
Epimedium spp.Barrenwort
Euphorbia spp.Euphorbia
Fritillaria spp.Fritillary
Galium odoratumSweet woodruff
Gloriosa superbaGlory lily
Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’Stella d’Oro’ daylily
Lamium maculatumDeadnettle
Lavandula spp.Lavender
Linaria vulgarisToadflax
Lindera benzoinNative spicebush
Lychnis coronariaRose campion
Matteuccia struthiopterisOstrich fern
Narcissus spp.Daffodil
Osmunda regalis var. spectabilisRoyal fern
Pachysandra procumbensAllegheny spurge
Pachysandra terminalisJapanese spurge
Papaver orientaleOriental poppy
Perovskia atriplicifoliaRussian sage
Rudbeckia spp.Coneflower
Salvia spp.Sage
Santolina chamaecyparissusLavender cotton
Scilla spp.Squill
Stachys byzantinaLamb's ears
Tanacetum vulgareCommon tansy
Thymus spp.Thyme
Tiarella cordifoliaFoam flower
Yucca spp.Yucca




Ageratum houstonianumAgeratum
Anethum graveolensCommon dill
Antirrhinum majusSnapdragon
Capsicum annuumHot peppers
Capsicum frutescensSweet peppers
Citrulus lanatusWatermelon
Cucumis melo cantalupensisCanteloupe
Cucumis sativusCucumber
Hyacinthus orientalisHyacinth
Lobularia maritimaSweet alyssum
Nicotiana spp.Flowering tobacco
Pelargonium spp.Scented geranium
Rheum rhabarbarumRhubarb
Solanum melongenaEggplant
Tagetes spp.Marigold
Tropaeolum majusNasturtium




Ravennae Grass, hardy pampas grass
Saccharum ravennae

Japanese silver grass
Miscanthus sinensis'Cabaret'
Miscanthus sinensis'Cosmopolitan'
Miscanthus sinensis'Malepartus'
Miscanthus sinensis'Morning Light'
Miscanthus sinensis'Strictus'
Miscanthus sinensis'Variegatus'
Miscanthus sinensis'Zebrinus'

Switch grass
Panicum virgatum'Cloud Nine'
Panicum virgatum'Dallas Blues'
Panicum virgatum'Heavy Metal'
Panicum virgatum'Northwind'
Panicum virgatum'Shenandoah'

Tall purple moor grass
Molinia litoralis'Skyracer'
Molinia litoralis'Transparent'

Feather-reed grass
Calamagrotis xacutifolia'Karl Foerster'

Northern sea oats
Chasmanthium latifloium

Fountain grass
Pennisetum orientale'Karley Rose'

Japanese grass
Hakonechloa macra'Aureola'

Carex morrowii'Variegata'
Carex oshimensis'Evergold'
Carex flagelligera'Toffee Twist'




Andropogon gerardiiBig bluestem
Boutelous curtipendulaSideoats grama
Carex muskingumensisPalm sedge
Carex pennsylvanicaPennsylvania sedge
Slymus canadensisCanada wild rye
Koeleria macranthaPrairie June grass
Luzula multifloraWoodrush
Panicum virgatumSwitchgrass
Schizachrium scopariumLittle bluestem
Sorghastrum nutansIndian grass
Sprobolis heterolepisPrairie dropseed




Buxus sempervirensCommon boxwood
Ilex opacaAmerican holly
Leucothoe fontanesianaDrooping leucothoe
Pieris japonicaJapanese pieris




Betula papyriferaPaper birch
Picea pungensColorado blue spruce