A State-by-State Guide to Deer Resistant Plants

Why the Bucks Do Not Stop Here

Fallow deer doe (female) with oak tree branch
James Warwick/The Image bank/Getty Images

If there is one thing gardeners have in common, it is the need to ward off unwelcome wildlife. For many, that means deer. If the best defense is a good offense, then it makes sense to start by choosing deer-resistant plants.

Plants Deer Like to Eat

Deer love narrow-leaf evergreens, especially arborvitae and fir. Deer show a preference for hostas, daylilies, and English ivy. The heaviest garden browsing is from October through February. Many growers note that deer seem to prefer plants that have been fertilized.

Plants That Deer Do Not Like to Eat (Usually)

Bear in mind that the first rule of deer-proofing is that there are really no plants that are completely deer-proof. When preferred types of food are in short supply, deer will (and do) eat almost any kind of garden plant and shrub. Nevertheless, there are some plants that deer (usually) do not like to eat:

  • Poisonous plants: Deer tend to stay away from daffodils, foxgloves, monkshood, and poppies. These are common flowers that have toxins that deer avoid.
  • Fragrant plants: Deer turn up their noses at fragrant plants with strong scents. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, lavenders, peonies, and bearded irises are among these “stinky” plants that deer tend to avoid. 
  • Fuzzy or thorny plants: Deer do not like plants that are fuzzy, such as lamb's ear, or prickly such as spirea or roses, unless they are desperate.
  • Bleeding hearts: Dicentra spectabilis may be popular with people but not deer.
plants that deer do not like to eat illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

A State-by-State Resource for Deer-Resistant Plants

Just about every state has a university cooperative extension service that can provide a list of plants that are generally less popular with visiting deer. Unfortunately, no one can claim a plant is totally deer resistant—it seems the deer themselves do not read these lists. Other sources also have lists of deer-resistant plants for your landscape. 

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

  • "Deer," University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Texas

Vermont

Virginia

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

  • "Minimizing Browsing Damage by Deer," Utah Division of Wildlife Management

Washington

West Virginia

  • "Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage," West Virginia University Extension Service

Wisconsin

Wyoming