10 Deer-Repellent Shrubs for Landscaping

Landscape shrubs are not the preferred food for white-tailed deer, but they will eat them in a pinch, as so many homeowners in suburban or rural areas can tell you. During a cold winter or at other times when natural sources of food are low, your landscape can be devastated by deer feeding on shrubs and small trees. Sometimes the damage is merely cosmetic and the plant will recover, but if the bark is completely stripped from a shrub or tree, the plant can be killed. 

If you live in a region where white-tailed deer are prevalent, consider planting shrubs that deer are less likely to munch on. There are many possibilities among evergreen species, flowering shrubs, and other specimens.

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Watch Now: Tips for Selecting the Right Shrubs

  • 01 of 10

    Boxwood

    Close up of trimmed evergreen boxwood plant

    Cora Niele / Getty Images

    Boxwoods (Buxus) are plants known as broadleaf evergreens, meaning that they have broad leaves like deciduous pants, but keep their leaves in the winter. This makes it a very popular plant for hedges. Boxwoods contain alkaloids that are distasteful to deer. 

  • 02 of 10

    Juniper

    Juniper shrubs in the garden

    valery_green / Getty Images

    Junipers are members of the cypress family and have a very heavy, fragrant odor. Because deer have such a sensitive sense of smell, they dislike any plants with a heavy odor. Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata Blue Star) is a small, slow-growing, rounded bush that is a good choice in beds where a bluish accent is needed. Meanwhile, Blue Rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis Blue Rug) serves as a ground cover; you will often see it growing on hillsides. For a totally different look, try the Pfitzer Chinese junipers (Juniperus chinensis Pfitzeriana Glauca) that have been trained into pom-poms.

  • 03 of 10

    Arrowwood Viburnum

    Viburnum dilatatum

    W.Baumgartner / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    You get a 3-for-1 deal with arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). This deer-resistant shrub bears colorful fall foliage and berries, in addition to blooming in spring.

  • 04 of 10

    Andromeda

    Pieris japonica bush

    Roman Khomlyak / Getty Images

    Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a multidimensional shrub. Although it is technically an evergreen and could have been listed with those shrubs, this bush is also grown for its blooms, which give off a powerful smell in early spring. This rich smell makes deer recoil.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Bluebeard

    Caryopteris in a garden

    Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Bluebeard (Caryopteris) blooms in late summer, at a time when relatively few bushes are flowering. In addition, bluebeard or blue mist shrub is drought-tolerant. Like many plants on this list, it is the heavy scent that repels deer.

  • 06 of 10

    Russian Sage

    Russian Sage and Adobe Wall

    cstar55 / Getty Images

    Like Bluebeard, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which is technically a subshrub, has bluish flowers with silvery-gray foliage and is drought-tolerant. But it blooms earlier and for a longer time than bluebeard. 

  • 07 of 10

    Butterfly Bush

    Buddleia lochinch shrub

    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    Although butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is considered too invasive in many regions, it may well work for you, so do your homework. Blue Chip butterfly bush, for example, is a newer cultivar that promises to be non-invasive. 

  • 08 of 10

    Shrub Roses

    Shrub rose

    Barry Winiker / Getty Images

    Shrub roses, in general, are good plants where deer are a problem, due to the thorny stems that deer do not like to eat. Candy Oh! is a favored variety that is known for its fragrance and vibrant coloring. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Bayberry

    Bayberry bush
    David Beaulieu

    Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a native of eastern North America, a shrub you are more likely to see in the wild there than in people's yards. It is the fragrance of bayberry that deters our cloven-hoofed garden pests from eating it.

  • 10 of 10

    Carol Mackie Daphne

    Carol Mackie daphne in bloom with its variegated leaves

    David Beaulieu

    Carol Mackie daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie') is a variegated bush with extremely fragrant flowers. Its fragrance is one of the true delights of the spring garden, but the aroma and poisonous berries are distasteful to deer. It is evergreen to zone 5. 

If you've found some shrubs you like from this list you can also check out the top deer-resistant trees to choose from.