10 Best Deer-Resistant Shrubs for Landscaping

Butterfly bush

 

magicflute002 / Getty Images 

Landscape shrubs are not the preferred food for white-tailed deer, but deer will still eat them in a pinch. During a cold winter or at other times when natural food sources are low, your landscape can be devastated by deer feeding on shrubs and small trees. Sometimes the damage is merely cosmetic, and the plant can recover. But if the bark is completely stripped from a shrub or tree, that can mean the end of the plant.

There are many possibilities among evergreen species, flowering shrubs, and other specimens that deer aren't likely to munch on. Here are 10 varieties of deer-resistant shrubs.

Tip

Remember "deer-resistant" is not "deer-proof." Some animals still might choose to take a bite out of these shrubs, especially if food options are limited.

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Watch Now: Tips for Selecting the Right Shrubs

  • 01 of 10

    Boxwood (Buxus)

    closeup of a boxwood plant

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    Boxwoods (Buxus) are broadleaf evergreens, meaning they have broad leaves like deciduous pants but keep their leaves in the winter. This makes them a very popular choice for hedges. They're fairly low maintenance, except for an annual pruning to maintain their shape and remove unhealthy portions. As a bonus, boxwoods contain alkaloids that are distasteful to deer. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Dark green to yellowish-green foliage 
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, evenly moist, well-draining
  • 02 of 10

    Juniper (Juniperus sp.)

    Juniper shrubs in a garden

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    Juniper varieties are members of the cypress family and give off a heavy fragrance. And because deer have a sensitive sense of smell, they tend to dislike any plants with a strong odor. Juniper generally is low maintenance, simply requiring some pruning to control its growth. Blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star') is a small, slow-growing, rounded bush that is a good choice where a bluish accent is needed. Meanwhile, blue rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis 'Blue Rug') often serves as a ground cover on hillsides. For a different look, try the Pfitzer Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana Glauca'), which is commonly shaped into pom-poms.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Foliage of blue, green, yellow, or silver
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining
  • 03 of 10

    Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

    Viburnum dilatatum deer-resistant shrub

    W.Baumgartner/Wikimedia Commons

    You get a 3-for-1 deal with arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). This deer-resistant shrub bears reddish fall foliage and bluish berries in addition to white flowers in the spring. It grows to roughly 6 to 10 feet but can get even taller in the right conditions. Prune the shrub once a year after it's done flowering to control its height. This shrub also will spread, so remove its suckers if you want to keep it contained in one area.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White flowers, dark green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 10

    Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

    Pieris japonica shrub with pink flowers

    Roman Khomlyak/Getty Images

    Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a dense, flowering, deer-resistant shrub. Although it is an evergreen, it looks best in the early spring when its showy flowers bloom and give off a powerful aroma. This smell is what makes deer recoil and avoid eating the plant. This shrub is fairly low maintenance, simply requiring pruning to keep its shape, though it should be protected from cold winter winds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, or deep rose flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Bluebeard (Caryopteris)

    Caryopteris in a garden

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    Bluebeard or the blue mist shrub (Caryopteris) blooms in late summer at a time when relatively few bushes are flowering. This shrub is a favorite of many pollinators, and it's drought-tolerant. But while bees and butterflies like its flowers, the plant's heavy scent repels deer. To keep the plant well-shaped and flowering, cut it back by about half in the early spring. Also, prune dead and diseased parts as needed.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Blue, purple, or pink flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, neutral pH
  • 06 of 10

    Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

    Russian sage against an adobe wall

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    Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which is technically a subshrub, has bluish flowers with silvery-gray foliage. It is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. The plant spreads via underground runners and does not require much maintenance besides some pruning to keep it looking neat.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Bluish-lavender flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy or clay, alkaline, well-draining
  • 07 of 10

    Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

    Butterfly bush

     

    magicflute002 / Getty Images 

    Although the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is considered invasive in many regions, it also can be a striking addition to a landscape. Some new cultivars, such as 'Blue Chip', have few seeds or are seedless, making them less able to spread. These plants are magnets for pollinators—hence their common name—but deer tend to avoid them. They also require little care. Pruning is optional if you wish to keep the bush compact with more prolific flowers. Some gardeners even choose to trim the stems down to the ground in early winter to give their landscape a cleaner look.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Bluish-purple, pink, yellow, red, or white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic to neutral, well-draining
  • 08 of 10

    Shrub Roses (Rosa sp.)

    shrub rose

    Barry Winiker/Getty Images

    In general, shrub roses are good plants where deer are a problem due to their thorny stems that deer don't like to eat. Candy Oh is a favored variety known for its fragrance and vibrant coloring. It produces beautiful blooms for most of the summer and will attract many pollinators to your garden. In general, prune roses in the early spring before blooms start to show. Remove dead, diseased, and overgrown wood to promote better air flow, which helps to prevent pests and diseases.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, yellow, or white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, evenly moist, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

    Bayberry bush
    David Beaulieu

    Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is native to eastern North America, and it's a deer-resistant shrub you are more likely to see in the wild there than in people's yards. It is the fragrance of bayberry that deters deer from eating it. The plant also is tolerant of drought, erosion, and salt. It's generally low maintenance, though you might have to remove suckers to prevent new plants from spreading where you don't want them.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellowish-green flowers, silver-gray berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 10 of 10

    Daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie')

    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. The berries also are toxic to people and pets, so take care when planting the shrub. This plant is somewhat difficult to grow, as it requires a delicate balance of soil moisture and sharp drainage. Some shrubs might die without an obvious cause, so choose a planting area that allows for easy removal if necessary.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Light pink or white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining, neutral to acidic

Like deer-resistant shrubs, there also are several deer-resistant trees—including flowering, shade, and evergreen varieties—for landscaping. Deer might nibble on these trees if they're desperate for food, but the foliage is definitely not their first choice.