10 Best Flowering Plants That Deer Will Not Eat

Bleeding heart plant with small fuchsia-colored and heart-shaped flower vines between leaves closeup

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Deer have become a major irritant to suburban and exurban gardeners. Not only are they more prevalent as a result of human encroachment on their territory, but deer are attracted to exactly the kind of soft, easy-to-find vegetation that we prefer in our gardens. There are many ways to rid your garden of deer, but many of these solutions are ineffective, expensive, or distasteful enough to deter the gardener as much as the deer. If you cannot keep deer away from the garden, you can plant flowers that do not appeal to them.

Lavender, poppies, daffodils, vincas, and bleeding hearts are a few popular flowers that deer do not eat, making great choices for gardeners to deter them from their plants. Deer avoid some flowers that are toxic to them, while others simply have off-putting smells that keep hungry pests at bay.

Below, discover deer-resistant flowering plants options for sun, shade, and various seasons. 


As you plan your garden, look carefully at the sun and soil requirements for each of these plants. There's a good chance you'll be able to create a deer-proof garden that will bloom from early spring to late summer.

  • 01 of 10

    Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

    Bleeding heart plant with pink heart-shaped flowers hanging off stems closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    With its delicate ferny foliage and appealing heart-shaped flowers that dangle from graceful, arching stems, bleeding hearts might look like a menu item for deer. However, neither deer, nor rabbits, nor heavy shade deters the spring blossom show of these old-fashioned favorites. Shade-loving woodland plants that bloom in the cool of spring, bleeding heart might wither if exposed to too much sun or heat. When this happens they will generally reappear the following spring. Plant them among hostas, which will fill in as the bleeding heart foliage disappears in the summer. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Shade to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich and moist
  • 02 of 10

    Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    Coneflower plants with pink flowers and orange centers in garden

     The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Coneflower attracts butterflies, nourishes bees and wild birds, self-seeds in a non-aggressive way, and grows in sun or partial shade. Is there anything this versatile plant cannot do? The many new varieties of coneflowers on the market make it a designer's delight. Coneflowers bloom longer than many other perennial plants, making them an excellent choice for perennial gardens. They tolerate heat and drought conditions quite well.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Purple, white, pink, lavender, red, yellow, orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained fertile soil high in organic matter
  • 03 of 10


    Corydalis plant with long yellow tube-like flowers surrounded by fern-like foliage

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Not your average shade garden plant, the corydalis is noteworthy for its beautiful fern-like foliage and long blooming period. Corydalis resemble bleeding hearts, but their blooms are usually yellow or blue. Gardeners in areas with cool summers will have the best luck growing corydalis. Corydalis can become a somewhat aggressive self-sower when planted in favorable conditions. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Blue, yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, humus-rich, consistently moist soil 
  • 04 of 10

    Coreopsis (Coreopsis)

    Coreopsis flowers with yellow petals clustered together off stem in sunlight

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Lanceleaf coreopsis plants are seldom browsed by deer, but you can plant Threadleaf coreopsis with even greater confidence, as it rarely receives even a nibble by passing deer. Coreopsis is easy to grow because it is drought-tolerant and needs no fertilizing. Deadheading spent blooms can encourage more flowers throughout the summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, pink, red, maroon
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, sandy soil
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Daffodil (Narcissus)

    White daffodil flowers with yellow centers surrounded by long leaves in sunlight

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    On the delicious spring bulb spectrum, daffodils and tulips are on opposite ends. Deer do not care for the daffodil's milky sap and neither do squirrels or rabbits. Daffodils have the added benefit of multiplying over the years, unlike tulips, which tend to dwindle in number each season. New exciting double forms and pinky-salmon colors make daffodils an essential part of any spring deer-proof garden.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, white, orange, apricot, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist but well drained
  • 06 of 10

    Lavender (Lavandula)

    Lavender plant with small purple flowers on end of thin stems clustered together with bee on top

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    What delights the olfactory senses of people is loathed by deer. Both the lavender foliage and blooms emit the sweet perfume so beloved by potpourri makers. In warmer climates lavender can be grown into fragrant hedges; in cooler climates, they struggle a bit. In either case, lavender is not a long-lived perennial plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Purple, violet-blue, rose, pale pink, white, and yellow (rare)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil, preferably sandy
  • 07 of 10

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

    Lungwort plant with white freckled leaves and small pink and purple funnel-shaped flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Pulmonaria plants with their quirky name and freckled foliage are an unsung hero of the shade garden. These low maintenance plants not only repel deer but also grow in the dense shade of walnut trees with no signs of the juglone toxicity that plague other shade lovers like azaleas. They are among the earliest plants to bloom in the spring. 'Raspberry Splash' is a common cultivar that is reportedly resistant to powdery mildew. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Brilliant blue, pink, and white
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Organically rich, well-drained, moist soil
  • 08 of 10

    Poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.)

    Poppy plant with white flowers tipped with light pink surrounded by thin drooping stems

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    The legend and mystique of the poppy plant causes some gardeners trepidation about including it in a flower bed. However, poppies are easy to grow from seed and bloom for about two weeks. In addition, many poppies also have ornamental seed pods that endure for weeks afterward. The poppy plant's toxicity causes deer to steer clear.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9 depending on variety
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average well-drained soil


    Poppies are toxic if consumed. Keep out of the reach of children and pets.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Vinca (Cartharanthus)

    Vinca plant with purple flowers surrounded by dark green and leathery leaves in garden hedge

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

    Vinca, also known as the Madagascar periwinkle, sounds like an exotic hothouse flower, but this hardworking annual shrugs off deer, rabbits, and drought with its glossy green foliage. Whether you need reliable bedding plants, something for the container garden, a showy edging plant, or even a houseplant, vinca will fill all of these plant niches. Expect your vinca plants to flower from late spring until frost, although flowering more abundant in hot weather. Provide a balanced flower fertilizer every other week. Does not require deadheading.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, red, purple, many shades of pink, peach, lavender; comes in solid colors or with a contrasting eye
    • Sun Exposure: Full or part sun
    • Soil Needs: Average well-drained soil
  • 10 of 10

    Winter Aconite (Eranthus hyemalis)

    Winter aconite plant with bright yellow flowers and radiating leaves underneath closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    In mid to late winter when most appealing foliage, seeds, and brush have been browsed to the ground, the bright yellow flowers of winter aconite push their way up through the snow. You can plant these harbingers of spring with abandon along paths and open woodland areas, as deer will pass them by. In the fall, plant winter aconite tubers three inches deep, after soaking the tubers in water to wake them from dormancy. Winter aconite is a good choice to plant under deciduous trees; areas that are sunny in winter but shady in summer. If your winter aconite patch receives regular irrigation, you will enjoy an ever-enlarging naturalized collection of these blooms. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Bright yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun in winter, shade in summer
    • Soil Needs: Organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils
Article Sources
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  1. Deer-Tolerant Ornamental Plants. University of Georgia Extension

  2. Krzyżanowska-Kowalczyk, Justyna, et al. Pulmonaria Obscura and Pulmonaria Officinalis Extracts as Mitigators of Peroxynitrite-Induced Oxidative Stress and Cyclooxygenase-2 Inhibitors–In Vitro and In Silico StudiesMolecules, vol. 26, no. 3, Jan. 2021, p. 631. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.3390/molecules26030631.

  3. Plants. California Poison Control System (CPCS).