10 Best Flowering Plants That Deer Will Not Eat

Red Oriental Poppies

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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 all kinds of ways to repel deer from the garden, but many of these solutions are ineffective, expensive, or distasteful enough to deter the gardener as much as the pests. If you cannot keep the deer away from the garden, you can plant flowers that do not appeal to deer. These 10 choices include options for sun, shade, and all seasons. 

Tip

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

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    With its delicate ferny foliage and appealing heart-shaped flowers that dangle from graceful, arching stems, bleeding heart plants may look like a deer menu item. 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 may wither if exposed to much sun or heat. When this happens they will generally reappear the following spring. Plant the flowers 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: Part sun to shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich and moist
  • 02 of 10

    Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    Coneflower
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    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 flower cannot do? The many new varieties of coneflowers on the market make it a designer's delight. Coneflower blooms multiple times a year, making it a solid choice for informal gardens

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained sandy, rocky, and clay soils
  • 03 of 10

    Corydalis

    Corydalis

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    Not your average shade garden plant, the corydalis is noteworthy for its beautiful fern-like foliage and long blooming period. The plants resemble bleeding hearts, but the flower colors include yellow, purple, and blue varieties. Gardeners in areas with cool summers will have the best luck growing corydalis, where it can even become somewhat aggressive in moist soils. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue, pink, purple, white and yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, humus-rich, consistently moist soil 
  • 04 of 10

    Coreopsis (Coreopsis)

    Coreopsis

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    Lance-leaf 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 as it's drought-tolerant and needs no fertilizing. Deadheading blooms can encourage more flowers throughout the summer.

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

    Daffodil (Narcissus)

    Spring Blooming Daffodils

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    On the delicious spring bulb spectrum, daffodils are on the opposite end from tulips. Deer do not care for the 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, red, orange, green or pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich and moist
  • 06 of 10

    Lavender (Lavandula)

    Lavender Plants

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     What delights the olfactory senses of people is abhorrent to a deer. Both the foliage and the flowers of lavender emit the sweet perfume so beloved by potpourri makers. In warmer climates lavender can grow to become fragrant hedges; in cooler weather, they struggle a bit. In either case, lavender is not long-lived.

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

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

    Pulmonaria

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     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, they are quite drought-tolerant and do not require fertilizing. Raspberry Splash is a common cultivar that is also said to be powdery mildew resistant. 

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

    Poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.)

    Red Oriental Poppies

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    The legend and mystique of the poppy plant cause some gardeners trepidation about including it in the flowerbed. In fact, 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 is what 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

    Warning

    Poppies are toxic, and should not be grown where children and pets live.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Vinca (Cartharanthus)

    Periwinkle

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    The Madagascar periwinkle sounds like an exotic hothouse flower, but this hardworking annual shrugs off deer, rabbits, and drought with its leathery foliage. Whether you need reliable bedding plants, something for the container garden, a showy edging plant, or even a houseplant, vinca flowers will fill all of these plant niches. Expect your vinca plants to flower from late spring until frost, although flowering is best in hot weather. Provide a balanced flower fertilizer every other week for a low-maintenance flowerbed. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, blue, purple, variegated
    • Sun Exposure: Full or partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Average well-drained soil
  • 10 of 10

    Winter Aconite (Eranthus hyemalis)

    Winter Aconite

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    At the end of 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. Plant winter aconite bulbs three inches deep in the fall, after soaking the tubers to wake them from dormancy. The flowers are a good choice for areas under deciduous trees that are sunny in late winter, but shady in summer. If your winter aconite patch gets regular irrigation, you will enjoy an ever-enlarging naturalized collection of these flowers. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Bright yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils