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 many ways to repel deer from gardens, 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. The flowering plants described here include options for sun, shade, and various 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 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)

    Echinacea Meadow
    Sandra Clegg / Getty Images

    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. Tolerates 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

    Corydalis

    Monique Brunsberg/America 24-7 / Getty Images

    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

    John Lawson/Moment Open / Getty Images

    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)

    Spring Blooming Daffodils

    Tobias Wenner / Getty Images

    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 Plants

    Yannick Moigne / Getty Images

     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)

    Pulmonaria

    Justus de Cuveland / Getty Images

     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.)

    Red Oriental Poppies

    Uwe Steffens / Getty Images

    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

    Warning

    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)

    Periwinkle

    Joseph Chin/EyeEm / Getty Images

    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

    Martin Ruegner/The Image Bank / Getty Images

    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
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  1. Deer-Tolerant Ornamental Plants. University of Georgia Extension