Deer eating your garden? See 20 plants deer hate

Deer don’t like the plant called butterfly flower, and there are many other reasons you should plant this in your garden. It gets pretty flowers, monarch butterflies and hummingbirds like it, it attracts other pollinators and it’s a native plant. Oh, and check out the cool seed pods! Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


achillea or yarrow deer resistant
Achillea, also known as yarrow, blooms in the summer and has fern-like foliage. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

If you get discouraged when deer chomp away at your garden, know that growers and garden centers have the same problems.

“Deer are a battle for us,” said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 South Forest Rd., Williamsville.

In back of Mischler’s, there are fields filled with deer, eyeing the tasty plants set outside for sale.

“I swear by the repellents,” Yadon said. “If I didn’t have repellents, we wouldn’t be in business.”

Yadon’s go-to repellent is Liquid Fence. He switches that up with Everguard Deer & Rabbit Repellent so that the deer don’t get used to one or the other. They both work well, he said.

Make sure you watch your plants closely and spray the repellent on preventively. You need to spray the part of the plant the deer might eat. For example, if you sprayed the leaves of a daylily and now the plant is getting flowers, spray those buds before they become a deer delicacy.

The repellents suggest that you should spray them once a month. While they will stay on after a light rain, you should reapply after a gully washer, Yadon said. And reapply as soon as possible after the rain– The deer seem to know that after a hard rain, the plants will be tasty again.

To save yourself some time and work, choose plants that deer hate.

Well, hate is a strong word. If deer get hungry enough, they’ll eat anything; this happens especially in the winter. But you should at least choose plants for your garden that deer don’t like as much. Let the deer fill up on their favorite foods in other people’s gardens!

Here are some deer-resistant perennials that you can buy right now at Mischler’s. No, it’s not too late to plant!

Bonus tip: You’ll want to use many of these plants in your garden even if you don’t have a deer problem.

Extra bonus tip: If you don’t want to sift through this long list, skip down to the bottom and find out how you can get professionals to choose plants for you and get them delivered to your house in the Buffalo area.

Deer-resistant plants

Flowers and foliage for sun

Butterfly flower (or butterfly weed) or Asclepias tuberosa

In a previous article, we talked about using “two-fers,” plants that have at least two features that recommend them. The butterfly flower (also known as butterfly weed) or Asclepias tuberosa has many great qualities.

First, of course, it is deer resistant. It gets pretty flowers that attract and hummingbirds and other pollinators. It’s a kind of milkweed, and monarch caterpillars need milkweed.

And if you don’t like watering plants all the time, you’ll like butterfly flower. It’s drought tolerant.

The butterfly flower likes sun and gets 18 to 24 inches high.

Russian sage has a beautiful aroma, lovely foliage and pretty purple blossoms. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Achillea or yarrow

Yarrow has frilly, fern-like foliage and pretty flowers that come in many colors, including white, yellow and pink. It likes full sun and grows 24 inches tall. In addition to being deer resistant, yarrow also attracts butterflies.

Nepeta or catmint 

This is yet another plant that you may want to grow even if you don’t have a problem with deer. Catmint is a long bloomer– from May through August. The small purple flowers attract butterflies and bees. The foliage smells good.

Catmint needs part to full sun. The variety ‘Little Trudy’ is smaller than some other varieties, growing 8 to 10 inches tall and  12 to 16 inches wide.

Hardy geranium ‘Rozanne’

‘Rozanne’ is the best variety of hardy geranium, Yadon said, explaining that “it blooms almost all season.” It blooms from late spring to early fall with showy, purple flowers and is a vigorous grower.

I have it in my garden and I think it’s great, too, even though I don’t have deer. It’s easy to care for.

‘Rozanne’ is low-growing and spreads. It likes sun but can tolerate some shade.

Artemisia Silver Mound in Williamsville
Gardeners choose Artemisia for its fluffy silver foliage. Gardeners also like Artemisia because deer don’t like it. This variety is ‘Silver Mound’. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Russian sage

I personally love Russian sage because the leaves smell wonderful. It’s an ornamental plant, not an herb, and it is pretty in the garden with its purple flowers and silvery foliage. It blooms in the summer and is easy to care for.

Agastache or hyssop

In addition to being deer resistant, agastache, commonly known as hyssop, attracts pollinators including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

“It’s just an awesome bee-friendly plant,” Yadon said. “They’re all over that thing.”

It blooms almost all summer long and is drought tolerant.


People love this flowering perennial for its scent, but deer apparently don’t share our taste in perfume.

“This is a truly deer resistant plant,” Yadon said.

There are many varieties of lavender. ‘Munstead‘ is a shorter, mounding variety.

Artemisia or wormwood

This plant is used for its silvery foliage. Two different varieties are ‘Silver Brocade’ and ‘Silver Mound’.

It’s drought resistant, plus it’s rabbit resistant, too.

Ornamental grasses & sedges

There are many, many varieties of ornamental grasses, and they’re pretty much all deer resistant, Yadon said. There are tall and short varieties, smooth and fluffy varieties, striped and solid varieties. They can really add interest to your garden.

Plants in the Carex genus are deer resistant, too. Those are sedges, which are grassy plants.

Flowers & ferns for part sun to shade

fountain grass in Western New York
Pretty much any ornamental grass you choose will be deer resistant. This one is called fountain grass. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Chelone ‘Obliqua’

‘Obliqua’ is a pink turtlehead chelone, named because the flower looks like the head of a turtle. It is native to parts of North America and can get two to three feet tall. It likes a moist location.

Helleborus or Lenten rose or Christmas rose

Just when you’re tired of winter in March, the Lenten rose blooms– sometimes when there is still snow on the ground.

The plant isn’t a rose, which is in the Rosaceae family. The Helleborus is in the Ranunculaceae family, which includes the buttercup. The Lenten Rose gets large, flat flowers.

Don’t overlook plants like this; you want perennials in your garden that are interesting at various times of the year. If you plant only flowers that bloom in July, or that catch your eye when you shop in May, your yard will be boring the rest of the year.


Lungwort is a plant used for the color and texture of its foliage. There are spotted varieties as well as solid colored varieties.

It is low-growing and gets a pretty flower in the spring.

How the lungwort got its name is interesting. “Wort” means “plant” and is used especially for medicinal plants. Lungwort was used to treat breathing ailments. In medieval times it was thought that plants that were shaped like a certain body organ could be used as medicine for problems with that body organ. So lungwort was the plant used for lung conditions.

lungwort in Western New York
Not only does lungwort have interesting foliage, it gets a pretty flower in spring. It grows in shady areas. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Lily of the valley

This fragrant white flower of the lily of the valley is a symbol of springtime. It is low growing and durable.

Aruncus or goat’s beard

Mischler’s carries a dwarf goat’s beard that blooms from early to midsummer with feathery, spiky flowers that are three to four inches long. The dwarf goat’s beard gets only about a foot tall, so it’s nice for small areas.

Anemone or pasqueflower

While the common name for this plant is pasqueflower, most people actually call it anemone.

Sylvestris‘, which Mischler’s has in stock, is a spring-blooming anemone, but there are autumn-blooming varieties as well.


Monkshood is poisonous, which may be why deer don’t like it. It gets its name because the pretty flowers are shaped like the hoods on monks’ robes.


Just as most ornamental grasses are deer resistant, ferns aren’t usually bothered by deer. Ferns grow well in shady spots and add texture to those areas.

Some common ferns are ostrich fern, autumn fern and Japanese painted fern.

deer resistant go garden Mischler's
You can make an instant deer-resistant garden with a Go Garden from Mischler’s. This particular one contains Artemisia ‘Silver Brocade’, salvia, catmint, stonecrop sedum, perennial hibiscus and yarrow. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Instant deer-resistant garden

Rather than sift through a long list of plants trying to decide what you should pick, there’s an easier way to get deer-resistant perennials for your  garden.

Try Mischler’s Go Gardens, available during the growing season.

You get a collection of six plants, each in a large, one-gallon pot. For deer-resistant plants, choose the “No Deer Here” collection.

The professionals at Mischler’s choose plants looking at a number of different qualities. For example, not only will the plants be deer resistant, the plants will vary in height. There might be a plant that blooms early and something that blooms later. This gives you a good mix of plants.

Because the staff chooses from the best plants on hand, each collection contains different plants.

Other collections include “Butterfly Flutterby” for butterfly lovers, “Hummm Zinger” for bird lovers and “A Cut Above”  for people who want cut flowers, as well as  “American Natives,” “Pollinator Pals”  and “Shady Characters.”

Not only can you stop into the garden center to pick up a Go Garden, you can have one delivered to your house in the greater Buffalo area.

See more about Go Gardens here.

14 Comments on “Deer eating your garden? See 20 plants deer hate

  1. Rosalind, thanks for all that great information on horsetail fern. Whenever you want to contact me, you can find my email under “Contact Us” at the bottom of the website.

  2. Connie, I noticed a question about horsetail fern, I. a Master Gardener and I volunteer at the BNHV and we have had a battle with horsetail in one of our demonstration gardens. Horsetail is resistant to herbicides. It i an ancient plant dating back to prehistoric times. It can go dormant for years and is roundup resistant. We have dug up and replaced old soil and added landscape fabric and it still survives. It can be dug up but you have to get all of the root which is very difficult. It multiplies like mint from tiny pieces of root It is now growing up around the edges of the landscape fabric. We are trying pulling the shoots every week to discourage regrowth. .There is a reason it has survived so long..We have researched Cornell Cooperative Extension literature and found no solution.
    I would like to publish a request for volunteers to garden at the BNHV but do not see a category for such requests on your website. Rosalind Rivers

  3. looking for info on horsetail weeds.Is there a way to get rid of them without purging the whole area?

  4. Good article, most of these work well with deer. Rabbits, of course, are another issue…and so are the wood chucks and voles…! I live not far from Mischlers on Ellicott Creek and have been at it for many years with all the critters. Rotating repellents do help, but if you have heavy browsing, they will still sample! I have resorted to poles and green net fences for the gardens immediately against my house-too narrow for them to jump, about 5 feet in height.

  5. Penny, thanks so much for that list of plants that rabbits leave alone. The only one I have is salvia, but you’re right– they have never bothered it. I will have to try the others.

  6. Other plants that deer and bunnies will leave alone are Salvias, Lobelia cardinalis, Monarda, Cuphea, Silene regia and Silene virginica, Aquilegias, Penstemons, Lantana and Agastaches which were mentioned in the article. I have all of these growing and every year I have bunnies who have their babies in my yard and I have yet to lose a plant to bunnies or deer.

  7. Once again, reading your newsletter not only keep me up on what’s happening in the garden industry, it also makes me a better gardener.

  8. Don, I don’t have deer, but I have rabbits. Those baby rabbits will eat anything! And there are constantly baby rabbits! You have to keep spraying repellent to keep ahead of them. I also plant a lot of things in containers to try to keep them out of reach, and that’s where I have my butterfly weed. You can see more tips here, but it is a constant struggle. Good luck!

  9. Butterfly weed (flower) may be deer resistant but the rabbits ate mine right to the ground in early spring

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