'Deer-Resistant' Plants

Jean Kuehn, UM Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, April 25.

As we start working in our gardens this spring, full of hope and mental images of the gorgeous plants and flowers that will surely bring joy to all of us, please remember—a garden is always a work in progress!  As we learn and improve, our gardens improve but apparently wildlife seems to also appreciate our efforts thinking it is a buffet for them.  Deer and rabbits are heavy feeders in our gardens.  In my back yard the chain link fence has been backed with hardware cloth and chicken wire to minimize rabbit damage and it is working, but the gate must be closed every time or they will sneak in.   I saw actual blooms on my tulips for the first time in three years--and thenthe deer jumped the fence and ate them.  Deer are not the major problem in southern Anoka County but as we edge slightly north, they can be a big problem.

While we all know from experience, our own and others,  deer will eat most plant. However, there are some flowers that are not their favorites.  These are referred to as “deer-resistant” plants.   My own interpretation of this phrase is that you are still serving a nice salad, but without the dressing.  So, with that disclaimer here is a list of some “deer resistant” flowers,



  • Yarrow 18”-3’ Drought tolerant; prefers full sun - Achillea
  • Ageratum 6-24” Beautiful blue, pink or white flowers; easy to grow - Ageratum houstonianum
  • Ornamental onion 1-4’ Many forms and species; tough and may self-seed -Allium .
  • Columbine 1-3’ Short-lived, but self-seeds; showy flowers - Aquilegia canadensis
  • Begonia 8-2’ Dependable flowers; shade and drought tolerant - Begonia semperflorens
  • Coneflower 2-3’ Native; attracts birds and butterflies; well-drained soil-Echinacea purpurea
  • Heliotrope 18-24” Cherry-pie fragrance; tough, long lasting flowers - Heliotropium arborescens
  • Sweet alyssum 4-12” Edging and container plant; self-seeds -  Lobularia ma
  • Daffodil 6-24” Poisonous to squirrels and deer; can be planted under trees - Narcissus spp.
  • Peony 2-3’ Long lasting perennial; may need staking; prefers full sun - Paeonia lactiflora
  • Poppy 1-3’ Showy flowers; can self-seed; many species and cultivars - Papaver
  • Geranium 12-18” Cemetery plant; tough and drought resistant - Pelargonium xhortorum
  • Russian sage 3-4’ Drought tolerant; prefers full sun - Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Blue salvia 24-30” Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds -. Salvia farinacea
  • Dusty miller 6-15” Silver-grey or white foliage; drought and cold tolerant -  Senecio cineraria