white tailed deer eating plants in a garden

White-tailed deer are common in the Hudson Valley and they often browse in gardens. Fencing off flower beds looks ugly and is expensive, deer repellents require constant re-application and are costly. So I decided to garden with plants deer don’t like to eat, hoping the deer would dine elsewhere.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite perennial plants that deer usually avoid eating. They are hardy in USDA climate zone 5.

For Spring

Lamium – A pretty ground cover for shade/part shade. The decorative leaves have silver, white or yellow patches. Flowers are small and pink or white. I really like the raspberry pink flowers on is this one, Lamium maculatum Chequers. Lamiums grow about 6″ tall.

deer resistant lamium plant

Lamium

Dianthus – These plants are drought tolerant and great for xeriscape gardens.  The silvery foliage forms neat, dense clumps. There are many varieties and flowers can be white, pink or red. Some have a gorgeous ‘clove’ fragrance. This award-winning variety is ‘Firewitch’, it has magenta colored  flowers.

dianthus 'Fire Witch' has magenta flowers and is not eaten by deer

Dianthus ‘Fire Witch’

Creeping Phlox – An excellent ground cover with tiny pointed evergreen leaves and pink, purple or candy-striped flowers. Grows about 6″ tall and tolerates poor, dry soil. Bloom time is April – May.

creeping phlox is not deer food

Creeping Phlox

For Summer

Bearded Iris – This plant has attractive vertical spike-shaped leaves and large blooms. Thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. There are different sizes; tall, standard, dwarf and miniature. So many choices of flower color!

bearded iris plants are deer resistant

bearded iris are seldom eaten by deer

Bearded iris – this one is fragrant!

Coreopsis – Grows well in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. A native prairie and woodland plant. There are many different flower colors and forms., this one is called ‘Moonbeam’ it is an award-winning variety and I can see why, with pretty foliage and masses of yellow flowers. Bees love it! Easy to grow and trouble-free.

coreopsis moonbeam with yellow flowers

Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’

Monarda – The leaves are fragrant and flowers come in shades of red, pink or purple. Recently, smaller varieties have been introduced and they can be grown in pots. Attractive to hummingbirds.

red monarda aka bee balm

Monarda looks fabulous when planted in large drifts

A single monarda flower

Monarda flower

Gaillardia –  A native prairie plant, it thrives in full sun, flowers can be red, orange or yellow. This one is ‘Gaillardia Globin’ it’s about 12″ tall, a neat mound of foliage and smothered in flowers. Great for the front of the border.

red and yellow gaillardia flowers are never eaten by deer

Gaillardia, also known as ‘Blanket Flower’

For Fall

Stachys – Grown as a foliage plant, the beautiful silvery leaves are covered in soft hair. Does well in full sun. This one is called ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’, it grows about 15″ tall, the flower spikes are about 20″. Great for hot dry xeriscape areas. In the spring, the tiny purple flowers attract bumble bees.

stachys aka lambs ears

Stachys

stachys flowers

Stachys flower spikes

Aster – Flower colors are white, pink and purple. Attractive to butterflies. Sun to part shade. I grow this small aster called ‘Pink Dome’, it grows to 12″. Really lovely flowers!

pink aster flowers

Aster

Rudbeckia – Unfortunately deer do very occasionally eat the flower buds, but the plants will produce more flowers later in the season. The seed heads are a source of food for goldfinches and other seed eating birds. This one is an award-winning garden classic, ‘Rudbeckia Goldsturm’. It grows to about 2′ tall and is covered in bright yellow flowers in late summer/early fall.

rudbeckia flowers

Rudbeckia

rudbeckia flowers with butterfly

Rudbeckia flowers provide nectar for butterflies

I’m all about ‘low maintenance gardening’ and love these deer resistant perennials because they save me work, time and money. I don’t have to add fencing or apply chemical deer deterrents. At first I felt frustrated by the restricted selection but not any more. After a few seasons, it’s obvious that deer find these beautiful flowers inedible and the buffet is closed. (I do still miss roses though!).

If you’ve had success with a plant that’s not included here, add a comment and share your knowledge with the Hudson Valley gardening community!

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