Not Tonight, Deer! Garden Plants Bambi Won’t Eat

June 15, 2016 | By | Comments (17)

“Oh, man, not boxwood again!”  Photo:

Delicious, walking venison (also known as deer) plague legions of American gardens. Grumpy’s previous post revealed those garden plants that sit atop their menu. Today, the ever-benevolent Grump lists dozens of plants deer do not like. Plant them and send herds of frustrated, ravenous walking venison over to savage your neighbor’s garden.

Any such list comes with a caveat. Although many plants qualify as deer-resistant, there is no such thing as a deer-proof plant. A starving deer will chew the tires off of your car. But by building your garden around the following plants that Bambi finds barfy, you greatly reduce the chances of waking up to a barren yard containing little more than a swing set and your Caddy Eldorado up on blocks.

Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum)

Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia)

Bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus)

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

Lantana (Lantana sp.)

Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)

Madagascar periwinkle aka annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus)

Marigold (Tagetes sp.)

Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea)

Pentas aka Egyptian star clusters (Pentas lanceolata)

Petunia (Petunia sp.)

Poppy (Papaver sp.)

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)

Spider flower (Cleome hasslerana)

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)


Daffodil (Narcissus sp.)

Dutch iris (Iris sp.)

Foxtail lily (Eremurus sp.)

Grape hyacinth (Muscari sp.)

Ornamental onion (Allium sp.)

Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)

Snowdrop (Galanthus sp.)

Snowflake (Leucojum sp.)

Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica)

Spring star flower (Ipheion uniflorum)


Agave (Agave sp.)

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)

Artemisia (Artemisia sp.)

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.)

Blue star (Amsonia sp.)

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)

Catmint (Nepeta sp.)

Columbine (Aquilegia sp.)

Coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.)

Dianthus (Dianthus sp.)

False indigo (Baptisia sp.)


Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)


Heuchera (Heuchera sp.)

Iris (Iris sp.)

Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)

Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Ornamental grasses

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple heart (Tradescantia purpurea)

Red-hot poker (Kniphofia sp.)

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Sage (Salvia sp.)

Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

Yarrow (Achillea sp.)

Yucca (Yucca sp.)


Anise (Illicium sp.)

Barberry (Berberis sp.)

Bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica)

Blue mist (Caryopteris clandonensis)

Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus)

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Boxwood (Buxus sp.)

Butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.)

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica)

Holly (Ilex sp.)

Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)

Juniper (Juniperus sp.)

Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense)

Mahonia (Mahonia sp.)

Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia)

Southern yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus)

Spirea (Spiraea sp.)

Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)

Winter daphne (Daphne odora)


American holly (Ilex opaca)

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Birch (Betula sp.)

Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.)

Deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara)

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Honeylocust (Gleditzia triacanthos)

Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)

Live oak (Quercus virginiana)

Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin)


Pines (Pinus sp.)

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)


Vines & Ground Covers
Asian star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)

Carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)

Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

Juniper (Juniperus sp.)

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)

Pachysandra (Pachysandra sp.)

Periwinkle (Vinca sp.)

Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum)

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)


Did Grumpy Miss Something?
Could the impossible happen? Frankly, no, but sometimes walking venison do crazy things. Any plant on this list get devoured in your garden? Any plant not on this list that should be? Then turn off Hoda, put down that Coors Light, crawl out of your recliner for five minutes, and tell me about it.





  1. Gary and jan

    We live in auburn California and our deer eat marigolds and lillies

    They don’t like lead however

    April 30, 2017 at 11:44 am
  2. )

    My husband found the answer to hungry deer. He ordered and installed it and it works great. It’s called a scarecrow and it’s actually a rain bird type of contraption that is motion activated. It runs on a 9 volt battery and has to have a water hose hooked up to it. We’ve seen hoof prints where the deer have tried to approach (they absolutely LOVE my roses) and left, kicking up the tan bark. It goes off every 8 seconds when it senses movement. My grandkids have fun trying to outrun it!

    August 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm
  3. Linda Stanford

    I remember driving up to my home just in time to see a doe with a mouthful of iris blooms. We are in IN, so they are not very selective up here.

    July 9, 2016 at 9:23 am
  4. Barbara

    This is the first time in a few years my Hibiscus has grown,,, and guess what,,, Yes they did they ate it!! It was so pretty too… 😦

    July 8, 2016 at 6:41 am
  5. Carolyn Thirston

    Is there anything we can do to stop squirrels from devouring everything I plant…even chewed the heads off my geraniums and echinacea! Green cherry tomatoes and hibiscus both gone. I have a bird feeder with safflower seed. If I take it away will they go elsewhere?? I have tried everything from cacooning my pots with deer netting to spraying bottled deterrents. Even painted the hummingbird feeder pole with crisco and Chilli pepper…nothing works! Help!

    June 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm
  6. Sylvia Rish

    Every year the deer enjoy feasting on my hosta plants and hydrangeas in my yard. To my surprise for the very first time, they have devoured my beautiful Lily of the Nile agapanthus filled with blooms in just two nights. The plants look like someone took a weed eater & chewed them up.

    June 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm
  7. Brynn

    I have one curly milkweed volunteer that always gets its flower chomped off the second it blooms (they leave the more generic milkweeds in the field just two houses down alone).
    But what really irks me is that they’ll skip any kitchen waste I toss out back and head straight toward my big gardenia. They also skip over the couple rows of corn my neighbor plants every year, for which he’s quite thankful! They do have a lot of food back in the woods though, so we really only see them when we get ice storms/frozen-over snow.

    June 23, 2016 at 7:10 am
  8. Joan Ellis

    My Angel Trumpet in a large pot turned into a lovely topiary after they ate all the leaves they could reach……

    June 16, 2016 at 1:21 am
  9. Ann


    June 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm
  10. Bobby

    Great photo of a roaring Scottish Red Stag probably in the Highlands. The list is very accurate, but dependant on the wood goats density and degree of hunger..
    Thanks for your great posts!

    June 15, 2016 at 4:52 pm
  11. Susan Fussell

    We have some very hungry deer, so this year I planted marigolds and petunias among some herbs in pots sitting at top of our front steps. The deer ate them down to nubs in a couple of weeks.

    June 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm
  12. Susan Erlandson

    I think it depends on number of deer invading the garden in any one group, ours range from 2-12. They stay away from elephant ears, rain lilies, canna, sasanqua camellias and edgeworthia. But in my GA garden, protected by electric fence and every repellent known to man, they destroy cast iron plant, purple heart, heuchera, butterfly weed (just the blossoms), and purple coneflower, which doesn’t quit and keeps popping back up.

    June 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm
  13. camellia’s cottage

    wonderful! love your column!

    June 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm
  14. Suzanne N Falchook

    I have ‘Caprice’ lantana that volunteer all over my yard. And the deer love to sample it, not enough to kill it, but just enough to make it look awful. They eat my crossvine, buddleia, honeysuckle, zinnias, bee balm, and mondo. I have planters next to my pool with echinacea and I went out one morning to find all the flowers lopped off and laying on the ground. Not eaten, just laying there as if someone had come with a scissors and cut them off just below the bloom. Pretty sure the deer did that to spite me.

    June 15, 2016 at 11:48 am
  15. Steph

    I live in the PNW so I wondered if deer have regional tastes. They destroyed the poppies (at least the flower heads) and have eaten a birch tree.

    June 15, 2016 at 10:09 am
  16. Carolyn Choi

    Deer have nibbled on my holly, heuchera,zinnias, mondo grass, iris and columbine all of which are on your deer resistant plant list. Some people in the neighborhood have reported crazy deer that eat their ornamental grasses and ferns.

    June 15, 2016 at 10:01 am
  17. Kit Flynn

    Deer will leave Edgeworthia chrysantha and E. papyrifera alone. They also do not eat rosemary and Lantana ‘Miss Huff’. Rosarians also tell me that they are unenthusiastic about Rosa banksiae. I find they leave all crinums and ornamental grasses alone.

    June 15, 2016 at 9:57 am

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