Few things are as frustrating as audacious animals eating your garden! Believe me, I know. I’ve tried to round up a list of deer resistant annuals (flowers, mostly) that you can try in the garden, but keep in mind, a hungry deer is probably not going to turn its nose up at your garden, though.
Deer have no shame when it comes to munching plants. Try to fortify your garden with some of the plants they don’t enjoy eating as much!
What do deer tend to avoid in the garden?
Generally, deer avoid flowers and plants with a strong odor, an unpleasant texture, or toxins within the composition of the plant. Certain plants are less appetizing to deer, so plan to grow those if you find deer to be problematic where you live.
Deer Resistant Annuals Flowers
These deer resistant annuals (and some biennials) could be good choices if your garden is often ravaged by deer. When looking for deer resistant annuals, flowers in this list could help you actually enjoy your garden instead of feeding the wildlife.
Consider growing these deer resistant annuals – flowers and ornamentals – for better luck seeing your garden in bloom!
Ageratum Floss Flower (Ageratum houstonianum)
Ageratum flowers hail from the Asteraceae family. Like little pompoms in appearance, these blooms prefer warmer climates. They may be annuals in some areas but perennials in very warm and tropical areas. Deer tend to avoid ageratum in their diets.
Look for begonias with fuzzy or waxy stems to find those that are most resistant to deer. Not all begonias are deer-proof, but you may have luck with these. Gardeners tend to grow begonias as annuals outdoors and sometimes as houseplants, overwintering indoors.
Caladium – Elephant Ears
This lovely, brightly-colored flower produces a toxin, oxalate / oxalic acid, which may turn off deer from trying to eat it. Some gardeners report deer nibbling their caladium plants. Your mileage may vary.
Cleome Spider Flower
Cleome spider flowers tower as high as five feet in height. These flowers grow mostly as annuals and have thorny stems that tend to turn away the deer.
The cosmos fell prey to our resident groundhog, unfortunately, but we’ve never had a deer go after them. The orange cosmos in particular may be a bit more resistant to deer.
Dahlias may be grown as annuals or dug up for overwintering dahlia tubers, depending on your preference. While not totally deer-proof, dahlias generally are not a favorite food for deer. That being said, we’ve witnessed our dahlias munched to the ground by either rabbits or the resident groundhog. Use caution and consider planting away from areas of high wildlife traffic just in case.
Also known as Silverdust, Dusty Miller is unattractive to deer. They tend to avoid the silvery, lacy leaves and most likely will avoid other higher value plants planted nearby.
Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa)
Four o’clocks grow nicely in just about any garden space, readily reseeding themselves for the next growing season. Their root can be saved for next year, but most of the time they’re grown as annuals. In my experience, bunnies, groundhogs, and deer leave four o’clocks alone.
Due to their strong scent and rough leaf texture, lantanas tend to be fairly safe from deer. The odor of lantana plants is so strong that sometimes it can even bother gardeners and homeowners a bit. It’s no wonder the deer usually leave these alone!
Popular as a beneficial planting companion in the garden, nasturtium also proves to be fairly pest resistant. The peppery taste and scent of nasturtium generally wards off deer.
It’s believed deer don’t like flowers with strong fragrances, such as marigolds. My mom always used to say to plant marigolds to help keep the pests out of the garden, like rabbits and deer, but year after year, something keeps eating my marigolds! I think it’s one of the many rabbits, but you never do know.
Nicotiana / Flowering Tobacco
Nicotiana’s sweet scent and pretty flowers are attractive in the garden. Fortunately, deer seem to know better than to try eating these plants and you can consider flowering tobacco deer-resistant.
Persian Shield (Strobilanthes)
This unique plant grows as an annual or may work indoors as a houseplant. According to Wisconsin Horticulture (Division of Extension), Persian shield is generally regarded as deer resistant.
The vibrant, patterned leaves of the polka dot plant look stunning in borders or containers. They’re also a fairly resistant flower to deer. It’s listed as non-invasive, non-aggressive, and deer resistant, according to Cornell University.
Pot Marigold – Calendula
Deer don’t like the taste of calendula generally, so you may luck out with this deer-resistant annual plant. Give it a whirl and see how it goes.
Rudbeckia hirta – Annual Black-Eyed Susan
Lovely in the garden or as cut flowers, Annual Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckie hirta works well as a deer-deterrent annual. The hairs on the black-eyed Susans make them unappealing to deer, who will likely opt for a totally different plant.
Accepted as somewhat toxic to deer, poppies tend to be another good choice for deer-resistant annuals. Keep in mind that poppies may be toxic to the kids and pets in your household as well.
Although beautiful and usually brightly colored, snapdragons tend not to be a favorite food for deer. They’ll generally leave your snapdragon plants alone, making these a fine deer-resistant plant option.
With papery petals in the same texture as onion skin, strawflowers are unappetizing to deer. The deer may not love the flowers’ texture, leaving them alone in most cases. These unique flowers are still gorgeous to grow as a breathtaking annual in the garden.
Low-growing and adorable with tons of tiny blooms, sweet alyssum is a popular deer-resistant annual to consider for your garden, mailbox area, or other landscaping space. Consider a border of alyssum around your flower beds to discourage the deer.
Zinnias are touted as a deer-proof annual as most times the deer will leave them alone. The bright, prolific blooms of these drought-tolerant flowers reward busy gardeners time and time again.
Geraniums are widely believed to be pest-resistant in general. The zonal geranium emits a smell and the leaves have a texture that deer find offensive. Use this to your advantage by companion planting with geraniums.
Tips to Better Protect Plants from Deer
If you’re worried about certain plants in particular, you can try other methods to help deter the deer.
- Organza Bags over fruits, blooms, or seed heads – Deer may not attempt to eat the foliage of rough plants like sunflowers, but they would likely love the seeds if they could get to them. Cover the seed heads after blooming so you can preserve your harvest.
- Deer Repellent Products – Some wildlife deterrent products work well on deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and beyond. You might try blood meal as one example, or deer repellent as another.
- Fencing – Fences are probably the single most successful method of keeping deer out of the garden. However, neighbors say deer can jump over six feet into their yards even over the fence. I’ve witnessed it myself when a deer jumped over the fence after eating through our green bean patch!
More Deer-Resistant Flowers
Discover even more deer resistant flowers to keep your garden in bloom as long as possible. Here are some resources to check out if you find you’ve got a deer problem in the garden!
- Smart Gardening with Deer – Michigan State University Extension
- Deer Resistant Flower Garden Plans – Penn State Cooperative Extension of Monroe, Carbon, & Pike Counties
- Deer Resistant Plants – Cornell Cooperative Extension
As with anything, your mileage may vary! Let us know how you make out with any alleged deer-resistant annuals you grow in your garden. We’d love to update the list with your experiences.