Plants that are either toxic, such as poppies and daffodils, or plants that have strong scents, including lavender and peonies, are considered deer-resistant. Although no plant is deer-proof, there are a number of plants that are less palatable than others are.
Deer-resistant perennials with beautiful blooms include coneflowers, irises and daffodils. Deer generally avoid verbena, ageratum, sunflowers and zinnias. Coral-bells, cinnamon ferns and stonecrop are deer-resistant choices that add color and interest to a garden. Ground cover plants that deer avoid include creeping myrtle, creeping thyme and liriope. Blooming bushes that are deer-resistant include the butterfly bush, Russian sage and bluebeard.
Foxgloves, lavenders, peonies and bearded irises are also examples of deer-resistant flowers. Others are snapdragon, butterfly bush, Lenten roses and purple coneflower. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, although no plant is completely deer-resistant, deer tend to avoid poisonous, fragrant and prickly plants.
Planting to keep deer out of the garden involves trade-offs. Some very popular plants such as yew, rhododendrons, azaleas, geraniums, tulips, plums and hostas attract deer, which also prefer narrow-leaf evergreens such as fir trees. Plant these close to the house, and the deer come all the way up to the door. Planting toxic plants such as daffodils, foxgloves, poppies, angel's trumpet, English hawthorn and English holly can ward off deer but put pets and children at risk of poisoning.
Many grasses and herbs are also deer resistant. If a garden already attracts deer, fencing in the deer's favorites is one solution to saving your garden. A better solution may be to plant for both the deer's and the homeowner's enjoyment, keeping the deer's favorites at the edges of the yard.