Deer at house

Gary L. Wade, Extension Horticulturist,
Department of Horticulture
Michael T. Mengak, Wildlife Specialist,
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

Deer like nutrition-rich plants, especially in spring and summer when does are pregnant or nursing, when young deer are growing and when bucks are growing antlers. Fertilized plants, such as those in home landscapes, provide protein, energy-rich carbohydrates, minerals and salts. Deer also get about one-third of their water from the moisture in irrigated plants and young, succulent vegetation on expanding leaves, buds and green stems.

Nuisance deer that feast on home gardens and bucks that damage young trees by rubbing them with their antlers during the rutting season are difficult and expensive to control in residential communities. Although there are a number of commer cially available deer repellents on the market, none of them are 100 percent effective. Most "home remedy" repellents, such as soap, human hair and animal dung, are unreliable. Shooting deer or using noise guns is prohibited in most residential neighborhoods, and many citizens are opposed to this method of control. Fencing whole communities or individual properties is often not practical, and may be against local ordinances or community covenants. Trapping and relocating deer is costly and often harmful or fatal to deer.

If deer are overabundant in your neighborhood, and deer herd reduction or management is not feasible, a good way to prevent deer browsing in landscapes is to plant ornamental plants that deer do not like to eat.

There is no such thing as a deer-resistant plant, and when deer populations are high and food becomes scarce, deer may feed on plants that are thought to be deer-tolerant. However, deer generally do not like plants with pungent aromas. Some gardeners have reported success with planting strong-scented plants like lantana, catmint, chives, mint, sage or thyme adjacent to plants that deer frequently browse. Deer also shy away from plants with prickly or rough leaves and plants with a bitter taste. Sometimes, deer browse new plantings or established plants with tender new growth, then avoid those same plants when their leaves are mature.

Over the years, wildlife organizations, universities, botanical gardens and garden writers have constructed many lists of deer-tolerant and deer-susceptible ornamental plants. Because most of these lists are constructed from observational trial-and-error data instead of controlled scientific studies, they are open for criticism. Furthermore, many variables influence deer feeding preferences.

The list below is a compilation of ornamental plants for Georgia hardiness zones that appear in published literature (see References) as well as observations by the authors. It is intended to be a guide for selecting ornamental plants for landscapes where deer browsing is a problem. Plants known to be invasive and a serious problem in natural areas, regardless of their level of deer tolerance, were excluded from the list.

Plants Deer Occasionally or Frequently Browse
(Protection is recommended)
Common Name Botanical Name
American Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis
American Beautyberry Callicarpa acmericana
American Elder Sambucus canadensis
American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis
Arrow-wood Viburnum dentatum
Asiatic Lilies Lilium spp.
Beech (low branches) Fagus spp.
Bittersweet Celastrus scandens
Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia spp.
Blackgum Nyssa sylvatica
Blanket Flower Gaillardia spp.
Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis
Carolina Ash Fraxinus caroliniana
Carolina Buckthorn Frangula caroliniana
Carolina Yellow Jessamine Gelsemium sempervirens
Chrysanthemum (fall mums) Chrysanthemum spp.
Coleus Coleus spp.
Cosmos Cosmos spp.
Crossvine Bignonia capreolata
Daylily (prefer flowers and flower buds) Hemerocallis spp.
Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis
Flowering Crabapple (small trees and low branches) Malus spp.
Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida
Fothergilla (flowers and new growth) Fothergilla spp.
Fringetree Chionanthus virginicus
Gerbera Daisy Gerbera jamesonii
Grape Hyacinth Muscari spp.
Green Ash (tender new growth) Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Greenbriar Smilax spp.
Hawthorn Crataegus spp.
Hibiscus Hibiscus spp.
Some Hollies
(some, such as Lusterleaf, Mary Nell, Nellie R. Stevens, Blue)
Ilex spp.
Hollyhock Alcea spp.
Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos
Hop Hornbeam Ostrya virginiana
Hosta Hosta spp.
Hydrangea (bigleaf, oakleaf, climbing) Hydrangea spp.
Impatiens Impatiens walleriana
Indian Hawthorn Rhaphiolepis indica
Japanese Maple (tender new growth) Acer palmatum
Morning Glory Ipomea spp.
Trumpet Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Pansy Viola spp.
Petunia Petunia spp.
Redbay Persea borbonia
Red Maple Acer ruburm
Rhododendron Rhododendron spp.
Rose Balsam Impatiens balsamina
Roses Rosa spp.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Serviceberry Amelanchier arborea
Soloman's Seal, Polygonatum spp.
Sourwood (tender new growth) Oxydendron aroreum
Strawberry Bush Euonymus ameicanus
Summersweet Clethra Cletra alnifolia
Swamp Cyrilla Cyrilla racemiflora
Sweetbay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana
Sweetshrub Calycanthus floridus
Titi Cliftonia monophylla
Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans
Tulips Tulip spp.
Violas Viola spp.
Virginia Sweetspire Itea virginica
Yew (English and Japanese) Taxus spp.

Trees Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum
Carolina Silverbell Halesia carolina
Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus
Crape Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica
Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Deodar Cedar Cedrus deodara
Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana L.
Falsecypress Chamaecyparis spp.
Fir Abies spp.
Ginkgo Ginko biloba
Goldenraintree Koelreuteria paniculata
Gordonia Gordonia lasianthus
Japanese Cedar Cryptomeria japonica
Katsura Tree Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Kousa Dogwood Cornus kousa
Pawpaw Asimina triloba
Palm Many genera and species
Pine Pinus spp.
Saucer Magnolia, Japanese Magnolia Magnolia x soulangiana
Southern Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora
Smoketree Cotinus obovatus
Spruce Picea spp.
Sugar Maple Acer saccharum
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua
Tuliptree, Tulip Poplar Liriodendron tulipifera

Shrubs Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Banana Shrub Michelia figo
Barberry Berberis spp.
Beautybush Kolkwitzia amabilis
Bottlebrush Buckeye Aesculus parviflora
Boxwood Buxus spp.
Butterfly Bush Buddleia spp.
Common Witchhazel Hamamelis virginiana
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp.
Deutzia Deutzia spp.
Drooping Leucothoe Leucothoe fontanesiana
European Fan Palm Chamaerops humilis
Firethorn (Pyracantha) Pyracantha coccinea
Flowering Quince Chaenomeles speciosa
Gardenia Gardenia spp.
Glossy Abelia Abelia spp.
Some Hollies
(yaupon, inkberry, Chinese and Japanese)
See occasionally browsed list.
Ilex spp.
Japanese Andromeda Pieris japonica
Japanese Plum Yew Cephalotaxus harringtonia
Japanese Rose Kerria japonica
Junipers Juniperus spp.
Needle Palm Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Oleander Nerium oleander
Osmanthus Osmanthus spp.
Pineapple Guava Feijoa sellowiana
Pomegranate Punica granatum
Primrose Jasmine Jasminum mesnyi
Sotol Dasylirion wheeleri
Spirea Spiraea spp.
Sweet Box Sarcoccoca hookeriana
Viburnum Viburnum spp.
Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera
Weigela Weigela florida
Winter Daphne Daphne odora
Yucca Yucca filimentosa

Ornamental Grasses Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Fountaingrass Pennisetum alopecuroides
Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis spp.
Hakone Grass Hakonechloa macra
Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium
Northern Sea Oats Chasmanthium latifolium
Pampas Grass Cortaderia selloana
Pink Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris
Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea
Ravenna Grass Erianthus ravennae
Sedge Carex spp.
Sweet Flag Acorus spp.
Switch Grass Panicum virgatum

Vines and Groundcovers Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Bugleweed (Ajuga) Ajuga reptans
Columbine Aquilegia spp.
Confederate Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides
Creeping Raspberry Rubus calycinoides
Creeping Lantana Lantana montevidensis
Dwarf Mondograss Ophiopogon japonicus
Japanese Pachysandra Pachysandra terminalis
Junipers Juniperus spp.
Liriope Liriope spicata
Plumbago Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Prostrate Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'
Sweet Woodruff Galium odoratum (Asperula odorata)
Thyme Thymus spp.

Herbaceous Perennials and Bulbs Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Allium Allium spp.
African Lily Agapanthus spp.
Amaryllis Hippeastrum spp.
Anise Hyssop Agastache spp.
Aster Aster spp.
Astilbe Astilbe spp.
Balloon Flower Platycodon grandiflorus
Beebalm Monarda didyma
Boltonia Boltonia spp.
Bush Cinquefoil Potentilla fruticosa
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa
Candytuft Iberis spp.
Cardinal Flower Lobelia spp.
Catmint Nepeta spp.
Christmas Fern Polystichum arcostichoides
Cinnamon Fern Osmunda cinnamomea
Columbine Aquilegia spp.
Crinum Lily Crinum spp.
Crocosmia Croscosmia spp.
Crocus Crocus spp.
Daffodils Narcissus spp.
Dahlia Dahlia spp.
Delphinium Delphinium spp.
Elephant Ears Alocasia spp. / Colocasia spp.
False Indigo Baptisia australis
Foamflower Tiarella cordifolia
Forget-Me-Not Myosotis spp.
Four O'Clock Mirabilis jalapa
Foxglove Digitalis spp.
Gay-feather (Liatris) Liatris spp.
Globe Thistle Echinops spp.
Goldenrod Solidago spp.
Green Jerusalem Sage Phlomis spp.
Hens and Chickens Sempervivum spp.
Iris Iris spp.
Jack-in-the-pulpit Arisaema triphylum
Lamb's Ear Stachys byzantine
Lantana Lantana spp.
Larkspur Consolida ambigua
Lavender Lavandula spp.
Lavender-cotton Santolina chamaecyparissus
Lenten Rose Helleborus spp.
Lily-of-the-Nile Agapanthus africanus
Lupine Lupinus spp.
Marjoram Origanum marjorana
May Apple Podophyllum peltatum
Meadow Rue Thalictrum aquilegifolium
Mint Mentha spp.
Money Plant Lunaria annua
Oregano Oreganum vulgare
Peony Paeonia spp.
Perennial Sunflower Helianthus spp.
Pinks Dianthus spp.
Poppy Papaver spp.
Primrose Primula spp.
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
Royal Fern Osmunda regalis
Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia
Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis
Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea
Speedwell Veronica spp.
Sweet Woodruff Galium odoratum (Asperula odorata)
Statice Limonium latifolium
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Threadleaf Coreopsis Coreopsis verticillata
Toad Lily Tricyrtis hirta
Texas Sage Salvia greggii
Wallflower Cheiranthus spp.
Wild Indigo Baptisia spp.
Wormwood Artemesia spp.
Yarrow Achillea filipendulina

Annuals Deer Rarely Browse
Common Name Botanical Name
Ageratum Ageratum houstonianum
Alyssum Lobularia spp.
Annual Periwinkle Catharanthus spp.
Annual Salvia Salvia spp.
Baby's Breath Gypsophila spp.
Bachelor's Buttons Centaurea cyanus
Basil Ocimum basilicum
Calendula, Pot Marigold Calendula officinalis
California Poppy Eschscholzia californica
Cock's Comb Celosia spp.
Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana spp.
Lantana Lantana spp.
Marigold Tagetes spp.
Parsley Petroselinum crispum
Scarlet Sage Salvia coccinea
Swedish Ivy Plectranthus spp.
Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus
Spiderflower Cleome spp.
Strawflower Bracteantha bracteata
Stock Matthiola incana
Sweet Pea Lathyrus odoratus
Verbena Verbena x hybrida


Adler, Bill Jr. 1999. Outwitting Deer. The Globe Pequot Press., ISBN: 1-55821-629-4

Appleton, Forrest. 2008. Deer in the Urban Landscapes: Coping with the Deer by the Use of Deer-Resistant Plants.

Halls, Lowell K. and Thomas H. Ripley. 1961. Deer Browse Plants of Southern Forests. Published by the Forest Game Research Committee of the Southeastern Section of the Wildlife Society.

Hart, Rhonda Massingham. 1997. Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden. Stipes Publishing Co., ISBN:088266-988-5

Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance. Rutgers University Cooperative Extension.

Larson, Richard. 2001. Deer-Resistant Plants — Shrubs and Trees for the Deer-Plagued Gardener. Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Moreland, David. A Checklist of the Woody and Herbaceous Deer Food Plants of Louisiana. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Nuss, Robert J. 2001. Deer Resistant Plants. Penn State Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet No. GH001.

Perry, Leonard. Choosing Deer-resistant Landscape Plants. University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

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Status and Revision History
Published on Apr 27, 2010
Published with Full Review on Apr 30, 2013
Published with Full Review on Feb 01, 2016

Sheri T. Dorn Public Service Assistant and State Master Gardener Coordinator; Area: Consumer Ornamentals; PhD Graduate Research Assistant, Horticulture Michael T. Mengak Professor-Wildlife Specialist; Associate Dean of Outreach, Forest Resources
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