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16 Deer-resistant perennials to add to your garden


Deer can wreak havoc on any garden. From tree and shrub damage to disappearing plants, deer is the usual suspect. Like with any sworn enemy first we must know their habits. Fortunately, deer are creatures of habit, so their behavior is predictable. 

Here are some facts about deer:
  • Deer is most active during the morning and evening hours.
  • Their habitat range typically covers several hundred acres– that's a lot of ground!
  • They have one area that they use for resting and another for feeding.
  • Deer mate from the months of September to January
  • Older females usually have 2 babies a season whereas younger females have one.
  • A deer's ability to damage is seemingly infinite.

What deer like to eat

It seems like deer eat everything we don’t want them to. Shrubs, flower buds, tree branches and bark– the list goes on. But there are foods they prefer.

Here is a list the feeding habits of deer:
  • Deer tends to eat evergreens and dry leaves in winter.
  • When it’s not winter, deer eat fruits and nuts.
  • They favor farmlands near wooded areas because it provides both shelter and food.
  • Deer related damage increases in winter when food is limited.
  • They eat shrubs, trees, and crops when available.

Monitoring the deer

This is the first step of decreasing deer-related damage for a reason. To determine if it is in fact deer that are causing you problems– you have to observe. This way you will know for certain that the problem isn’t caused by squirrels, rabbits, or neighbor kids with too much time on their hands. 

If you notice any of the following, deer may be the cause of your plant and tree damage:
  • Height where damage occurs, deer can feed from ground level to five feet (or more) above the ground.
  • If you notice hoof prints, pay close attention to the ground because they can be easy to miss.
  • Browse line on evergreen plants– if you have an otherwise healthy hedge, but it is sparse from the base to about three feet up, this is likely a deer related issue.

Deer-resistant perennial plants

Prevention is often the easiest and most cost-effective method in preventing deer related damage.

Repellants are an option, but they wash off in the rain. Plus, they need to be applied to large area which means a lot of work for you.

Fences are an excellent method of prevention. However, they are expensive and may be unsightly. To keep the deer out, fences must be eight feet tall or more.

The best preventative measure is buying perennials that you love and deer hate. Perennials will return year after year, which is less work for you. Buying deer-resistant perennials is a method that will saves you a considerable amount of time, effort, and money.

Here is a list of 16 deer-resistant perennials:

Red Cardinal Flower

The red cardinal flower is a deer-resistant perennial that loves moist soils. It has tall spires that bloom with red flowers. It is loved by pollinators and is easy to grow.

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun
Water: Very wet
Best for rain gardens and wet spots in the garden

Learn more about Red Cardinal Flower here

Great White Trillium

Great white trillium is a timeless yet uncommon deer-resistant perennial. It has three large white rippled petals with dark green foliage. It does well in a range of soils.

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: average
Best for borders and woodland gardens

Learn more about Great White Trillium here

Siberian Iris

Siberian iris has the iconic iris petals that grow in multiple directions. It is a bold plant ideal for anyone who wants to liven up their garden.

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun
Water: Average 
Best for Japanese gardens and borders

Learn more about Siberian Iris here

Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf crested iris is a deer-resistant perennial that has star shaped flowers. It grows lower than most irises and looks great in containers.
Zones: 4 to 8
Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
Water: Average
Best for edges, front of border, and woodland gardens
Learn more about Dwarf Crested Iris here

Bearded Iris

The bearded iris is another deer-resistant flower that has gorgeous, bold blooms. Their flowers blossom on long stems. These are ideal for any gardener who wants to make a statement.

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun 
Water: Average to moist
Best for middle and back or borders

Learn more about Bearded Iris here

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed is a must have for any pollinator garden. This deer-resistant perennial attracts butterflies, bees and maybe even a hummingbird or two. Plus, it's low maintenance, what's not to love?

Zones: 4 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun
Water: Moderately dry to average 
Best for pollinator gardens and sunny borders

Learn more about Butterfly Weed here

White Violets

White violet comes from the same family as common violets. This low-growing deer-resistant perennial looks great in moon gardens or in the front of borders.
Zones: 3 to 8
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: Average
Best for woodland gardens, moon gardens, front of borders, and containers
Learn more about White Violets here

Bird’s Foot Violet

The bird's foot violet is a twist on the typical violet. Its flower puts out petals in dark purple and light purple. It pairs well with irises and other varieties of violet.

Zones: 4 to 8
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: average
Best for woodland gardens, front of borders and containers

Learn more about Bird's Foot Violet here


Yarrow is a deer-resistant perennial that is loved by pollinators. It can grow in many soil conditions and can tolerate some shade. Yarrow is one of the most popular plants on this list!

Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun
Water: average to moist
Best for borders and pollinator gardens

Learn more about Yarrow here

Dutchman's breeches

Dutchman's breeches are a deer-resistant perennial that is closely related to the common bleeding heart. It is native to North America and can be grown in five different zones. It is a low maintenance plant that is easy to grow.

Zones: 3 to 7
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: Average to moist
Best for borders, woodland gardens, and containers

Learn more about Dutchman's Breeches here

Deer-resistant perennials for shade

Deer tend to lurk in the shadows, especially when we aren't paying attention. To ensure they don't munch on your precious shaded plants, here are some shade-loving perennials that deer will avoid.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia bluebells are an excellent addition to any garden for their striking color. They are a deer-resistant perennial that can be grown in a wide range of soils and climates. 

Zones: 3 to 8
Sun exposure: Full shade
Water: Average to moist
Best for cottage gardens and borders

Learn more about Virginia Bluebells here

Black Cohosh

This deer-resistant perennial is great for adding height and intrigue to your outdoor space. It can serve as a soft screen or be used in the back of borders due to its height.

Zones: 4 to 9
Sun exposure: Full shade
Water: Average
Best for back of borders and woodland edges

Learn more about Black Cohosh here


Mayapple is unique in that its flowers grow below its leaves. The leaves are like umbrellas that provide shade to the flowers. Children, especially love this plant and spotting its hidden flowers.

Zones: 3 to 8
Sun exposure: Full shade
Water: Average to moist
Best for alpine gardens and woodland gardens

Learn more about Mayapple here

Deer-resistant perennials for the Northeast

It can be tricky to find good deer-resistant perennials in the north east where deer are most prevalent. But have no fear! There are options for even the most deer-bothered gardener.

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily is a gorgeous and unique deer-resistant perennial. It has spotted markings on its orange petals. While it is native to North America it can add an exotic look to any garden.

Zones: 3 to 8
Sun exposure: Full sun
Water: Average 
Best for borders and woodland edges

Learn more about Tiger Lily here

Purple Violet

This deer-resistant perennial violet does especially well in colder climates. It is a low grower with unique, whorled foliage.
Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: average
Best for woodlands, borders, under trees or shrubs, and containers
Learn more about Purple Violet here

Creeping Buttercup

The creeping buttercup thrives in many climates, even cooler ones. It is a nostalgic memory of childhood that is as beloved now as it ever was.
Zones: 3 to 9
Sun exposure: Full sun or part shade
Water: Average
Best for woodlands, borders, or as groundcover
Learn more about Creeping Buttercup here
White Trillium

White Trillium

White Trillium is a spring-blooming wildflower with large, white, three-petaled flowers and a distinctive, whorled arrangement of leaves, typically found in woodland habitats. It is prized for its large, showy, white flowers that bloom in the spring. The blooms can add a touch of elegance and beauty to your landscaping. It is a native North American wildflower that can provide several landscaping benefits. Native Plant: Using native plants like white trillium in your landscaping can help support local ecosystems. Native plants are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions and can provide food and habitat for local wildlife, such as pollinators and small mammals. White Trillium Is Low Maintenance: White trillium is a low-maintenance plant once established. It typically thrives in shady to partially shaded woodland areas and does not require much care or attention. Ground Cover: White trillium can spread slowly over time, forming a ground cover in shaded areas. This can help suppress weeds and create a natural woodland feel in your landscape. Erosion Control: The dense growth of white trillium can help stabilize soil on slopes and prevent erosion. Naturalizing: White trillium can naturalize in a garden or woodland area, spreading and multiplying over time, creating a more natural and less cultivated appearance. Attracts Pollinators: While not a significant nectar source, white trillium attracts pollinators, such as bees and flies, which can benefit other plants in your garden. Shade Tolerance: White trillium is well-suited to shaded areas, making it a good choice for gardens with limited sunlight. Biodiversity: By incorporating native plants like white trillium into your landscaping, you can help promote biodiversity in your area, as these plants provide food and habitat for various wildlife. Educational Value: White trillium can be an educational tool, especially in gardens. It provides an opportunity to teach others about native plants, local ecosystems, and the importance of conservation.  Remember that while white trillium can offer these benefits, it's essential to respect local regulations and conservation guidelines when harvesting or transplanting native plants from the wild. It's often better to purchase nursery-grown native plants to avoid harming natural populations. White Trillium will thrive in your landscaping project The White Trillium, scientifically known as Trillium grandiflorum, is a captivating and iconic perennial wildflower native to the woodlands and forests of eastern North America. Its name is derived from the Latin word "trilix," which means triple, referring to its distinct three-petaled blossoms. This enchanting flower is celebrated for its pristine beauty and delicate charm, making it a beloved symbol of spring in the region. Standing at an average height of 8 to 16 inches, it emerges from the forest floor in early to mid-spring, just as the snow melts away and the woodland environment begins to awaken from its winter slumber. Its striking, pure-white petals are elegantly contrasted against a backdrop of lush green foliage. Each blossom features three distinct petals, which are often described as resembling delicate, triangular sails, gracefully unfurling to reveal a hidden treasure within. White Trillium Has An Alluring Fragrance Its alluring fragrance is another of its distinguishing features, filling the air with a sweet, subtle perfume that attracts early pollinators, such as bees and flies. These insects play a vital role in the plant's reproductive cycle by aiding in the transfer of pollen from one flower to another. In its natural habitat, White Trillium thrives in the dappled shade of deciduous forests, often carpeting the forest floor with its delicate blooms. It prefers well-drained, rich, humus-filled soil, and its rhizomatous roots spread gradually, forming small colonies over time. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, it has cultural significance and is often associated with the arrival of spring and the renewal of life. It has been cherished by Native American tribes for its symbolic value, representing concepts of purity, rebirth, and the interconnectedness of all living things. The White Trillium's timeless elegance and role in the ecological tapestry of eastern North American woodlands make it a cherished and celebrated wildflower, inspiring poets, nature enthusiasts, and gardeners as a symbol of the vibrant beauty and delicate balance of the natural world.

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Dutchmas Breeches

Dutchmas Breeches

Dutchman's Breeches is a spring wildflower, have distinctive gray-green, finely divided leaves and unique, drooping clusters of white, pantaloon-shaped flowers that resemble miniature hanging pants. It is a captivating and delicate spring ephemeral plant that offers several benefits when incorporated into landscaping. Native to North America, they are a member of the poppy family and can be found growing in rich, moist woodlands, making them an ideal addition to woodland-themed gardens or naturalized landscapes. Dutchman's Breeches have finely cut, fern-like foliage and dainty white, pantaloon-shaped flowers. One of the critical benefits of landscaping is its aesthetic appeal. The common name comes from the unique and attractive appearance and the flowers that resemble tiny pantaloons. When massed together, they can create a stunning carpet of delicate blooms, adding a touch of elegance and charm to any landscape. Its early spring blooming time makes it a welcome sight after the long winter months, adding a burst of color and life to the garden. Another advantage of incorporating them into landscaping is their role as pollinator attractors. The flowers of this plant are a valuable source of nectar for early-emerging pollinators like bees and butterflies. Providing these essential insects with a reliable food source early in the season contributes to the ecosystem's health. Furthermore, they are low-maintenance plants, making them suitable for busy homeowners or those seeking to create a naturalized landscape with minimal effort. Once established, it can thrive with minimal intervention, as it is adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. In addition to their ornamental and ecological benefits, they hold cultural and historical significance. This plant has been admired for its beauty for centuries and inspired folklore and legends. Its presence in a landscape can add a touch of nostalgia and a sense of connection to the region's natural heritage.  In conclusion, dutchman's breeches offer numerous advantages when used in landscaping. Its graceful appearance, ability to attract pollinators, low-maintenance nature, and cultural significance make it an excellent choice for enhancing the beauty and ecological value of gardens and naturalized landscapes. By incorporating them into landscaping designs, individuals can enjoy the delicate charm of this spring ephemeral while contributing positively to the local ecosystem and heritage. Get your Dutchman's Breeches from TN Nursery "description": "Native to North America, it is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the Fumariaceae family. In the United States, it is regarded by several names depending on what part of the country you are from. For instance, it is known as Little Blue Staggers in certain circles because of the plant's ability to produce drunk stumbling cattle when they eat it. This drunken state is due to narcotics and toxic substances in the surrounding poppy-related species; hence, it is a source of the plant's name. You can refer to this disorder as bleeding heart syndrome.",

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