Not this year, deer.
With their natural habitats shrinking, deer are becoming a way of life in many residential neighborhoods across the country. One of the best ways to mitigate the damage these herbivores do to herbaceous (and evergreen) plants is to select ones that are not on their preferred menu. Fortunately, there are plenty from which to choose, and we narrowed our list down to 18 gorgeous deer-resistant shrubs that will suit gardens across the country.
Below is our list of shrubs on which deer are more unlikely to dine; your experience, of course, may differ. It turns out that deer are much like humans when it comes to food palate — their tastes vary! It should always be noted that especially in winter when pickings are scarce, a hungry deer will eat even the most unlikely plants. We’ve divided these into zones for easy reference, but check out all of the plants below to see the widest number of choices. You can also search Rutgers’ handy database of plants for their deer-resistant rating.
Let us know if you have any tried-and-true deer-resistant plants in your garden in the comments, or tag us on social media @MonroviaPlants and @ChristiansonsNursery.
Deer-Resistant Shrubs for USDA Zones 3 – 5
Lil’ Sizzle® Spirea
A tough, compact variety that doesn’t burn in full sun. Hot-pink flowers pop against foliage that starts as bright orange and matures to gold. Partial to full sun. Up to 3′ tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
Forsythia may have a short bloom season, but when it is on, it is ON! Explodes with masses of soft yellow early spring flowers. Partial to full sun. Up to 2′ tall, 3′ wide. Zones 4-9.
Little Darling® Lilac
What’s better than the sweet scent of lilacs? Having deep purple blooms twice a year! This is a compact variety with a nicely rounded shape. Full sun. Up to 4′ tall and wide. Zones 4-8.
Deer-Resistant Shrubs for Zones 6 – 8
Sparkler® Arrowwood Viburnum
Ignored by deer but loved by nature. Spring flowers, late summer berries, fall color, and layered form that shines in every season. Partial to full sun. Up to 15′ tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
Miss Molly Summer Lilac
Butterflies and hummingbirds love it. Deer, not so much. Dark Sangria-red sterile flowers on compact form appear from July until frost. Full sun. Up to 5′ tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
La Barbe Bleue Bluebeard
Who doesn’t need more late-summer-into-fall flowers? Versatile small shrub for sunny beds and borders with late summer blooms. Full sun. Up to 36″ tall and 30″ wide. Zones 5-9.
Zones 9 – 11
High Five Purple Butterfly Bush
A compact, upright variety with no unwanted seedlings, and long-lasting purple flowers. Deer aren’t a fan, but butterflies and hummingbirds are! Full sun. Up to 2′ tall and wide. Zones 5-10.
Roman Beauty Rosemary
Chef’s garden must-have that’s rugged, deer resistant, and tolerates poor soils, drought, and salt spray. Wonderful in containers. Full sun. Up to 2′ tall and 3′ wide. Zones 8-10.
Purple Rock Rose
Cistus is an unsung hero of dry, sunny gardens. Compact, sun, and heat-loving, with showy rose-purple blooms with maroon spots. Full sun. Up to 4′ tall, 6′ wide. Zones 8-11.