Mule deer and blacktail deer both call California home. No plant is completely deer-proof, but there are several species that are resistant to deer. Deer are browsers, or animals that nibble on the leaves and tender stems of flower and vegetable plants. Deer rely on their sense of smell to sniff out plants that are tasty. A combination of strong-smelling plants will discourage them. Deer do not like plants with "fuzzy" leaves, or a bitter taste.
Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), also known as floss flower, is a member of the aster family. The plant is an annual that grows from 6 to 12 inches tall and produces oval or heart-shaped leaves that grow up to 4 inches long. Tiny purple, pink, lavender or white flowers grow in clusters. Plant ageratum in full sun, except in the hottest zones, where it should be grown in partial shade and moist soil. In California, the plant is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10 and will die in a frost, but it re-seeds itself. Ageratum is rarely damaged by deer.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also known as kinnikinick, mealberry, hog cranberry and sandberry, is found as far south as Northern California. The plant is an evergreen groundcover that grows from 6 to 12 inches tall and 15 inches in diameter. The plant produces dark-green leaves that measure up to 1 1/4 inches long and ½ inch wide with a bronze or red color throughout the fall and winter. The small white or pink, urn-shaped flowers bloom in April and May, and give way to bright-red berries in late summer. Bearberry likes full sun or partial shade and a soil that is well drained and sandy. Bearberry is rarely damaged by deer.
Carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is a member of the mint family. The plant is a perennial that grows from 6 to 10 inches tall and produces dark-green, oblong or spoon-shaped leaves at the base that grow from 3 to 5 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The tiny blue, red, pink or purple flowers grow in clusters 6 to 10 inches tall. Plant bugleweed in full or partial sun in a place where they receive sun in the early morning or late afternoon. The soil should be kept moist constantly. In California, the plant is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, and is rarely damaged by deer.