If you have ever had a favorite shrub stripped of its leaves or watched the tops disappear from all the plants in your yard, there is a good chance you have had a visit from a deer. Because there are more than eight different kinds of deer in California, you might think it would be difficult to find any plants they will not eat, but there are several deer-resistant flowers that most deer will leave alone.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a bushy perennial that grows from 1 ½ to 2 feet tall and has 1 ½- to 2 ¼-inch lance-shaped leaves that are dark-green in color. In early to late summer, it produces brilliant yellow-orange to bright-orange flowers that sit at the top of its stems in 2- to 5-inch clusters. Although a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, it is not well liked by deer and is considered a good plant choice for yards with deer problems. Butterfly weed prefers sun to part shade and likes well-drained, moist, sandy soil. It does well in dry soil too, however, and tolerates drought when it needs to. USDA Zones 4 to 9.
The Western bleedingheart (Dicentra Formosa) is a perennial flower that grows from 6 to 12 inches tall and is sometimes better known as the Pacific bleedingheart. Blooming from March to July, it produces clusters of soft pink, heart-shaped flowers on leafless spikes that grow above the plant's bluish-green lace-like foliage. The bleedingheart does well in sun, part shade or shade and prefers a humus-rich soil that is well-drained, but kept moist. A favorite for hummingbirds, it is usually overlooked by deer and is a good flowering plant for a yard that has a lot of shade. Take care when using it in a garden where children might play, because all parts of the bleedingheart are poisonous. USDA Zones 3 to 9
Lavender (Lavandula) is a perennial evergreen shrub that grows from 3 to 4 feet in height and has a 4-foot spread. It has thin, gray-green leaves that are quite fragrant and produces purple to dark-purple flowers in the summer that grow on long spikes above the leaves. It prefers full sun and is not fussy about the type of soil it grows in, as long as it is well drained. Its aromatic scent is thought to produce a calming effect and is often used in potpourri, soaps and shampoos. This same scent that appeals so much to humans, however, is not attractive to deer because they tend to stay away from foliage that has an aromatic scent to it. USDA Zones 5 to 8.