Gardeners fighting to save their flowering plants from hungry deer may want a solution that doesn't involve fences or chemical deterrents. At least one natural form of deer control is available, says the West Virginia University Extension Service's Horticulture Specialist John W. Jett, Ph.D: surround the plants your local deer love to munch with others they hate. Many perennials are as attractive in gardens as they are distasteful to deer.
Eastern Red Columbine
Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a shade-loving perennial native to woods throughout the eastern United States. An upright plant up to 2 feet high, it has a mound of delicate, lobed, blue-green foliage. Between February and July, nodding stems bear spurred, red-and-yellow flowers. The bell-shaped blooms contain sweet nectar that brings hummingbirds to the garden. Plant this moderately deer-resistant perennial in partial to full shade and well-drained, averagely fertile sand or loam. It prefers locations with pH neutral to alkaline soil (6.8 or above), according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
A mint family perennial, 1-to-3-foot anise hyssop (Agastache foniculum) is hardy to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Rated highly deer-resistant, it grows wild in prairies, fields and dry woods of the upper Midwest. Plants have aromatic, 4-inch, toothed, dull-green leaves. From June to September, their square stems have showy spikes of tiny, lavender or purple blooms. Like columbine, it's a hummingbird favorite. Use it, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden, in borders or wildflower gardens. Provide sun--for best results--to partial shade and well-drained, dry to averagely moist soil.
Wild Blue Indigo
Blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis) is a bushy, woody-based pea family perennial native to glades, woodland edges and prairies across the eastern and Midwestern United States, Alabama and Texas. Growing 2 to 4 feet high, this highly deer-resistant plant has oval, blue-green leaves on slender stems. Between April and July, its blue-violet flowers appear in heavy spikes. Plant in full sun and moist, acidic to pH-neutral (7.2 or lower) well-drained clay. Soil must contain microorganisms that let the plant's roots produce essential nitrogen compounds, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is a 1-to-3-foot tall, highly deer-resistant--according to the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station--perennial. Its exceptionally fragrant, white or purple spring flowers appear in loose clusters above deep green, lance-like leaves. Hardy to minus 40 F, dame's rocket is a good choice for meadow and cottage gardens. It's on the Midwest Invasive Plants list, however, and unsuitable for Midwestern gardens. Elsewhere, plant it in full sun or partial shade. Give it average well-drained soil. Cutting back spent flowers may result in additional bloom.