Plants That Are Deer Proof

As every gardener in deer country knows, deer cause a lot of damage when they eat landscaping and garden plants. Common wisdom states that no plant is deer proof, only deer resistant, because if a deer is starving it will eat whatever is available before starving to death. There are many plants, however, that deer will generally avoid.

American Holly

American Holly (Ilex opaca) is an evergreen tree with stiff leaves with several sharp points on each leaf. Deer avoid the leaves of an American holly even when the leaves are young and tender. The American holly matures into an attractive medium-sized tree if grown in an open space, or it can be trained as a large hedge. The female American holly produces red berries in the fall that are an important source of food for song birds.


Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a drought tolerant shrub that is adaptable to almost any part of the U.S. It produces waxy berries in the fall that are eaten by birds. The Bayberry shrub can grow to 8 feet tall and just as wide, if not pruned. The berries and leaves of the Bayberry emit a pleasant aroma when crushed.

Blue Oat Grass

Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens), as well as most ornamental grasses, such as muhly grass and purple fountain grass, are usually not eaten by deer. Most types of ornamental grasses, including Blue oats grass have attractive foliage and decorative seed heads that add interest to the landscape in the winter.


Yucca (Yucca filimentosa) has stiff pointed leaves with sharp edges that deer avoid. It can be planted in an area of the garden the receives little moisture, since most varieties are drought tolerant. Yucca plants produce a tall bloom spike in the spring that is occasionally eaten by deer when it first appears.

Gray Cotoneaster

Gray Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophylla) grows to 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide and is considered semi-evergreen. It is suitable for planting in the southern half of the U.S. The gray leaves of the Gray Cotoneaster are small and tough, and deer generally avoid the plant, as well as the colorful red berries produced in the fall.


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an aromatic herb that is widely used in cooking and landscaping. There are tall varieties that grow into an upright bush form, as well as sprawling or low-growing types. Rosemary produces small blue or pink blooms in the spring. It can grow large, reaching 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide.


Zinnias (Zinnia spp) are available in tall and small mounding varieties and a multitude of flower colors. They are easy to grow from seed and are heat and drought tolerant once established. Also, zinnias are fast growing, and the annual plants bloom in as little as 45 days from sowing. Most zinnia varieties produce long-lasting cut flowers if the flowers are cut in the morning while they are hydrated.

Keywords: deer proof plants, plants deer avoid, deer resistant plants

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.