Deer are a major pest in many gardens, especially in areas where deer populations are abundant. Where natural sources of nutrition are limited, a lush garden is an invitation to dine, especially during spring and summer when young deer grow rapidly. Because deer rely heavily on their sense of smell, certain plants are a deterrent while others smell good to deer and attract them. Deer may sample plants in the garden and later ignore them if they are found distasteful. Depending on how hungry the deer is and what season it is, some flowering plants are more resistant than others, especially those that are poisonous.
Angel's trumpets (Brugmansia) are large evergreen shrubs or small trees. Leaves are long, and mingle with large, trumpet-shaped flowers ranging from white, cream, yellow, pink and red. Angel's trumpet plants bear fragrant flowers with a scent that is most noticeable in the evening. Species of angel's trumpet generally flower in spring and fall. Most are suited to warm climates, and not tolerant of frost. Angel's trumpet prefers full or partial sun and deep, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Varieties of angel's trumpet include Charles Grimaldi, with orange yellow flowers; Inca Queen, with orange-red flowers, and Brugmansia aurea, with cream, yellow, or pale apricot flowers. Note that all parts of angel's trumpet are poisonous, so it should be planted with caution.
Annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus) is a heat- and drought-tolerant herbaceous plant. In climates without frost, vinca is perennial, but it is often used as an annual bedding plant in cold areas. In warm regions, it grows 2 to 3 feet tall, with equal spread but is commonly seen smaller in garden beds of colder zones. Flowers are small, usually white, pink or mauve, flat and five-petaled. Vincas grow in sun or part shade and though drought-tolerant, flower better with plenty of soil moisture. Annual vinca varieties include Albus, with white pink or red flowers, and Blue Pearl with bluish blooms.
Daffodils (Narcissus) are spring flowering bulbs resistant to deer. Daffodils are cup or trumpet-shaped, surrounded by petals and range from white, yellow, and pink to orange. Considered hardy bulbs, daffodils grow easily, but prefer well-drained, medium-heavy loam (sand, silt and clay mixed fairly evenly) and full or partial sun. Daffodils vary hardiness levels according to species.
Tall bearded irises are the most poplar irises, according to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program. Irises have long, strap-like leaves. Flowers vary in color and have six petals, most commonly seen in a fleur-de-lis form with three upright petals and three fuzzy-edged, down-turned sepals. Bearded irises grow in moist, well-drained soil and grow in full sun. Some woodland varieties thrive in partial shade.
Another plant rarely damaged by deer is lavender (Lavandula). Lavender is an aromatic, evergreen shrub with long spikes of white, purple or lavender flowers. Lavender is cold hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 5 through 9 and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Lavender is usually up to 2 feet tall, but some species, such as Lavendula dentata reach 4 feet tall.