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Annual Plants That a Deer Will Not Eat

By Leah Deitz ; Updated September 21, 2017
Deer are a beautiful wildlife specimen but have become a garden pest.

Throughout the United States, deer have become enemy No. 1 for the home gardener. The lack of naturalized feeding grounds have prompted deer to enter into flower gardens and cultivated landscapes looking for food. And although there are no plants that will withstand a starving deer seeking nourishment for survival, there are long lists of plants that are unappetizing to deer. Using them will help keep deer away from your landscape and garden spaces.

Ageratum

Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) is a small compact annual that produces blue, white or pink tassel like flowers. According to the Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station, ageratum is rarely damaged by deer. This means that although a starving deer will eat just about anything, this is a plant that is seldom considered appetizing. In addition to being an annual that deer tend to shy away from, ageratum is a low growing plant can be used as a border as well as in flower pots. Ageratum prefers full sun and well-drained moist soil. They are commonly found in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 10.

Snapdragons

A flower bed favorite that is rarely damaged by deer.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are whimsical garden favorites that North Carolina State University says are also seldom damaged by deer. This annual grows between 10 and 18 inches in height depending on cultivar. Snapdragons are grown in zones 4 through 11, and most cultivars will tolerate light frost. The showy flowers come in deep pinks, purple, yellow, light pink and white. They thrive in full sun to partial shade and like neutral soil types. These flowers are often used in beds, pots or as border plants. They also make great cut flowers.

Cosmos

This showy flower is not appetizing to deer possibly because of  its spindly fern like leaves.

Penn State University Extension lists cosmos as a flowering annual that is rarely damaged by deer. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) produces fern-like foliage and white, pink and dark rose flowers. They prefer full sun and are tolerant of hot, dry condition. Cosmos can be used as cut flowers as well as for drying. These flowers flourish in zones 3 through 10, and seeds can be planted directly into the ground in early spring.

Zinnias

A favorite garden flower that is seldom eaten by deer.

Zinnias are a favorite garden plant because of their easy-growing status as well as their colorful showy blooms. Texas A&M Cooperative Extension lists this hairy-textured plant as one that is not preferred by deer. Zinnias grow well in full sun and most soil types throughout zones 3 through 10. They produce large showy blooms in various shades of pink, yellow, red, white, peach and salmon and even green. They are used as bedding plants as well as potted plants and make great cut flowers or drying specimens.