The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the deer most commonly found in Florida. According to the University of Florida Extension, by the late 1930s, only about 20,000 deer were left in the state. A drive to restore the deer population was successful, and by 2001 there were more than 700,000 deer in Florida. Unfortunately, these deer love to eat garden plants. Choosing plants that deer avoid ensures your flowers will continue blooming.
Achillea, commonly known as yarrow, is a deer-resistant perennial herb that grows well in northern Florida. It has feathery, fernlike leaves and white or yellow flowers that look similar to Queen Anne's lace. Yarrow needs acidic to slightly alkaline soil. It can tolerate drought, heat and salt. Wet, heavy soil will make the plants floppy or even kill them.
Annual geraniums have bright flowers and strongly scented leaves that turn away deer. There are many varieties, with a range of leaf shape and appearance, size, and flower color. The most common geranium colors are red, white, magenta and pink. Geraniums need well-drained soil and frequent fertilizing. They like the top inch of soil to dry out between watering. Deadheading will prolong their flowering.
Like many other members of the mint family, hyssop does not appeal to deer. This herb grows 1 to 3 feet high, with green leaves tufted on long stems. It produces clusters of pink, violet-blue or white flowers at the end of spikes. Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies will flock to the plant. It should be planted in light shade, with well-drained alkaline soil. Hyssop easily reseeds.
Verbena is showy, everblooming and heat tolerant. Deer avoid both the perennial and annual varieties. Verbena sprawls over garden walls, containers and borders. Its trumpet-shaped blooms are on spikes and come in white, pink, red, purple and blue. It requires full sun and well-drained fertile soil.
Marigold (Tagetes spp.) is unattractive to deer in Florida, and it loves the tropical heat. This annual will bloom all summer in shades of yellow, orange, gold, maroon or white. Varieties come in a range of sizes, from 6 inches to 3 feet tall. The fernlike leaves often have a strong fragrance. Marigold requires full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought and heat tolerant.
Echinacea, also called coneflower, is a perennial that grows well in northern to central Florida. It has dark-green, lance-shaped leaves, and its flowers come in purple, white, yellow or pink. The ray-like petals surround a prickly cone. While deer avoid echinacea, pollinators like hummingbirds love the plant. Echinacea needs full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Once established, it is drought and heat tolerant.
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