Driven to desperation, many gardeners try everything from hanging soap to sprinkling coyote urine, all in the hopes of repelling deer from their prize flower beds. But the wiser course may simply be to stock at least some of your garden with the perennial flowers generally acknowledged as deer-resistant--or which may even repel deer from other plants.
Yellows and Oranges
A rare perennial sunflower, Helianthus Maximilanii discourages deer with its fuzzy stems and tendency to grow in thick clusters. Maximilians grow about six feet tall, but their light yellow flowers are much daintier than other sunflower varieties. Not only will deer leave these plants alone, but they sometimes guard other plants as well, according to author Toby Hemenway. “[T]hey grow quickly, forming a superb deer barrier that deters the hungry beasts from strolling up the hill to munch on our mixed border,” Hemenway reports. He also recommends another yellow favorite, the daffodil, both for its ability to deter deer from eating the flower itself, as well for discouraging deer to walk daffodil clusters to munch on more vulnerable plants. Other yellow-flowering perennials said to deter deer include yarrow, coreopsis, euphorbia and St John's wort, all of which prefer to grow in full sun. Orange-hued butterfly weed, also known as butterfly flower, earns its fluttery name as a host for the monarch butterfly. The brilliantly-colored flowers perch atop plants that grow 18 to 24 inches high and prefer full sun.
Blues and Purples
Echinacea, also known as purple cone flower, resembles a purple daisy or aster, yet boasts the prickles which famously deter deer. They grow about three feet tall and do best in full sun. Bluestar and monkshood also grow to three feet. They both prefer moist soil and partial shade, although monkshood’s flowers are much more intensely colored than bluestar’s. Water-loving Joe-Pye weed straddles the color border between pink and purple, and towers over most plants at five to six feet. Its habitat ranges from bogs to traditional gardens, but give it full sun to really see the autumn-bloomer at its best. Thriving in virtually the same conditions and growing to a similar height as Joe-Pye weed, queen of the prairie, (also known as meadowsweet) sends up bright purple-pink plumes. Spiky liatrus, a purplish flower that also grows to five feet, needs good drainage and full sun.
As its name suggests, white rockcress sports delicate, white blossoms. The plant grows low and prefers dry soil and full sun. On the other end of the height spectrum, goatsbeard grows up to five feet tall and sports large, multi-plumed flowers. It prefers part shade and moist soil. At first glance, boltonia looks like the common daisy, but the masses of small white-flowers have a more ethereal aspect as they drift in their three-feet-high foliage. Another dainty white flower known to repel deer is baby’s breath, which grows two to three feet tall and bears the tiny flowers familiar from floral arrangements.
Pinks and Reds
With a common name like “pinks,” dianthus’ hue isn’t hard to guess. Choose from among several cultivars of low-growing dianthus, which range from pastel to bright pink and thrive in full sun. Chelone, also known as turtlehead, bears hot-pink blossoms in partial shade or full sun, and likes moist soil. Bleeding hearts range from pale pink to red, and grow up to three feet tall in partial shade. Sun-loving gas plants rise about three feet high, bearing delicate spikes of tiny pink blossoms. The foliage is lemon scented, and is said to emit a vapor which will actually light a match at certain times of day. Another tall plant, bee balm tolerates wet conditions and partial shade. Cultivars come in several hues of pinks and reds, all bearing the characteristic “fuzzy starburst” flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.