Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Perennial Plants That White-Tailed Deer Will Not Eat

By Fern Fischer ; Updated September 21, 2017

As housing developments encroach on the habitat of wild animals, homeowners see increasing damage to gardens and landscaping. White-tailed deer can be especially difficult to control, because they they need a large amount of forage to survive. A deer’s diet consists mainly of shrubs and small trees, tree bark, and wild herbs. Many of a homeowner’s favorite ornamental plants are on a deer’s favorite-foods list. An easy way to discourage deer from nibbling your perennials is to plant varieties that do not appeal to them. While deer will eat whatever is available to quell their hunger, they will move to an easier food source if your yard offers disagreeable options.

Buddleia, Butterfly Bush

Buddleia, commonly called butterfly bush, is an excellent shrub for any sunny area. The plants are deciduous bushes that are covered with clustered flower heads all summer. The flowers have a sweet fragrance, and are available in several shades of purple and in white. In the South, prune buddleia down to about 2 feet tall in the early spring. Northern gardeners should mulch buddleia over the winter, and prune them back to live wood in the spring. Sometimes live wood is nearly at ground level. Besides being deer-resistant, buddleia will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

Lavandula, Lavender

Lavender is well known for its fragrance. An individual lavender plant will grow as a nicely mounded small shrub, or you can plant lavender in rows as a hedge. Plant lavender in full sun. It tolerates somewhat dry conditions once it is established. White-tailed deer do not like the smell or taste of lavender, and they do not eat it.

Monarda, Bee Balm

As the name suggests, bee balm attract bees to your garden. Grow bee balm in a sunny spot, and water it regularly. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture. The entire 24- to 30-inch plant is fragrant. The fragrance repels white-tailed deer. They do not eat bee balm, and they do not frequent the area where it grows. Bee balm plants multiply and spread rapidly. Divide the plants every three or four years to maintain plant vigor. Hummingbirds are very fond of bee balm’s nectar, and they are attracted to the bright red or pink flowers.


About the Author


Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.