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Deer Resistant Shade Perennials

Deer, with their proclivity to nibble on tender plants, can be a major nuisance in your garden. Shady areas can be just as troublesome, as many plants simply can't thrive in the dark corners of a garden. If you have shady areas in your landscape and are bothered by deer, you have double the trouble. Luckily, there are some perennials that deer tend to avoid and that will also thrive in the shade.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a classic shade plant. The delicate flowers of the plant give off a light scent that seems to be distasteful to deer. In addition, the plant is very hardy and will spread quickly even in the deepest shade, making it ideal for planting beneath trees.

Bleeding Heart

There are many varieties of bleeding heart (Dicentra). This perennial, which features delicate, fern-like leaves, is often found growing wild in the deepest parts of the coniferous forest. Deer avoid this plant. The attractive, heart-shaped blossoms range from white to deep purple, depending on the variety. Bleeding heart, which blooms in the spring, can go dormant in the summer, so plant it with other perennials.


Ferns (Athyrium) thrive in cool, dark shady areas, but not all are deer resistant. Some species of fern that are not attractive to deer include the graceful maidenhair fern, the ghost fern and the Japanese painted fern, which has silvery leaves. All of these ferns require moist soil to thrive.


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), with its towering stalks covered with bell-shaped flowers, will brighten up any shady area of the garden. This perennial comes in many different colors, including pink, white, yellow and blue, and can grow to a height of 4 feet. Deer avoid this plant, as it contains toxins.

Deer Resistant Annuals And Perennials

Botanists classify plants into four categories regarding their resistance to deer damage: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally severely damaged and frequently severely damaged. Where your plants are located makes a difference, too. The highly resistant perennials include: yarrow, artemisia, angel's trumpet, dianthus, blanket flower, lenten rose, red hot poker, lantana, sleeping hibsicus, bee balm, catmint, Russian sage, Texas sage, anise sage, Mexican bush sage, lamb's ear, society garlic and prickly pear. Even these criteria offer no guarantee of success, because, in spite of the roses' thorns, the flowers are so tasty to deer that they fall into the frequently damaged category.

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