Deer-Resistant Plants: What Does That Really Mean?

Chances are, if you’re reading an article about deer-resistant plants, you have deer who wander onto your property. Maryland has a large deer population that is getting squeezed out of its natural habitat by continuing development. That means deer may be looking for food in your back yard. But there are some things you can do to protect your landscaping from deer.

First off, we need to discuss what it really means for a plant to be “deer- resistant.” It does not mean that deer will refuse to nibble on it or even eat it down to the ground. It means if other, tastier plants are available, deer will eat those plants first. But in times of overpopulation or starvation, deer will chow down on any plant that is not poisonous.

If you have a deer problem, or your neighbors do, there are several types of deer-resistant plants you can include in your landscaping that will add beauty, but not be a tempting buffet for deer. Below, we list them by category. This information comes from the Maryland Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and Rutgers University.

Again, deer may nibble at some of these garden plants, but if other, more palatable options are available, they’ll go for those, and leave your plants alone. As always, try to avoid invasive plants. Plants listed in bold are native to Maryland. The list includes a number of deer-resistant annuals, deer-resistant perennials, and deer-resistant shade plants. It is not all-inclusive, by any means, but is a good starting place.


Deer-Resistant Shrubs

  • American beautyberry
  • American elderberry
  • Andromeda
  • Arrowwood
  • Barberry
  • Beautybush
  • Blackhaw
  • Bluebeard
  • Butterfly Bush (avoid invasive varieties)
  • Button Bush
  • Chinese Holly
  • Chinese Juniper
  • Common Lilac
  • Deutzia
  • Dwarf Sweet Box
  • Fetterbush
  • Fothergila
  • Inkberry
  • Barberry
  • Beautybush 
  • Blackhaw
  • Bluebeard 
  • Japanese Plum Yew
  • Lilac
  • Mountain laurel
  • Mugo Pine
  • Red Chokeberry
  • Red Osier Dogwood
  • Spicebush
  • Sweet Pepperbush
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Winterberry Holly


Deer-Resistant Trees

  • Allegheny Serviceberry
  • American Beach
  • American Holly
  • Bald Cypress
  • Black Gum
  • Chinese Paper Birch
  • Colorado Blue Spruce 
  • Douglas Fir 
  • Downy Serviceberry
  • Eastern Red Cedar
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Gingko 
  • Heritage Birch
  • Honey Locust
  • Japanese Cedar
  • Japanese False Cypress
  • Kousa Dogwood
  • Paw-Paw 
  • Pitch Pine 
  • Sassafras 
  • Sweetbay Magnolia 
  • Sweetgum
  • Sycamore

Deer-Resistant Flowers and Ferns

(A) means annual and (P) means perennial

  • Allegheny Spurge  (P)
  • Allium (P and bulb)
  • Anise Hysop (A)
  • Aster (P)
  • Astilbe (P)
  • Bachelor’s Buttons (A)
  • Black Cohosh (P)
  • Black-eyed Susan (P)
  • Euphorbia; some species are native (P)
  • Flowering Tobacco (A)
  • Foam Flower (P)
  • Forget Me Not (A and P)
  • Foxglove (P)
  • Golden Ragwort (P)
  • Hayscented Fern 
  • Heliotrope (A)
  • Hyacinth (bulb)
  • Iris (P)
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit (P)
  • Lady Fern 
  • Lambs Ear (P)
  • Larkspur (A)
  • Lavender (P)
  • Marigold (A)
  • Marjoram (A)
  • Mint (P)
  • Monkshood; some native species (P)
  • Bleeding Heart (P)
  • Butterfly Weed 
  • Christmas Fern 
  • Columbine 
  • Common Dill )
  • Culver’s Root 
  • Daffodil (bulb)
  • Nasturtium (A)
  • Oregano (P)
  • Ostrich Fern 
  • Peony (P)
  • Purple Coneflower (P)
  • Royal Fern 
  • Rosemary (A)
  • Rue Anemone 
  • Russian Sage (P)
  • Sage (P)
  • Snapdragon (A)
  • Swamp Milkweed (P)
  • Threadleaf Coreopsis (P)
  • Thyme (P)
  • Toadflax (P)
  • White Wood Aster (P)
  • Wild Ginger (P)
  • Wood Fern 
  • Yarrow (P)
  • Yucca (P)

Deer-Resistant Evergreens

  • Yew
  • Arborvitae
  • Hemlock
  • Some junipers

Some of these deer-resistant plants may already be your favorites, especially if you want an herb garden! If you need help coming up with a landscape design that is both beautiful and deer-resistant, give us a call.

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