Deer-resistant plants

Several species of deer may visit gardens causing severe damage to a wide range of plants. Our list offers a selection of garden plants that are less susceptible to damage.

Buddleja is deer resistant.

Buddleja is deer resistant.

Quick facts

Five plants deer tend not to eat:

Introduction

Using evidence gathered in our 2018 survey of the gardening public’s experience, we have updated our list and practical tips on what to plant where deer are a problem. Some plants were found to be more resistant to deer damage than others and our new list reflects this.

Practical considerations

The extent to which plants are damaged and the type of damage depends on:    

  • Proximity to the house. Plants closer to human activity are less often damaged
  • The choice of plant material available to deer. A type of plant undamaged in one garden will be a favourite in another
  • The time of year. When food is short, deer will try most plants
  • Damage is more prevalent in some years than in others  

Protect all new plantings with netting until established, since deer notice any new additions to the garden and tend to be inquisitive feeders.

Even with careful plant selection, deer-proof fencing (see our deer page for a basic guide or for more detail see the Forestry Commission recommendations) is the most effective way to protect plants.

Suitable plants

This selection is based on previous lists with additions made based on the results of a RHS survey of 740 gardeners. Plants that scored a low chance of damage in the survey are marked with an asterisk.

The survey asked gardeners to score 185 garden plants for damage. The plant names highlighted with an asterisk were scored as having a 20% or less chance of being damaged and were grown by 65 or more survey participants.

We are always interested to know which plants are resistant in gardens visited by deer. Please use the comments box below. 

Plants to try where deer are problematic include:

Shrubs, climbers and trees

Berberis*
Brachyglottis*
Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)*
Buxus
Ceratostigma (hardy plumbago)*
Chaenomeles (Japanese quince)*
Choisya (mock orange blossom)*
Cistus
Clematis
Cornus sanguinea
Cotinus
(not red-leaved forms)
Cotoneaster*
Cupressus*
Cytisus
(broom)*
Daphne*
Eucalyptus*

Euphorbia (spurge)*
Forsythia*
Hippophae rhamnoides
Hydrangea

Hypericum*
Jasminum nudiflorum*
Jasminum officinale*
Kerria*

Laburnum 
Laurus nobilis
(bay)*
Lavandula*
Lonicera (climbing honeysuckle)*
Lonicera ligustrina*
Lonicera yunnanensis var. yunnanensis 'Baggesens Gold'*
Magnolia
Myrtus (myrtle)*
Mahonia*
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)*
Philadelphus
Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage)*
Phormium
Pieris*
Potentilla fruticosa
(shrubby cinquefoil)*
Rhododendron (deciduous azaleas)
Ribes (currants)
Robinia pseudoacacia (false acacia)
Romneya coulteri (Californian poppy)
Rosa rugosa, R. spinosissima
Rosmarinus officinalis*
Santolina (cotton lavender)*
Sarcococca (Christmas box)*
Skimmia *
Spiraea
Syringa
(lilac)*
Viburnum (deciduous types)
Vinca (periwinkle)
Weigela
Wisteria*
Yucca

Herbaceous perennials

Aconitum (monkshood)*
Agapanthus
Ajuga (bugle)*
Alchemilla (lady's mantle)*
Aquilegia
Armeria (sea thrift)*
Artemisia
Aubrieta*
Bamboo
Cortaderia (pampas grass)
Crocosmia (montbretia)*
Delphinium
Digitalis (foxglove)*
Echinops (globe thistle)*
Erigeron*
Eryngium
(sea holly)*
Euphorbia (spurge)*
Helichrysum*
Helleborus (Christmas/Lenten rose)*
Kniphofia (red hot poker)*
Leucanthemum x superbum
Lupinus (lupin)
Monarda didyma (bergamot)
Nepeta (catmint)*
Paeonia (herbaceous)*
Primula*
Saxifraga × urbium (London pride)
Sisyrinchium*
Solidago (golden rod)*
Verbascum (mullein)*

Herbs and fruit and vegetables

Gooseberry (Ribes)
Mint (Mentha)*
Thyme (Thymus)*
Oregano (Origanum)*
Rhubarb (Rheum × hybridum)*
Sage (Salvia officinalis)*

Bedding/patio plants

Arctotis*
Ageratum*

Forget-me-not (Myosotis)*
Osteospermum*

Bulbs

Daffodil (Narcissus)*
Jersey lily (Nerine)*
Snowdrop (Galanthus)*
S
pring snowflake/summer snowflake (Leucojum)*

The following plants were grown by a smaller number of respondents to our survey, but still showed a good degree of resistance.

Shrubs

Eucryphia
Fremontodendron
Garrya
Kolkwitzia
Leptospermum
Olearia x haastii
Ruta graveolens

Herbaceous perennials

Amsonia
Anaphalis
Limonium
Macleaya
Rodgersia

Ornamental grasses and ferns

From our survey, you told us that grasses and ferns are usually resistant to damage by deer, but we would be interested to hear which you have had most success with growing.

A small selection of plants very susceptible to damage by deer (according to our survey)

Aucuba
Camellia
Chard/spinach beet
Crocus
Day lily (Hemerocallis)
Euonymus - especially variegated forms
Fruit trees - bark damage, leaves and fruit eaten
Geranium (hardy) 
Grape hyacinth (Muscari)
Hebe
Holly (Ilex)
Hylotelephium spectabile (syn. Sedum spectabile)
Lupin (Lupinus)
Pelargonium
Poppies (Papaver orientale)
Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
Raspberry
Rose (Rosa)
Runner bean
Tulip (Tulipa)
Yew (Taxus)


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