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.
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 updated list reflects this.
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 may 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.
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
Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)*
Ceratostigma (hardy plumbago)*
Chaenomeles (Japanese quince)*
Choisya (mock orange blossom)*
Cotinus (not red-leaved forms)
Laurus nobilis (bay)*
Lonicera (climbing honeysuckle)*
Lonicera yunnanensis var. yunnanensis 'Baggesens Gold'*
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)*
Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage)*
Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil)*
Rhododendron (deciduous azaleas)
Robinia pseudoacacia (false acacia)
Romneya coulteri (Californian poppy)
Rosa rugosa, R. spinosissima
Santolina (cotton lavender)*
Sarcococca (Christmas box)*
Viburnum (deciduous types)
Alchemilla (lady's mantle)*
Armeria (sea thrift)*
Cortaderia (pampas grass)
Echinops (globe thistle)*
Eryngium (sea holly)*
Helleborus (Christmas/Lenten rose)*
Kniphofia (red hot poker)*
Leucanthemum x superbum
Monarda didyma (bergamot)
Saxifraga × urbium (London pride)
Solidago (golden rod)*
Herbs and fruit and vegetables
The following plants were grown by a smaller number of respondents to our survey, but still showed a good degree of resistance.
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)
Day lily (Hemerocallis)
Euonymus - especially variegated forms
Fruit trees - bark damage, leaves and fruit eaten
Grape hyacinth (Muscari)
Hylotelephium spectabile (syn. Sedum spectabile)
Poppies (Papaver orientale)
Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.