Top Deer-Resistant Plants of the Midwest

Don't let deer destroy your garden or landscape. Grow these plants to send the deer on elsewhere.

Marty Ross


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Midwest Natives
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    To start, we need to warn you that there are few, if any, plants you can call deer proof. A deer's preferred foods differ from individual to individual, so the deer in your yard may avoid a particular plant, but the down the street, the deer find it favorite.

    These plants have earned a reputation as being most passed up by deer in your region. Give them a try!

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Amsonia

    An easy-to-grow North American native plant that deserves a lot more attention, amsonia offers clusters of beautiful blue flowers in spring. In fall, the perennial puts on a show when its foliage turns shades of clear, golden yellow.

    Plant Name: Amsonia tabernaemontana

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 3-9

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Bugbane

    An underused perennial that deserves more attention, bugbane adds color to the shade garden in late summer, when many other plants have gone on hiatus. Enjoy its fairy-like wands of flowers knowing the deer won't be nibbling on this poisonous plant.

    Plant Name: Actaea simplex (but often called Cimicifuga simplex)

    Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

    Zones: 4-8

4/16
Butterfly Weed

    Happily, this plant will bring a host of butterflies to your yard -- but not deer. A tough perennial native to areas of North America, it bursts forth with clusters of orange flowers in summer. It's also heat and drought resistant, so you can depend on it to look good, even with little care.

    Plant Name: Asclepias tuberosa

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 4-9

5/16
Columbine

    Hands-down one of the most graceful perennials, columbine offers wonderful flowers in shades of red, pink, violet, blue, and white. Most have fan-shape foliage that looks ornamental even when not in bloom.

    Plant Name: Aquilegia selections

    Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: From 6 to 36 inches tall and 6 to 24 inches wide, depending on type

    Zones: Zones 3-9, depending on type

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Coreopsis

    A longtime favorite of many gardeners, coreopsis is a tough native plant with a long bloom season. We're especially fond of the thread-leaf selections such as 'Moonbeam' and 'Creme Brulee' that bloom for months if you shear them back as their flowers fade.

    Tip: Many coreopsis do best if divided every few years to keep them vigorous and floriferous.

    Plant Name: Coreopsis selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: Most grow from 1 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide

    Zones: 3-8

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Corydalis

    This perennial wins the prize for best bloomer; it starts bearing its clusters of golden-yellow flowers in early spring and continues nonstop all the way to frost. Its ferny, blue-green foliage is a delight, too -- but the deer don't seem to think so.

    Plant Name: Corydalis lutea

    Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 18 inches tall and wide

    Zones: 5-8, but it often comes back from seed as an annual in colder zones

8/16
Evening Primrose

    Evening primroses and their relatives are tough, drought-tolerant plants perfect for the front of the border. Take note of the different types; some offer flowers that stay open during the day and others bloom at night.

    Plant Name: Oenothera selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: From 6 to 48 inches tall and 6 to 36 inches wide, depending on type

    Zones: 3-9, depending on type

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Globe Thistle

    Globe thistle has a lot of great features: It's long blooming, it resists heat and drought, it's a wonderful cut flower, and best of all, deer and bunnies don't like it. Be careful not to pull the emerging foliage in spring; it looks like a thistle as it grows.

    Plant Name: Echinops bannaticus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 4-9

10/16
Lungwort

    This is one of our favorite perennials. A spring bloomer, it also has great foliage. The silver speckled, spotted, or splashed leaves sparkle at the front of a flower bed from spring through frost. And because lungwort is covered in coarse hairs, deer tend to leave it alone. This shade-loving ground cover offers blue, pink, or white blooms.

    Plant Name: Pulmonaria selections

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

11/16
Penstemon

    Western gardeners tend to know penstemons a little better than Midwesterners do, but this plant's popularity is growing just about everywhere. Penstemons are tough, drought-tolerant plants with long bloom seasons and colorful flowers loved by hummingbirds.

    Plant Name: Penstemon selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: From 1 to 4 feet tall and 6 to 36 inches wide, depending on type

    Zones: 4-10, depending on type

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Purple Coneflower

    You can't grow wrong with purple coneflower for summer gardens: It blooms for weeks, it attracts scores of butterflies, it makes a great cut flower, and it's often left alone by deer thanks to its rough foliage. Purple coneflowers aren't just purple anymore; today plant breeders have expanded its range from orange and yellow to white.

    Plant Name: Echinacea purpurea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide

    Zones: 3-9

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Russian Sage

    A top plant of the late-summer garden, Russian sage bursts forth with impressive wands of violet-purple flowers over masses of silvery foliage. Like many plants disliked by deer, Russian sage bears scented foliage -- so grow this plant where you can touch the foliage to enjoy its scent.

    Plant Name: Perovskia atriplicifolia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    Zones: 4-9

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Thyme

    Don't forget to grow this plant outside the herb garden! Like most herbs, it's deer resistant because of its fragrant foliage. Thyme is an excellent ground cover for sunny areas and is classically grown in between stepping stones in pathways or patios.

    Plant Name: Thymus selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide, depending on type

    Zones: Zones 4-9, depending on type

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Wild Ginger

    A wonderful little ground cover for shady gardens, wild ginger bears heart-shape leaves and hidden springtime flowers. Canadian wild ginger offers fuzzy foliage and is native to North America; European ginger (shown) bears glossy evergreen leaves.

    Plant Name: Asarum selections

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide

    Zones: 2-9, depending on type

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