19 Container Plants That Deer and Rabbits Won't Be Enticed to Eat

color guard yucca
Photo: Peter Krumhardt

Yes, you can still have lush, colorful containers, even if deer and rabbits frequently turn your garden into a buffet table. Here's a list of plants that you'll enjoy, but generally are disliked by those four-legged pests, due to their texture, aroma, or flavor.

01 of 19

A Container Garden Plan for Rabbit and Deer Resistance

A rabbit and a deer
Adam Albright - Amy Haskell

Wherever deer and rabbits are numerous, they're bold enough to come right up to your deck or porch stairs to feast on your potted flowers and vegetables. Prevent your container garden from becoming a restaurant for these creatures by using this list of colorful plants that deer and rabbits tend to avoid. Of course, every animal, like every human, has different tastes, so no plant can ever be considered completely safe from being eaten.

02 of 19

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller in a container
Jay Wilde

As a general rule, deer and rabbits avoid plants with gray or silver leaves. It's probably because most silver plants, such as dusty miller, have slightly fuzzy leaves that don't rate high on their preferred menu. The other nice thing about dusty miller is that it thrives in containers and creates a lovely contrast to other more brightly colored flowers. Dusty miller also maintains its leaf color right up until frost. You might try growing this deer-resistant plant along the edges of your pots and planters to help discourage curious nibblers.

Season of Bloom: Rarely flowers

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 18 inches tall

Zones: 7–10

Buy It: Dusty Miller Plant ($17, The Home Depot)

03 of 19

Tricolor Sage

tri-color sage hanging in pot on fence
Andreas Trauttmansdorff

Pungent herbs with brightly colored leaves make great companions for annual flowers in pots and planters. Tricolor sage, for example, develops beautiful green, white, and pink leaves that blend well with annual flowers. What's more, the foliage has a strong sage fragrance that deer and bunnies avoid. Happily, the leaves are edible for humans, and can be substituted in the kitchen for common sage if you're in a pinch. For a fun look, try mixing it with purple and golden sage in the same container.

Season of Bloom: Spring

Growing Conditions: Full sun in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 18 inches tall

Zones: 6–9

04 of 19

Marigold

Close up of yellow Marigolds
Jacob Fox

These beauties have strong-smelling foliage and thick, unpleasant-tasting sap that most herbivores avoid. Marigolds come in a wide variety of forms that vary slightly in their ability to ward off nibbling marauders. The best marigolds to grow in deer and rabbit country are the old-fashioned Signet types and the dwarf French varieties. Both types of marigolds grow 12-18 inches tall and are ideal for container culture. The taller American or African marigolds, which grow up to 3 feet tall, aren't as happy growing in containers and will be sampled by an occasional deer or bunny.

Season of Bloom: Summer

Growing Conditions: Full sun and evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 1 foot tall

Zones: 2–11

Buy It: Marigold Seeds ($10, The Home Depot)

05 of 19

Heliotrope

Purple Heliotropium 'Scentropia'
Justin Hancock

Dark-green, pleated leaves and lovely scented flower heads make heliotrope a top choice for a deer and rabbit resistance. Why? It's because these hungry creatures don't like to feast on fragrant plants, even if the plants smell wonderful to humans. Heliotrope produces large vanilla-scented, dark-blue or purple flower heads all summer long on stems that grow 12-18 inches tall. Heliotrope is a popular plant with butterflies, which flock to its nectar-rich blooms. The plants are best treated as an annual in all but the warmest regions of the country.

Season of Bloom: Summer to fall

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 18 inches tall

Zones: 10–11

Buy It: Heliotrope Marino Blue ($21, Etsy)

06 of 19

Verbena

Close up of purple Verbena
Rob Cardillo

Deer and rabbits have to be pretty desperate to take a bite out of verbena. That's because the leaves are relatively small and rough to the touch, with a sharp flavor that grazers avoid. This stunning annual flower is available in a wide range of colors and comes in either upright or trailing forms (both make beautiful container plants). The flowers form slightly rounded heads on the end of each stem. Verbena is drought resistant and won't wilt dramatically if you occasionally forget to water it. Feed this deer-resistant annual every few weeks to keep the flower show going all summer long.

Season of Bloom: Spring to frost

Growing Conditions: Full sun in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to one foot tall

Zones: 9–10

Buy It: Grande Superbena Royale Sparkling Amethyst Verbena ($38, The Home Depot)

07 of 19

Euphorbia

Euphorbia in hanging planter
Jay Wilde

Have you ever noticed that if you accidentally break off a branch of your holiday poinsettia, it "bleeds" a thick white sticky sap? Well that sap is typical of all members of the euphorbia family, including container gardening varieties such as 'Diamond Frost' or 'Glamour White.' They're a great "filler" plant for containers and hanging baskets, producing endless clouds of small white blooms throughout the summer. And, like other members of the family, these rabbit-resistant plant stems contain a thick white sap that rabbits and deer don't like.

Season of Bloom: Summer

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in well-drained soil; will tolerate drought

Size: Up to 18 inches tall

Zones: 10–12

08 of 19

Iceland Poppy

Red Iceland Poppy
Matthew Benson

Easily grown from seed in pots or planters, Iceland poppies develop spectacular crepe-paper-like blooms on wiry stems that seem to dance when the wind blows. Iceland poppies grow 12-18 inches tall and come in a range of colors including orange, yellow, pink, white, salmon, and cream. The hairy leaves, which deer and bunnies avoid, are all clustered at the base of the plant. To prolong the bloom season of these lovely annuals, remove the flowers as they fade. It's also probably not a surprise that a plant with Iceland in its name prefers cool spring or fall weather.

Season of Bloom: Spring

Growing Conditions: Full sun in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Zones: 2–7

09 of 19

Ageratum

Close up of purple Ageratum
Brie Williams

The fuzzy, flat-top, blue, purple, rose, or white blooms of ageratum are so cute you might be tempted to pet them. But, luckily deer and rabbits won't give them a second look. Growing 8-12 inches tall, ageratum, also called floss flower, does need a lot of moisture and will wilt dramatically if allowed to get too thirsty. To keep the plants looking good, clip away the flower heads as they fade. Ageratum will flower nonstop right up until the first frost.

Season of Bloom: Summer to frost

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 30 inches tall

Zones: 2–11

10 of 19

Snapdragon

Trailing snapdragon Antirrhinum 'Candy Showers Orange'
Justin Hancock

The bright, candy-colored blooms of snapdragon might look sweet to us but are completely unappealing to hungry grazers such as deer and rabbits. Snapdragons vary in size from 8-inch dwarfs to 3-foot-tall giants, but they all offer plenty of color in pots and planters. There are also trailing forms that are perfect for hanging baskets. Snapdragons like cool weather, so you can rely on them to brighten your spring or fall garden. Colors include white, red, yellow, pink, orange, and bicolor. These annual plants often stop blooming in midsummer, but might pop up again when cooler, fall weather arrives.

Season of Bloom: Spring and fall

Growing Conditions: Full sun and evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 7–10

Buy It: Snapdragon Seeds ($10, The Home Depot)

11 of 19

Lantana

Lantana 'Luscious Pina Colada'
Justin Hancock

Considered an annual in the north and a perennial in the Deep South, lantana blooms its head off during hot weather. Its beautiful, nectar-rich flowers will attract mobs of hungry butterflies to your garden but never seem to be on the menu for rabbits or deer (probably because the foliage releases a pungent scent when rubbed or brushed). Lantana is drought-resistant, which makes it a great container plant for gardeners who forget to water. Colors include yellow, cherry, white, lavender, orange, red, and a host of bicolors.

Season of Bloom: Summer to frost

Growing Conditions: Full sun and evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 10–11

12 of 19

Cleome

Senorita Rosalita & Cleome
Peter Krumhardt

A super easy, sun-loving annual, cleome forms lovely rounded heads of purple, pink, or white flowers with long thin stamens that give the plant its common name, spider flower. This plant can grow 3-5 feet tall, so it isn't ideal for container culture, but new dwarf varieties are perfect for pots and planters, as they only grow 12-18 inches tall. Hungry critters avoid this plant due to its sticky, resinous foliage and tiny spines along the stems. But, butterflies and other pollinators love the nectar-rich blooms and will flock to your garden when the buds open.

Season of Bloom: Summer to fall

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to moderately moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 9–10

13 of 19

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum Lobularia 'Blushing Princess'
Justin Hancock

Low-growing and deliciously fragrant, sweet alyssum mingles well with any other container plant that shares its sun-worshipping habit. This little trailer rarely grows over 8 inches tall but can quickly spread 12-18 inches long, tumbling over the edge of pots, planters, window boxes, and baskets. Flower colors include white, rose, and purple. Its honey-scented blooms will attract scores of pollinators to your garden while repelling the hungriest deer and rabbits.

Season of Bloom: Spring

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 9 inches tall

Zones: 5–9

Buy It: Sweet Alyssum Seeds ($2, Walmart)

14 of 19

Persian Shield

Strobilanthes dyeranus, Persian shield
Denny Schrock

Once you've grown Persian shield, you'll want to plant it every spring. That's because this amazing annual develops spectacular, iridescent purple, green, and black foliage that shines in sun or partial shade. The plants grow 18-36 inches tall, so they make an ideal centerpiece in a large pot or planter. Persian shield is heat- and drought-tolerant and is resistant to both deer and rabbits.

Season of Bloom: Infrequent bloomer

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 10–11

Buy It: Persian Shield Purple Bloom Strobilanthes Plant ($27, The Home Depot)

15 of 19

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan in field
Peter Krumhardt

Annual varieties of Black-eyed Susan bloom quickly from seed and keep on flowering right up until frost. This nonstop color show is what makes them an ideal container plant, especially for hot, sunny conditions. Varieties include 'Indian Summer', 'Cherokee Sunset,' 'Toto,' and 'Becky.' Heights vary from 8 to 18 inches tall, but no matter how tall they are, these beauties all attract pollinators. However, because the plants have rough, hairy leaves, most deer and rabbits pass them by. Annual black-eyed Susan gets knocked back by the first frost, but often self-seeds, so you can rely on new plants every spring.

Season of Bloom: Summer

Growing Conditions: Full sun in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3–7

Buy It: Black-Eyed Susan Seeds ($3, Etsy)

16 of 19

Cilantro

Cilantro in green pot
Edward Gohlich

Few herbs are as flavor-controversial as cilantro. Beloved by many cooks and gardeners, this strongly flavorful herb turns some people off. Cilantro makes a wonderful container plant that both deer and rabbits avoid, although they'll both sample your plants if there's not much else around to eat. Cilantro develops bright green clusters of flat, pungent leaves that mix well with other herbs or annual flowers. It prefers cool weather and will form white flowers once the weather heats up (cilantro seeds are harvested as coriander). This vigorous, easy plant will often spread through your garden if you allow the seed loose. Clip the leaves at any time for use in the kitchen.

Season of Bloom: Summer to fall

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Zones: 2–11

17 of 19

Columbine

Pink Columbine Aquilegia
Graham Jimerson

A popular pick for the shade border, columbine is also available in dwarf forms that fit easily into containers. Growing 10-15 inches tall, columbine develops gorgeous, crownlike blooms in shades of pink, blue, yellow, lavender, cherry, white, and bicolor. This pretty little plant blooms in cool weather, so pot it early in the season. By summer, the plants will go dormant and can be replaced with summer-flowering annuals, such as ageratum or verbena. Both deer and rabbits avoid this lovely plant.

Season of Bloom: Spring

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3–8

Buy It: Giant Columbine Mixture ($20 for 5), Breck's)

18 of 19

Sedum

sedum spunum dragon's blood
Peter Krumhardt

You could create an entire container garden just using sedums. These fleshy-leaf beauties come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors that mix and match perfectly in containers of all types. Sedums are generally not bothered by deer or rabbits (or anything else for that matter) and can survive periods of severe heat and drought. Use low-growing and creeping varieties, such as 'Angelina,' to edge your pots or baskets and let taller varieties, such as 'Matrona,' take center stage in big planters.

Season of Bloom: Summer

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to moderately moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 6 inches tall

Zones: 5–8

Buy It: Live Plant Sedum Sunsparkler ($8, Walmart)

19 of 19

Yucca

color guard yucca
Peter Krumhardt

When you need a plant that thrives in containers, adds drama and color to your landscape, and completely resists deer and bunny attacks, yucca is a must. This perennial is also heat- and drought-resistant, making it an ideal pick for gardeners who don't like to fuss over things. Yucca comes in both green and variegated forms, and can grow 12-36 inches tall. If you have young children, you might want to use scissors to gently trim the points of the leaves to prevent accidents.

Season of Bloom: Summer

Growing Conditions: Full sun and dry to moderately moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 5–10

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