These colorful deer-resistant annuals are easy to grow in gardens and containers.
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No More Deer Browsing
Our 10 favorite deer-resistant annuals let you coexist peacfully with the four-legged marauders. Whether they boldly walk up to your front door to graze from containers or nibble blossoms and foliage from beds, even the densest deer population won't thin these 10 plants.
Deer prefer tender, succulent foliage, making annuals a frequent target for their next meal. Deer-resistant annuals are a select group; they might incur a bit of deer browsing but they will bounce back and deer are not likely to revisit.
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Like wands of color dancing through the garden, snapdragons (Antirrhinum species) bloom from early summer until the first frost. Ranging from 8-inch-tall dwarf varieties to those that stand 36 inches tall, snapdragons are great for containers and garden plantings. These deer-resistant annuals thrive in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Start snapdragons from seed about 8 weeks before the last frost or purchase transplants at the garden center. Snapdragons are also great cut flowers. Grow the 36-inch-tall 'Rocket' variety for long-lasting cut-flower bouquets.
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The edible flowers and leaves of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) add spicy zip and zing to salads, but deer usually find the plant unpalatable. Easy to grow from seed, nasturtiums are best direct sown in the garden after the last chance of frost has passed. Plant them in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They thrive in containers, too. Nasturtiums grow 6 to 18 inches tall.
There are several eye-catching varieties. Grow 'Jewel Mixed' for flowers in glowing shades of red, pink, yellow, and orange above a compact mound of green leaves. 'Empress of India' has bold crimson flowers on 12-inch-tall plants.
Keep Plants Blooming
You've probably heard of deadheading, but there are plenty more ways to ensure fresh blooms replace spent ones. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your annuals blooming all season long.
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Grow marigolds (Tagetes patula) for mounds of fragrant foliage topped with yellow, orange, and red flowers all summer long. Deer rarely dine on these annuals, thanks in part to their spicy fragrance. Start this easy-to-grow annual from seeds planted indoors six weeks before the last frost, or sow directly in the garden. Plants thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. They grow 6 to 18 inches tall and are great for containers and the garden.
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Long-lasting purple flower spikes top these 2- to 3-foot-tall deer-resistant annuals early summer through fall. White-flowering cultivars are also available. Exceptionally easy to grow and tolerant of a variety of growing conditions, blue salvia (Salvia farinacea) thrives in containers or in the garden. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Start blue salvia from transplants purchased at a garden center. 'Victoria' series has slender deep purple or white spikes and blooms all summer. Snip spent blooms throughout the summer to encourage new flower spikes to emerge.
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A prized cutting flower and favorite nectar source for butterflies, cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) grow easily from seed. Simply scatter seeds of these deer-resistant annuals in the garden in late spring. Cover the seed with a ½ inch of fine soil and watch for seedlings to emerge. Cosmos grow 1 to 6 feet tall and bloom in shades of pink, red, purple, and white. The fine, airy foliage expands to fill a large area. Grow cosmos in full sun or part shade. 'Sensation' series grows 4 feet tall and has flowers up to 6 inches across. 'Sonata' series is perfect for small spaces and containers as they grow just 1 to 2 feet tall.
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A cottage garden favorite and gorgeous cutting flower, larkspur (Consolida ajacis) is prized for its 2- to 4-foot-tall flower spikes. Flower colors include bright white, pale pink, magenta, blue-violet, and bold purple. Sow larkspur seeds directly in the garden in full sun as early as the soil can be worked in spring. Seed takes 14 to 21 days to germinate. When the weather is cool, plants will provide many weeks of elegant flower spikes. Larkspur fades in midsummer.
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Dusty miller (Senecio candicans) provides a great contrast to nearby green leaves and flowers with its silvery foliage. Use this deer-resistant annual to brighten a container or garden bed. Dusty miller has lobed or finely cut foliage. This plant is easy to find at the garden center; purchase transplants in early spring. Plants grow 8 to 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
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Star-shape flowers top this long-blooming, deer-resistant annual. Blooming profusely from late spring through the first frost, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) is a great addition to container gardens or in-ground plantings. It grows 1 to 4 feet tall, depending on the cultivar. Start flowering tobacco from transplants purchased at the garden center in spring. Plant in full sun.
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A fragrant, low-growing plant, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is great for trailing over the side of containers or filling bare spots in the garden or along a pathway. This deer-resistant annual grows best in full sun and well-drained soil and will continue its prolific bloom show all summer long. Start sweet alyssum from seed in the garden or sow indoors four to six weeks before the last frost. Sweet alyssum seedlings are readily available at garden centers, too.
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The paperlike petals of this easy-to-grow, deer-resistant flower make it great for drying. Harvest flowers when the lower two to four rows of petals are just beginning to open. Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum) is a great fresh cut flower, too. Sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Transplant into a full sun location. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall.
Interested in more annuals? Put on a beautiful show with this roundup of BH&G's favorite summer annuals.