Top Deer-Resistant Plants of the Northeast

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If deer treat your yard like a buffet line, try these plants. But keep in mind that deer in your neighborhood may have already developed a taste for some of these plants. Unfortunately, deer do not read lists.

To start, we need to set a ground rule: There aren't really any plants you can truly say are deer proof. And the animals are smart and unpredictable -- so the deer in your yard may love a particular plant, but avoid it in a garden down the block.

Check out these plants as a great starting point to creating a garden the deer won't frequently dine in.

Bee Balm

Bee balm offers a ton of virtues: It's a gorgeous, long-lived perennial; it has bright flowers over a long period in summer; it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; and deer and rabbits largely leave it alone. Plus it's a great cut flower. Try this classic in your garden.

Plant Name: Monarda selections

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

Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

Brunnera

A top shade plant many gardeners have never heard of, brunnera bears beautiful clusters of sky-blue flowers in spring. Look for variegated selections such as 'Jack Frost' or 'Looking Glass' and you can enjoy its beautiful foliage straight through frost.

Plant Name: Brunnera macrophylla

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Catmint

You can't beat catmint for a reliable, long-blooming perennial for full sun. It bears beautiful clusters of lavender-blue flowers all summer and into fall. Plus, catmint's scented, gray-green foliage looks good when paired with just about anything (especially as a ground cover under roses).

Plant Name: Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-8

Golden Marguerite

Fill your garden with summertime cheer with golden marguerite's yellow, daisy-shape flowers. An old-fashioned perennial, it has fuzzy leaves that deer leave alone and blooms that are great for cutting.

Here's a hint: Cut the plant back after flowering for a flush of new growth and more blossoms.

Plant Name: Anthemis tinctoria

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

This perennial is a great solution for shady gardens; it sends up a curious flower in spring and has attractive dark green foliage. While the leaves fade away in summer, the fruits do not, so it leaves behind a stalk of bright red (poisonous) berries to decorate the landscape at season's end.

Plant Name: Arisaema triphyllum

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-9

Japanese Painted Fern

Deer tend to pass by most ferns, including the gorgeous Japanese painted type, which offers silvery fronds marked with shades of green and burgundy. It's a perfect accent to the shade garden thanks to its season-long color. And, happily, it's slow spreading so you don't have to worry about it taking over.

Plant Name: Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

Zones: 5-8

Lily-of-the-Valley

Enjoy the sweet scent of lily-of-the-valley every spring, as well as its low-care nature. This deer-resistant (poisonous) shade-loving ground cover is a quick spreader.

Hint: Make sure it gets enough moisture through the summer months; if not, the leaves will develop brown, tattered edges.

Plant Name: Convallaria majalis

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, but well-drained soil

Size: To 9 inches tall and spreading several feet

Zones: 2-7

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

Meadow Rue

Meadow rue's lovely foliage looks like that of its relative, the columbine. Its clouds of fluffy pink, purple, yellow, or white blooms set it apart, though -- they float above the plant and create a soft, beautiful texture.

Plant Name: Thalictrum selections

Growing Conditions: Sun to shade, depending on selection, and moist, well-drained soil

Size: From 6 inches to 6 feet tall and 6 inches to 3 feet wide, depending on selection

Zones: 5-9

Sea Holly

What's this plant's best feature? It's tough to say. Maybe that it's incredibly deer and rabbit resistant. Or that it takes heat and drought like a champion. Or that it's a great cut flower. Grow it and decide for yourself.

Plant Name: Eryngium selections

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 4-10, depending on type

Sweet Woodruff

Another charming ground cover for shade, this quick grower offers fine-textured foliage and clusters of fragrant white flowers in early summer. The plant is also used in making May wine.

Plant Name: Galium odoratum

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall and spreading several feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Turtlehead

Spark a little conversation in your garden with turtlehead. Visitors are sure to ask "what's that?" when they see its pink or white blooms in late summer and autumn. They'll likely chuckle when you tell them its common name and point out how the bloom's shape gave the plant its moniker.

Plant Name: Chelone selections

Growing Conditions: Shade or sun and moist soil

Size: To 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 3-9, depending on type

Virginia Bluebells

A native wildflower through much of eastern North America, this delightful perennial pops up in spring with clusters of true-blue flowers. By midsummer, it usually goes dormant (so plant it with a partner such as epimedium or lungwort), but it's worth it for the weeks of bloom and fact that deer leave it alone.

Plant Name: Mertensia pulmonarioides

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: 3-7, depending on type

Wild Ginger

A topnotch ground cover for shade, wild ginger offers 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. Both are nearly perfect additions to the shade garden.

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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