Gardening Pest & Problem Fixes Garden Pests 17 Deer-Resistant Shade Plants That Will Brighten Up Your Garden These pretty perennials and shrubs will grow in shady spots and deer tend to leave them alone. By Nicole Bradley Nicole Bradley Nicole Bradley Kinning is a former garden and home improvement writer for Better Homes & Gardens, where she has also written about pets, beauty and lifestyle topics. Learn about BHG's Editorial Process Updated on May 23, 2023 Reviewed by Joseph Tychonievich Reviewed by Joseph Tychonievich Joseph Tychonievich is a gardening expert with two decades of work in horticulture, the author of three gardening books, and known for his deep knowledge of the science behind techniques for successful gardening. Learn about BHG's Gardening Review Board Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos Photo: David McDonald Gardening where deer are plentiful can be challenging, especially in shady conditions. If you're looking for deer-resistant shade plants, here are a few with textures and tastes that these creatures tend to shy away from—although no plant can be considered completely deer resistant. 01 of 17 Lily-of-the-Valley Bush Marilyn Ott Sometimes, it seems that deer will eat about anything, but lily-of-the-valley bush (Pieris spp.) is an exception. This shade-loving broadleaf evergreen has thick green foliage and drooping clusters of pink, white, or rose flowers in the spring that deer don't even nibble on. Occasionally called andromeda, lily-of-the-valley bush does best in part shade. Use it in a foundation planting or shrub border. The flowers, leaves, and sap of the lily-of-the-valley shrub are considered highly toxic to humans and pets. So, use caution when planting this pretty shrub around children and pets. Growing Conditions: Slightly moist, acidic soil Size: To 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide Zones: 5-8 02 of 17 Lungwort David McDonald Lungwort (Pulmonaria) is an attractive deer-resistant shade plant. This reliable perennial comes in several varieties, all with pretty spotted or variegated foliage with sprays of pink or blue flowers in the spring. This easy-care plant makes a great companion for deer-resistant, spring-flowering bulbs such as narcissus and scilla. Growing Conditions: Slightly moist, well-drained soil Size: To 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide Zones: 2-8 03 of 17 Astilbe Mike Jensen Brighten the dark corners of your landscape with the feathery finery of astilbe. This tough perennial bears blooms in red, coral, white, lavender, and cream and has fern-like leaves that provide color and interest even when the plants are not in bloom. Growing Conditions: Rich, moist, well-drained soil Size: To 3 feet tall and 30 inches wide Zones: 4-8 11 Shade Garden Ideas That Provide a Refuge in Your Yard 04 of 17 Jack-in-the-Pulpit Marty Baldwin Bursting into bloom in the early spring, Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is a reliable native wildflower easy to grow in gardens. This perennial produces an unmistakable hooded green or purple flower, often followed by red berries later in the season, and usually goes dormant in midsummer. Deer avoid Jack-in-the-pulpit because the plants contain a toxic substance, calcium oxalate. Warning Jack-in-the-pulpits are toxic, especially the corms (bulblike roots), so exercise caution when planting these if you have pets or small children around. Growing Conditions: Rich, damp, acidic soil Size: To 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide Zones: 4-9 05 of 17 Columbine Andrew Drake The pretty, starlike flowers of columbine (Aquilegia spp.), a deer-resistant shade plant, are held aloft on wiry stems that dance gracefully every time the wind blows. An easy-care native wildflower, columbine comes in various colors, shapes, and sizes that thrive in part shade. Individual columbine plants can be short-lived, but they self-sow freely and eventually form large drifts of color. Growing Conditions: Moist, well-drained soil Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide Zones: 3-9 This Partial Shade Garden Plan Creates a Colorful Spot to Relax 06 of 17 Bergenia Peter Krumhardt Trusses of pink flowers held above shiny, heart-shaped leaves make bergenia a top pick for your shade garden. Commonly called pigsqueak because the leaves make a squealing sound when rubbed between your thumb and finger, bergenia will remain evergreen in the southern part of their range. Growing Conditions: Rich, moist, well-drained soil Size: To 18 inches tall and wide Zones: 3-8 07 of 17 Japanese Painted Fern Janet Mesic Mackie Try deer-resistant shade plant Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) if deer are a problem in your neighborhood. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall with grayish-green fronds overlaid with silver and maroon highlights. Over time, Japanese painted fern will naturalize an area, forming dense clumps. Japanese painted fern grows best in rich, slightly moist, well-drained soil. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist, well-drained soil Size: To 18 inches tall and 2 feet wide Zones: 4-9 08 of 17 Ligularia Peter Krumhardt Grown as much for its huge dark green leaves as it is for its spikes of bright yellow flowers, deer-resistant shade plant ligularia will suffer when rainfall is scarce. Be sure to mulch the plants to maintain soil moisture. Use ligularia along a shady stream bank, in a rain garden, or at the edge of a pond. Growing Conditions: Grow in moisture-retentive soil and water deeply once a week Size: To 4 feet tall and wide Zones: 4-9 09 of 17 Brunnera John Reed Forsman Also called Siberian bugloss, brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) is prized for its colorful, heart-shaped leaves and sky-blue spring flowers. The plants are generally ignored by deer—perhaps because the leaves have a scratchy texture—and will eventually form solid clumps that spread by creeping rhizomes and self-seeding. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist soil Size: To 18 inches tall and 30 inches wide Zones: 3-8 10 of 17 Oregon Grape Holly Denny Schrock The thick, leathery, somewhat spiny leaves of Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium) keep deer from feeding on this beautiful, shade-loving shrub. It develops trusses of yellow flowers in the spring, followed by blue-black berries in the late summer. Give Oregon grape holly enough room to slowly spread by runners to form thick colonies of color. Growing Conditions: Slightly acidic, well-drained, moist soil Size: To 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide Zones: 5-8 11 of 17 Skimmia Denny Schrock There aren't a lot of shrubs that bloom in the shade, but skimmia will reward you with fragrant white flowers in the spring, followed by clusters of red fruits on female plants in the fall. Skimmia is a broadleaf evergreen deer-resistant shrub for shade and is a good candidate for a foundation planting or flowering hedge. Both male and female plants are required for berry production. The berries will also attract songbirds. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist, well-drained soil Size: To 4 feet tall and wide Zones: 6-8 12 of 17 Burkwood Daphne Janet Mesic-Mackie As fragrant as it is colorful, daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii) is a great deer-resistant shade plant. This pretty shrub develops clusters of whitish-pink flowers in early summer, followed by small red berries in the fall (which are toxic to mammals). Use daphne in a perennial border or as a foundation plant along the north side of your house. Growing Conditions: Well-drained soil in part shade Size: To 4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide Zones: 5-7 How to Pick the Best Shrubs and Bushes for Yard Structure and Beauty 13 of 17 Bottlebrush Buckeye Rob Cardillo One of the best deer-resistant flowering shrubs for shady landscapes is bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora). This native plant is covered in spikes of nectar-rich white flowers in the early summer that will attract hordes of butterflies to your garden. The foliage turns bright yellow in fall. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist soil Size: 8-10 feet tall and 15 feet wide Zones: 4-8 14 of 17 Pachysandra Kritsada Panichgul Deer tend to avoid plants with thick, shiny leaves. That's why pachysandra makes such a great shady groundcover where these creatures roam. This vigorous, deer-resistant shade plant spreads quickly by underground runners, eventually forming an impenetrable carpet of dark green or variegated foliage. As a bonus, pachysandra also produces tiny white flowers in the early spring. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist soil Size: 4-6 inches tall and several feet wide Zones: 4-9 15 of 17 Epimedium Marty Baldwin One of the best deer-resistant shade groundcovers is epimedium, occasionally called barrenwort or bishop's hat. It will slowly carpet your landscape with its colorful heart-shaped foliage and flowers. Different varieties of epimedium offer patterned leaves and flowers in lavender, yellow, or white. Growing Conditions: Can tolerate dry or rocky soil Size: To 18 inches tall and 3 feet wide Zones: 4-8 16 of 17 Foamflower Greg Scheidemann Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a deer-resistant shade plant that makes an elegant addition to any border that doesn't get much sun. This little charmer produces masses of pink or white flowers in late spring; its leaves turn reddish bronze in the fall. This hardy native makes an excellent groundcover when grown in a woodland setting. Growing Conditions: Rich, slightly moist soil Size: To 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide Zones: 3-9 17 of 17 Windflower Andy Lyons Borne on sturdy yet graceful stems, the snow-white or pink flowers of the deer-resistant shade plant windflower (Anemone sylvestris) look like they're dancing whenever there's a light breeze. This extra-easy perennial produces quantities of daisy-like flowers in April and May. Windflower spreads slowly, eventually forming broad mats of pretty foliage and flowers. Growing Conditions: Well-drained, slightly moist soil Size: To 18 inches tall and 2 feet wide Zones: 4-8 Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Pieris japonica. Pieris japonica (Andromeda Japonica, Fetterbush, Japanese Andromeda, Japanese Pieris, Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Pieris) North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Andromeda Japonica. ASPCA. Jack-in-the-Pulpit. ASPCA Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning. National Library of Medicine Daphne x burkwoodii. North Carolina State University Extension Gardner Toolbox.