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Spotting a deer in your garden is one of those magical moments where you just want to stop and admire these beautiful creatures. But to do this without worrying about the damage the deer may be causing, you’ll need to grow a good range of low maintenance deer resistant plants. 

The 13 Best Low Maintenance Deer Resistant Plants

For a deer-resistant garden, opt for hardy perennial plants that will withstand damage from trampling deer. A good mix of plants with repellent properties and tough, resilient ground cover is the perfect combination to withstand any nocturnal visits from your local deer population. 

Luckily, when it comes to creating a deer-friendly garden, there are many different deer resistant plants to choose from! We’ve selected some of the very best low-maintenance and easy-to-grow plants that will thrive with minimal input on your behalf. 

As the focus here is on low maintenance plants, we will be suggesting options that fulfill most or all of the following criteria: 

  • Easy to establish 
  • Tolerant of a range of different climate conditions 
  • Require minimal pruning or annual maintenance 
  • Can withstand some damage from deer activity. 

All of the plants on our list today have been listed as ‘rarely damaged’ in the deer resistance list produced by Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

1: Anise Hyssop 

Anise hyssop - one of the gorgeous low maintenance deer resistant plants
Anise hyssop flowers – one of the gorgeous low maintenance deer resistant plants

Anise hyssop is a member of the mint family and is a low-growing perennial that produces an abundance of purple or blue flowers on tall spikes. The flowers are mildly scented with anise, which may be why deer do not like eating it! 

Once established, this plant just requires light trimming in the spring to encourage bushy growth. It will slowly spread and can be divided into two plants every few years. 

2: Bleeding Heart  

Lamprocapnos spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Lamprocapnos spectabilis – Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart is an excellent dear resistant plant to grow in a shaded area or woodland. It produces an abundance of flowers during the spring, then dies back until the following year. It will not spread profusely and requires very minimal maintenance. 

This plant gets its name due to the drooping arches of heart-like flowers it produces. Although it is a beautiful plant, it is toxic to dogs and should be avoided in areas that your canine friends can access. 

3: Rosemary 

Rosemary is one of the best low maintenance deer resistant plants!
Rosemary is one of the best low maintenance deer resistant plants!

Rosemary is one of those woody perennial herbs that seem to thrive on neglect! Like most Mediterranean herbs, rosemary likes dry, rocky soil with poor nutrition. These conditions, coupled with sporadic watering, seem to be all rosemary needs to keep it happy! 

Although we enjoy the flavor of rosemary as a herb, when eaten in its raw state it is pungent and deeply unpleasant. It does not suffer from many pests or diseases and will provide you with delicate purple flowers throughout the winter months. 

4: Blue Fescue 

Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca)
Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca)

Blue fescue is a striking ornamental grass that is rarely troubled by deer. It has a compact bushy growth habit, creating spiked mounds of thin blue-green grass. Blue fescue grows well in dry, well-drained soil that has been mulched with woodchip. 

5: Iris 

Iris sibirica
Iris sibirica

When grown in the right spot, irises will thrive and provide a display of beautiful flowers, year after year. The joy of irises is that you have a multitude of different varieties available, which can be combined to create a stunning visual display. 

Irises grow from bulbs and are not palatable to deer. They require little maintenance apart from dividing the bulbs when they become overly congested. 

6: Sage 

Salvia officinalis - Sage in flower. Gorgeous low maintenance deer resistant plants.
Salvia officinalis – Sage in flower

Sage is a popular culinary herb. But, not many of us grow it for its beauty and appearance! Sage will thrive in a sunny spot, producing an abundance of soft, fuzzy leaves and tall spikes of flowers. Once established, sage will just need occasional pruning to keep it in check. 

7: Rose Campion

Silene coronaria - Rose champion in a gorgeous low maintenance flowering cottage garden.
Silene coronaria – Rose champion in a gorgeous flowering cottage garden.

Rose campion is a classic cottage garden plant, producing a fine display of magenta, bright pink, or white flowers throughout the summer months. This perennial plant will thrive for three years or more, and also self-seeds easily. 

8: Yucca 

Flowering yucca in low maintenance deer resistant garden
Flowering yucca in low maintenance deer resistant garden

If you’ve ever caught yourself on the spiky leaves of a yucca plant, you’ll know why deer are not tempted to eat them! Yucca is often grown as a houseplant. However, it grows well outside in warmer climates and will thrive even through a hot drought season. 

Be aware that yucca can grow up to 30 feet tall when grown outside, which makes this plant a good prospect if you want a visually-impressive centerpiece to your garden. 

9: Germander 

Teucrium lucydris - hedge germander
Teucrium lucydris – Hedge germander

There is a multitude of different germanders to choose from, and all would make a great addition to a deer-resistant garden. Germanders are evergreen perennial herbs with delicate flowers. Bees and other beneficial insects love them!

In terms of upkeep, all you need to do with germanders is to cut the flowers back at the end of the summer flowering season. This may even prompt the plant to give another floral display in the fall! 

10: Thyme

Blooming Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Blooming Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

If you want some deer-resistant ground cover to fill in gaps around the edges of your paths and borders, then thyme is a perfect choice.

Thyme originates from rocky Mediterranean hills, where it would need to be able to withstand the hooves of grazing animals. So, whether deer or people trod on it, it will bounce back into shape within seconds! 

Thyme prefers a sunny spot, but will also grow well in dappled shade. There are many varieties and cultivars of thyme available, such as variegated lemon thyme or low-growing creeping thyme. 

11: Butterfly Bush 

Butterfly bush in flower (Buddleia sp.)
Butterfly bush in flower (Buddleia sp.)

You’ll love Butterfly bushes, or buddleia, for their large plumes of purple flowers which put on a vibrant display throughout the spring and summer months. The foliage of this shrub is evergreen, providing you with greenery all year round. 

Buddleia can grow up to 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide, but pruning back an unruly overgrown bush is an easy task. 

Please note that in some regions, buddleia is an invasive species. Check with your local authorities before purchasing a butterfly bush for your garden. 

12: Japanese Painted Fern

Colorful garden with hostas, Athyrium niponicum 'Ursula's Red', pink Auricula, and Dicentra Bleeding Heart
Colorful garden with hostas, Athyrium niponicum ‘Ursula’s Red’, pink Auricula, and Dicentra Bleeding Heart

Grow ferns to create a beautiful visual display in your garden, and many of them are also deer resistant. One of the most low-maintenance ferns you can grow is the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum), which will quickly become established in a cool, shady spot. 

The leaves of this fern have a silver stripe running down the center of each frond, creating a striking contrast to the darker greens of other perennial plants. 

13: Ornamental Onion 

Ornamental onion (Allium 'Gladiator')
Ornamental onion (Allium ‘Gladiator’)

Ornamental onions are close relatives to edible onions. People grow them for their striking bobble-like flowers that grow atop a tall rigid stem. Plant them to create a fun and colorful display in your garden, and you can rest assured that any visiting deer will have no interest in eating them. 

The stems on ornamental onions snap easily. This is one of their few downsides. Grow them alongside a wall or fence so they don’t fall over.

What Are Low Maintenance Deer Resistant Plants? 

You will often hear horticulturalists talking about deer resistant plants, but in reality, there is no such thing! Deer will eat a wide range of different plants, and what they don’t eat they can trample and crush as they pass through your yard. However, some plants are much more resistant to the attention of deer than others. 

Many plant varieties have a scent that can repel deer, whilst others are more resilient to being trodden on or eaten. By selecting low maintenance varieties of these types of plants, we can create a garden that is much less attractive to deer with minimum effort and upkeep. 

Why Grow Low Maintenance Deer Resistant Plants? 

Let’s face it, growing plants in harmony with nature can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle! What we envision as a beautiful garden may not be compatible with wildlife such as deer that want to visit our green spaces, who view it more as a delicious outdoor buffet. 

And while fencing your yard or garden to keep deer at bay seems like the obvious solution, not everyone wants a huge fence around their garden. Many people prefer to allow deer to access their gardens and learn to live alongside these magnificent creatures. 

By planting deer resistant plants, we can create a beautiful garden without needing to barricade the boundaries to keep deer at bay. This means that deer can pass through your garden with minimal damage, leaving your plants and flowers behind for you to enjoy. 

Final Thoughts

We hope you’re feeling inspired by our list of the best low maintenance deer resistant plants! It is clear to see that having deer visiting your garden does not need to be a barrier to creating a stunning floral display for you and your family to enjoy.

And best of all, once established these plants will require very little upkeep, providing you with many years of beauty for minimal effort. 

Keep reading!

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