by Erin Marissa Russell
You may notice that deer visit your garden most between the months of October and February. This is because deer have less to eat in their usual habitat during the wintertime. They may even eat plants that are usually not palatable to them when their usual food supplies are low enough.
Any plant, even a “deer-resistant” species, is vulnerable to being eaten by deer at only a few weeks old. Even if deer do not normally enjoy a certain plant, when it is young, its foliage has more nitrogen. The extra nitrogen makes the young plants attractive to the deer. You can use a deer-repellent spray until plants are about a month old. If deer do graze on your young plants, as long as the root system below the ground is intact, the plants can survive.
15 Annual Flowers Resistant to Deer
As a rule, deer will avoid plants with a pungent smell and those with hairy or fuzzy leaves. Of course, they’ll also steer clear of plants that are poisonous to them. Here’s a list of specific annual flowers that are deer resistant.
Zones: 5 to 9
Also called carpet flower, alyssum needs full sun and thrives in areas where the temperature stays on the cool side. If your region is warm, your alyssum will need some shade during the hottest part of the day. Keep your alyssum well watered (but make sure it gets plenty of drainage, too), and you’ll be rewarded with creeping foliage that stays low to the ground and tiny, delicate white blossoms.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica):
Zones: 3 through 9
California poppies are most commonly found in golden orange, although they’re also available in various other shades of orange as well as pink, scarlet, and white. The poppies need at least six hours of sun each day, and they’ll really flourish if they get more sunshine than that. It’s possible to grow California poppies in shadier spots, but the plants will suffer, becoming prone to disease and growing leggy.
Cleome (Cleome hassleriana):
Zones: 2 to 11
Cleome also goes by the name “spider flower,” and it’s easy to see why. The blooms clustered at the top of the stem are accompanied by long, spidery tendrils that stick straight out. Cleome is a good option for those with clay or sandy soil, as these flowers will tolerate just about any soil type. You can also grow these unfussy flowers in either full sun or part sun.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus):
Zones: 2 through 11
There are plenty of colors of cosmos to choose from, spanning the spectrum from white to chocolate brown. These tough little flowers actually do best in poor soil and will thrive in hot, dry weather. Some cosmos varieties can stretch to between four and six feet tall when they’re mature.
Floss Flower/Bluemink (Ageratum houstonianum):
Zones: 9 and 10
The floss flower’s delicate blossoms look a little like a pin cushion that’s been stuck full of pins. They come in blue as well as pink, purple, and white. These plants grow best in warm weather, and they especially need a bit of heat when they’re first getting started.
Zones: 3 to 8
The simple, old-fashioned blooms of the forget-me-not are usually grown for their classic blue blossoms, but you can also find forget-me-nots in pink or white. In northern zones, forget-me-nots will do well planted in full sun, but where the weather is warmer, the plants will benefit from some shade.
Zones: Perennial in zones 10 and 11; annual in other zones
Heliotrope, available in shades of blue, purple, and white, is grown for its fragrance as much as for its looks. Make sure the plants get at least six hours of sunshine each day, preferably in the morning. These flowers won’t grow well in clay soil.
Zones: Perennial in zones 8 to 11; annual in other zones
Lantana is known for its signature two-tone blossom clusters, seen most frequently in red and yellow. However, there are more colors to choose from, such as pink, purple, and white. Choose a sunny spot to plant your lantana that also drains well.
Morning Glory (Ipomoea):
Zones: 3 to 10
Most gardeners are familiar with the look of the classic blue morning glory bloom that opens early in the day and shuts its petals in the evening. However, you may not realize that morning glory blossoms also come in pink, purple, white, and even variegated colors. These plants aren’t fazed by cold weather and can tolerate a light frost.
Zones: Annual in zones 4 to 8; perennial in zones 9 to 11
There are 80 or so varieties of nasturtium to choose from, most with blossoms in red, yellow, or orange. Nasturtium does best in poor soil as long as it gets plenty of drainage. They’re edible, with a slightly spicy taste—not just the blossom, but the whole plant.
Petunia (Petunia species):
Zones: Tender perennial in zones 9 to 11; annual in other zones
Petunias are one of the most popular flowers a gardener can grow. Modern petunias are hardier and less fussy than they were in the 1990s, so if you’ve had trouble with petunias in the past, it may be time to give these delicate, colorful flowers another shot. Find them a spot where they’ll have six to seven hours of sunshine every day, and make sure they get plenty of water.
Zones: Tender perennials in zones 7 to 11; annual in other zones
Snapdragons are an old-fashioned garden staple known for their movement. You will find them in three sizes: dwarf, medium, and tall. Grow them at the end of winter. They need full sun and, like all plants, an area that gets good drainage (or a container with drainage holes drilled into the bottom). Snapdragons bloom from spring to midsummer in burgundy, coral, pink, purple, red, white, and yellow.
Other Tips to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden
There are ways to prevent deer from visiting your garden other than selecting deer resistant plants. The only way you can guarantee 100 percent that deer won’t be chomping on your flowers is to keep them off your property entirely. This document from Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage has instructions for many different types of fences or netting that will keep deer at bay.
Certain substances are unpalatable to deer because of their odor or flavor, and you can find all-natural deer repellent sprays to use in your garden. Some of them won’t even cause unpleasant smells. If you choose to use deer repellent sprays, make a habit of applying the spray to any new plants that you add to your collection.
Another substance you can hang from your plants to repel deer is human hair. Most hairdressers are happy to let you collect hair in their shop if you ask politely. You’ll need mesh bags, like those used to launder hosiery, to hold the hair in. When you hang up the mesh bags full of hair, make sure they are between 30 and 36 inches off the ground.
One of the best ways to keep deer off your property is to have a large dog that stays outdoors. This tactic only really works, though, if your dog is threatening to the deer instead of friendly.
Sounds can scare deer off as well. Any loud sound you can make should get them running. You can set up wind chimes around your property to make noise at random intervals. A similar strategy is to use devices that move to frighten the deer away. Wind spinners or a motion-activated sprinkler system can help. Some gardeners even tie silver foil pie plates into their trees, which will move when the wind hits them.
Choosing deer resistant annual plants isn’t the only way you can use plants to discourage deer. There are perennial plants, like herbs with pungent scents, that you can grow at intervals among your other plants to fend off local deer. For example, deer can’t stand the smell of chives, French tarragon, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme. You can also look for wildflower seed blends made to be deer resistant.
If you choose to grow some plants that aren’t repellent to deer, consider growing them in a container garden on your patio, porch, or balcony—spaces deer will naturally avoid. You can also grow vulnerable plants in a hanging basket or window box that is higher than a deer’s neck can stretch.
You can always cultivate what’s called a trap crop or lure crop. Choose a plant that deer are known to love, and plant a swath of it on your property far from where your garden is. The deer may be distracted by the lure crop and leave the rest of your garden alone.
Be careful with fertilizer, especially in the spring when plants are succulent and most inviting to deer. Although some fertilizers will keep deer away, like fish emulsion or blood meal, using too much will work against you. Plants that get too much fertilizer will continue that succulent growth throughout the season. To be extra careful, just use half the usual amount at a time.
If you end up choosing to plant deer repellent flowers, the ones on this list will do the trick. They’re also gorgeous annual choices for the garden. For extra prevention, consider the tips above. You’ll find even more advice about keeping deer off your property in the article Humane Ways to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/keep-deer-out-yard-garden/].