18 Rabbit- and Deer-Resistant Flowers and Plants You Can Grow in Your Garden (Without Getting Gobbled Up)
Everything was going so well in your garden…until your uninvited guests showed up and ate everything. While you wouldn’t mind if the deer and rabbits just came to admire your flowers, it’s not so nice when they make your backyard an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you’re not sure who’s to blame, deer have no upper incisors, so plants will have torn, ragged edges; also, they feed from ground up to about 6 feet high. Meanwhile, bunnies leave round droppings and chew off plants at a clean, sharp angle up to about 18 inches from ground level.
So, how do you keep wildlife from gobbling up your garden? Unfortunately, the truth is if there’s a large population of animals in an area or they’re just plain hungry enough, they’ll eat anything— with or without repellants. But while there’s no such thing as a “deer-proof” or “rabbit-proof” plant, these animals generally don’t like plants with strong scents or fuzzy or leathery leaves and stems.
If you’re tired of sharing your hard work with the wildlife in your neighborhood, try adding these less tasty but still gorgeous, rabbit- and deer-resistant plants to your garden, and read on for
The fragrant foliage of this perennial often deters deer, but its beautiful flowers attract plenty of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Salvia also is found as an annual, so read the tag to be sure what you’re buying.
2. Dusty Miller
The fuzzy texture of this plant isn’t particularly appealing to wildlife, but its silvery color is the ideal complement to other annuals in mixed borders or containers.
The spicy-minty scent of this perennial usually keeps deer and rabbits away. The foliage has a pretty bluish tint, and the lavender flowers bloom for many weeks.
This elegant shrub blooms from summer to fall with fragrant flowers that bees and hummingbirds love. Its arching habit makes it a lovely planting for perennial beds and along walks, so you can enjoy its scent.
This cheerful bright yellow or orange annual has scented foliage that deer and rabbits tend to ignore. It’s easy to grow from seed, too.
6. Bee Balm
The bright pink, purple or red blooms of this perennial attracts tons of pollinators for most of the summer. But its minty-scented foliage is not tasty to most deer and rabbits.
7. Sweet Alyssum
This honey-scented annual isn’t appealing to deer or rabbits. It looks amazing draping out of baskets and containers or in rock gardens and along walkways.
8. Lamb’s Ears
The velvety-soft wooly texture of this perennial is not appealing to your hungry visitors. It’s perfect in rock gardens or in perennial beds.
Ferns are a great option for shade gardens, and they come in so many different textures and colors. They’re typically not a favorite of deer and rabbits.
Allium is an ornamental onion, so your garden visitors will steer clear of its scented foliage. Plant the bulbs in late fall for a late spring bloom the following year.
Most herbs, with their pungent scents, are not at all appealing to your hungry garden visitors. And herbs that are left to flower attract loads of pollinators, too. Try a mixed container or garden bed of chives, sage, parsley, basil and thyme. Bonus: You’ve got fresh herbs for all your favorite summer dishes.
This lacey-looking perennial has fuzzy silvery foliage deer and rabbits don’t like. It doesn’t mind heat, humidity and drought once established.
Also known as perennial geranium, the foliage of this plant has a strong, distinctive aroma. The beautiful flowers in shades of pink, red and purple-blue rise above the foliage in late spring to early summer.
These harbingers of autumn have a distinctive aroma that most deer and rabbits avoid. It’s perennial if planted early in the season. If planted in the fall, the roots won’t get established before the ground freezes, so treat it as an annual and plant new mums next year.
Daffodils are another bulb that deer and rabbits leave alone. This time, it’s because the leaves are poisonous. Plant in the fall for spring blooms.
Astilbe has pretty, feathery flowers that are quite eye-catching in the garden. But they’re not a first choice for deer and rabbits due to its frothy texture.
Wait—Can’t I Just Use Repellants to Keep Deer and Rabbits Away?
You can try spraying repellants containing capsaicin or putrescent eggs on plants (yes, it stinks like rotten eggs), but repellants aren't perfect. It doesn’t hurt to give them a try, but research has found they’re effective only about half the time. Ditto for homemade remedies such as bars of soap, hair or other strange concoctions, such as coyote pee (not the most appealing fragrance, for sure).
If you do decide to try a commercial repellant, follow the label. Some have to be reapplied frequently, after it rains and as new growth emerges. They’re also better as deterrents before you start seeing damage, not once the animals have decided your yard has all the tastiest selections.