The 20 Best Deer-Resistant Shrubs to Plant (Because Bambi Is Getting on Your Nerves)

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Bambi is adorable. Until she starts chewing on your roses or chowing down on your azaleas. The truth is that as suburbia has spread, deer have to go somewhere. And that could be your garden. You may not want these woodland animals to leave your property per se, but you’d appreciate it if you could have some greenery to enjoy—and that’s where these deer-resistant shrubs come in. We’ve rounded up the top 20 shrubs to plant, and have a few tips for living peacefully with your neighborhood deer (without letting them take over your yard).

How Do I Know Deer Are Damaging My Garden?

If you notice chewed-up plants and you’re not sure you have deer damage, look for ragged edges. Because deer have no upper incisors, they bite and tear plants from ground level up to about 6 feet off the ground. Some of your plants may get trampled, too, as they roam your yard.

While damage can occur year-round, you're most likely to notice it in the spring, since that's when new plant growth occurs, according to the Yard and Garden Extension of the University of Minnesota.

What Can I Do to Keep Deer from Eating My Plants?

A fence that’s 6 to 8 feet tall is most effective for keeping them out of gardens, but it’s not always practical. You can try scare devices, capsaicin or putrescent repellants (yes, they smell like rotten eggs, though the smell fades in a few days), but research shows they only work about half the time. Plus, you usually need to rotate types and reapply after rain. As for homemade repellants (bars of soap, hair, coyote urine), they just don’t work. Deer are incredibly adaptable and will learn to put up with a lot of things once they learn they’re not really in danger.

Your best bet is to combine methods: Use repellants but also plant shrubs they don’t love. If they get hungry enough, if there’s a large deer population in the area or if it’s an especially harsh winter, deer will eat anything—even plants they usually don’t like. But you can at least give these plants, which they’re less likely to munch on, a try.

The bottom line: There’s no such thing as deer-proof plants, only deer-resistant ones.

The 10 Best Shrubs to Create a Cozy, Enchanting Vibe All Winter Long

The 20 Best Deer-Resistant Shrubs to Plant

best deer resistant shrubs to plant boxwood
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1. Boxwood

Boxwood has been a favorite garden shrub for hundreds of years, thanks largely to its classic, uniform look. These shrubs can be left in their natural forms or sheared into shapes for hedges or topiaries.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant juniper
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2. Juniper

Deer tend to leave junipers alone, and they’re available in many different forms, from ground cover types to more upright shapes. Junipers are super-hardy shrubs in sun, cold or drought conditions, so they work almost anywhere.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant forsythia
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3. Forsythia

The bright yellow flowers or forsythia bloom in very early spring before the leaves have emerged, providing a little cheer in an otherwise gloomy landscape. (Spring is coming!) New types are more compact.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant butterfly bush
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4. Butterfly Bush

This perennial favorite attracts tons of pollinators all summer long. Look for new types, which are not invasive and are more compact and well-behaved in the garden, keeping a smaller profile.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant potentilla
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5. Potentilla

Blooming from spring to frost, this hardy shrub needs little care. It can withstand the cold well and tolerates any type of soil.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant beautyberry
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6. Beautyberry

Beautyberry is a real showstopper in the autumn landscape. This gorgeous shrub has white flowers and stunning pink or purple berries throughout that time of year.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant inkberry holly
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7. Inkberry Holly

Inkberry resembles boxwood, but it’s more disease-resistant. Even better? This compact little evergreen maintains its rounded form without you needing to prune it.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant rose of sharon
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8. Rose Of Sharon

These reliable summer bloomers add late season color to your garden. New varieties are more cold-hardy and have lacy blooms that come in lovely shades of pale pink or blue.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant red osier dogwood
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9. Red Osier Dogwood

This attractive shrub has bright red stems in winter, which contrast beautifully against a field of snow. Look for dwarf varieties, which are more manageable in small gardens.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant mugo pine
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10. Mugo Pine

This rugged dwarf evergreen has a charming, squat shape and interesting “candles” in the spring. Mugo pines have a great architectural form and make excellent foundation plantings or accent plants.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant pieris
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11. Pieris

Pieris is also called lily of the valley shrub for the oodles of dangling pink or white bell-shaped flowers that appear in very early spring. It’s an eye-catching shrub that should be part of every garden for its charming appearance and welcome spring color.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant mahonia
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12. Mahonia

This dramatic evergreen shrub has upright fern-like branches and sprays of yellow flowers in late fall to early winter. Plant it in mixed borders or as a foundation shrub.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant caryopteris
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13. Caryopteris

Bees love caryopteris (particularly its brilliant blue flowers) in late summer to early fall, when many other garden plants are fading. This lesser-known shrub is a great addition to any garden.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant arrowwood viburnum
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14. Arrowwood Viburnum

This hardy native shrub has tons of white flower clusters in early summer, followed by pretty blue fruit in the fall. Arrowwood viburnum tops out around 5 feet tall, so it won’t overwhelm most gardens.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant barberry
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15. Barberry

Barberry is a compact shrub that maintains a nice, rounded or pillar shape with no little or no pruning. Look for newer varieties that have gorgeous bright orange, red or chartreuse foliage all season long.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant weigela
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16. Weigela

Weigela has beautiful burgundy, green or variegated leaves with stunning tubular flowers in spring. Some types rebloom later in the summer, too, so you get more bang for your buck.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant lilac
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17. Lilac

This classic spring bloomer has the most amazing scent that works well in traditional or cottage gardens. New varieties of lilac also are more compact and less leggy, and some types rebloom in summer or fall.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant spirea
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18. Spirea

This hardy shrub has tiny clusters of flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. Spirea comes in many different varieties, but look for dwarf types if you don’t have a lot of space. Reblooming types offer a second show later in the season.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant deutzia
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19. Deutzia

This low-growing shrub makes a beautiful groundcover or foundation planting. Deutzia also has lovely arching branches and a profusion of lovely pink or white flowers in spring.

best deer resistant shrubs to plant siberian cypress
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20. Siberian Cypress

This compact evergreen hugs the ground and has feathery foliage that turns bronze in winter. It can take even the harshest climates (it is called “Siberian,” after all).


Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other national publications. She also trials new plant cultivars and field tests garden products to evaluate practicality and durability.