Deer resistant purple perennials

Can you recommend some deer resistant shade perennials?

No plant is entirely deer-proof. When deer are hungry enough, they will eat just about anything in the landscape, not restricting themselves to choice favorites such as hostas and yew. Excluding deer from the garden with fencing is by far the most effective strategy for protecting plants, but it’s often not a realistic option either due to cost or aesthetics. The next best alternative is to use plants that are more deer resistant. Deer tend to avoid plants that are hairy, spiny, tough, or particularly aromatic. Fortunately, there are plenty of shade-loving perennials that feature at least one of those characteristics and are avoided by deer in all but the leanest of times.

Barrenwort (Epimedium sp.) is one of the most deer tolerant plants for shady gardens. It is a clump-forming perennial that will gradually form naturalized colonies via its creeping rhizome system. The foliage is held atop wiry stems, and delicate nodding blooms in yellow, white, pink, or red appear in late spring. Barrenwort is also extremely drought tolerant once it has become established.


Ligularia (Ligularia sp.) grows well in moist to wet soils in shady locations. Leaves form a tidy rosette of large, dark green leaves. Yellow-orange daisy-like flowers are borne at the top of stout stalks in mid-summer. Deer typically ignore this perennial, but slugs can be an issue in some situations. Despite that challenge, it is still a great choice for perennial borders with heavy shade and consistently wet soils.


Bleeding heart finds a place on any list of deer resistant plants. Fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) is native to New Hampshire and does well in gardens with partial shade and moist, organic soils. With the right growing conditions, it will often self-seed. Fringed bleeding heart has drooping pink flowers that are accented by fern-like silvery-green foliage. Lamprocapnos spectabilis is a second type of bleeding heart that is commonly grown as a shade perennial. Its white or pink flowers are suspended from drooping flower stalks amidst green leaves. Both species of bleeding heart bloom in spring.

Bleeding heart

Ferns are almost always safe from deer browse regardless of species. A few reliable choices for New Hampshire are Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), and New York fern (Thelypteris novaboracensis). All of these species of fern thrive in part to full shade in organically rich, moist soils.

Japanese painted fern

Lungwort (Pulmonaria sp.) is a spring blooming perennial that works well as a groundcover or for naturalizing. It is very easy to grow as long as it is planted in shady spots with consistently moist, well-drained soils. In a similar way to hosta, lungwort is usually grown more for its foliage than its flowers. The hairy leaves are covered with attractive grayish-green spots and blotches that vary depending on the cultivated variety.


European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum) and wild ginger (Asarum canadense) are both attractive groundcovers that spread gradually by rhizomes. The leathery, glossy leaves of European wild ginger and the fuzzy leaves of wild ginger keep deer away while adding an interesting texture to woodland gardens and the edges of perennial borders.

Wild ginger

Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) can add a different texture to shade gardens in Zone 5 or warmer. While most ornamental grasses perform best when planted in full sun, Hakone grass is at its best in part shade. It is a clumping species that forms low, dense mounds that are not invasive. Some cultivars have either variegated or bright chartreuse leaf blades.

Hakone grass

Hellebore (Helleborus sp.) is a shade perennial that puts on a good show in early spring with flowers in shades of white, pink, purple and green. In New Hampshire, you should expect the leathery evergreen foliage to sustain damage over the winter unless it is protected from winds or insulated by snow cover. Fortunately, even if the foliage is damaged, the flowers are still reliable and new leaves will emerge during the bloom period.


Pigsqueak (Bergenia sp.) is a clump-forming perennial that can form an attractive groundcover over time. Its leathery, glossy, dark green leaves deter deer and add an interesting look to the shade garden. In spring, deep pink flowers in tight panicles bloom above the foliage. Pigsqueak supposedly gets its name from the sound the leaves make when they are rubbed between forefinger and thumb.


Of course, this is only a partial list of deer resistant shade perennials. For additional planting ideas, talk to the staff at your local garden center or Ask UNH Extension.

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A beautiful garden that returns year after year and repels hungry deer sounds like a dream, but it can be real! Create an entire deer-resistant garden using plants these creatures strongly dislike.

Of course, a hungry deer will eat just about anything. These plants repel because they are fragrant, prickly or sap-filled. Utilize them strategically in your garden to keep deer away from favorites such as garden phlox or hosta.

Bee Balm

Bee balm repels deer with its minty scent, but pollinators can’t get enough. Bee Balm blooms in violet blue, red, pink or white from July through August and grows relatively tall, 2-3 feet. Boost your Bee Balm with Espoma’s Organic Flower-tone fertilizer for big, healthy flowers. Best suited for zones 4-8.


Besides being a garden must-have, lavender deters both mosquitoes and deer. Its fuzzy and fragrant leaves just do not appeal to deer. Most varieties flower between June and August. Lavender prefers full sun with well-drained soil. Feed with Espoma’s Plant-tone throughout the growing season. Hardy in Zones 5 through 9.

Black-eyed Susans

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susans thrive in the sun. Because its covered in course hair, deer and rabbits stay far away from it. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for a late summer or fall bouquet. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Grow in full sun in zones 3-9.


Yarrow is a vibrant yellow perennial with fuzzy foliage that deers hate. It has a lengthy flowering time from June through September. It is a relatively tall flower with an average growth height of 2.5-3 feet. Give your flowers a strong soil base to help them thrive with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil. Best suited for Zones 3-8.


The colorful bell shaped flower with freckles on the inside is lovely addition to deer-resistant gardens. This plant earns its deer-resistant label because it’s poisonous to deer (and humans). Many foxgloves are a biennial, so flowers don’t show up until the second year in the ground. Newer hybrid varieties are perennial, though. They are self-sowers, so if you leave the stalks in, they will continue to bloom year after year. Use Espoma’s liquid Bloom! to keep the flowers coming. Grow in Zones 4-9.

Bleeding heart

Known as a classic cottage staple, bleeding heart has a sap that deer find disagreeable. Beautiful blooms develop quickly in late spring and will last throughout summer and foliage stays lovely into fall. It’s easy to see why their floral pendants, in shades of rose pink and white, will pack a punch. You can never go wrong with a bit of romance. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Espoma products for Deer–resistant perennials:

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Zone 5 Deer Resistant Perennials – Perennials That Are Deer Resistant In Zone 5

Deer can be the bane of a gardener’s existence. Big and always hungry, they can ravage the garden if they’re allowed to. There are effective ways to deter deer and block them from your plants, but one particularly good method is to plant things they don’t want to begin with. Keep reading to learn more about perennials that are deer resistant, particularly those for zone 5.

Cold Hardy Perennials Deer Don’t Like

The following plants are generally deemed as deer resistant perennials for zone 5 gardens:

Bee balm – Also called bergamot and Oswego tea, this plant produces vibrant, spiky flowers that attract bees and butterflies. It can also be steeped into a pleasant tea.

Bluebell – A beautiful spring bloomer that that produces striking trumpet- or bell-shaped blue flowers.

Brunnera – A leafy shade plant that produces tiny, delicate, powder blue flowers.

Catmint – A relative of catnip, it may attract the local cats to your garden. It does, however, bloom all through the summer and fall with spiky clusters of purple blue flowers.

Golden Chamomile – Also called golden marguerite, this 3-foot-tall plant produces a spread of bright yellow daisy shaped flowers.

Ferns – Ferns are great because so many varieties are cold hardy, and so many are also deer resistant.

Jack in the Pulpit – Though it looks carnivorous, this pitcher shaped plant only has pollination in mind. It still makes for an exotic sight, and thrives in moist, shady spots.

Lily of the Valley – A delicate sign of spring, lily of the valley gives off a one of a kind fragrance and is actually teeming with toxins, which means the deer give it a wide berth. It’s extremely tough, hardy down to zone 2.

Lungwort – A wide, low growing plant with speckled, bristly leaves and colorful flowers.

Meadow Rue – A plant that shoots up clusters of spiky, delicate flowers high above its foliage for a unique look.

Sea Holly – An extremely tough plant, it thrives in hot, dry, poor soil. True to its name, it even likes salt. It produces masses of interesting, prickly flowers that look great in arrangements.

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