Ground cover deer resistant

Deer Resistant Groundcovers

Plants that humans find aromatic often have the opposite effect on deer. Deer find their smell offensive and leave them alone, making these groundcovers effective for deer control. Fortunately there are quite a few ground cover plants that are deer resistant because of their odors or taste. Plus, an added bonus is that many of these ground covers will work well in shaded areas and do not require a lot of sun to prosper.
Deer resistant ground covers are vulnerable to hungry deer as are other resistant plants. Heavy deer populations as well as extended periods of snow cover causing food deprivation; can or will turn an unfavored ground cover into dinner. Ground cover plants come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and growth habits. Having a good selection of these plants that are also tolerant to deer and shade can be big help in areas that are difficult to develop vegetation. Groundcovers save on water, do not require mowing and can add color to your landscape. The ground covers listed here are usually not favored by deer. Click the photos to learn more, or call us at (888) 864-7663 to speak with one of our plant experts.

Blog Post: Deer Damage Tips

Deer Proof Groundcovers – Groundcover Plants Deer Leave Alone

Your English ivy is eaten down to the ground. You’ve tried deer repellents, human hair, even soap, but nothing keeps the deer from chewing the leaves off your groundcover. Without their leaves, groundcovers fail to control the weeds. By now, you’re probably wishing the deer would munch on the lawn instead!

Planting Groundcover to Deter Deer

In areas where deer are a problem, the long-term solution is to plant groundcovers deer won’t eat. In general, groundcover plants deer leave alone are those with thorny or prickly leaves and stems, herbs with pungent aromas, plants with hairy leaves and poisonous plants. Deer like tender young leaves, buds and nutrient-rich vegetation.

The key is finding deer-proof groundcovers that grow well in your area. Here are few that may work for you:

Shade-Loving Groundcovers Deer Won’t Eat

  • Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis): The tiny little bell-shaped flowers are a wedding favorite. The emerald green leaves come up in early spring and last until frost to form a dense cluster of weed stopping foliage. These plants are perfect for deep shade areas and under trees. Lily-of-the-valley likes moist soil with a layer of organic mulch. Hardy in USDA zones 2 to 9.
  • Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum): This perennial herb is well-known for its mat-forming growth habits. Sweet woodruff is a woodland plant that makes a great groundcover to deter deer. The 8- to 12-inch (20 to 30 cm.) plants have 6 to 8 lance-shaped leaves arranged in a swirl. Sweet woodruff produces delicate white flowers in the spring. Hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
  • Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense): The heart-shaped leaves of this native woodland plant are naturally deer resistant. Although wild ginger is not related to the culinary version, the roots have the reminiscent aroma of ginger. It prefers moist, but well-drained soil and is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8.

Full Sun to Partial Shade Deer-Proof Groundcovers

  • Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum): These low-growing edible herbs are prized for their thick, mat-forming growth and the blanket of color their blooms create. Tolerant of full sun and easy to maintain, creeping thyme has a strong scent that makes it the perfect groundcover to deter deer. Hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
  • Japanese Sedge (Carex marrowii): This true sedge grows in a low mound with long bladed leaves similar to grass. Japanese sedge loves moisture and is suitable to plant around ponds and water features. Japanese sedge cultivars are easily maintained deer-proof groundcovers. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9.
  • Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis): This attractive herbaceous perennial has circular leaves with scalloped borders. The yellow flowers last several weeks and the plant reaches heights of 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm.). It’s easily grown from seeds and prefers partial shade. Lady’s mantle can be grown in full sun, however, leaf scorch can occur. Hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.

It should be noted that no plant is 100% deer resistant. When times get tough and food sources dwindle, even these deer-proof groundcovers may be consumed. Applying commercial deer repellents during these times may provide sufficient protection to groundcovers to deter deer.

Five Deer-Resistant Ground Cover Plants

Deer are notorious for consuming the most lovely plants in any garden, including ground cover plants. Luckily, there are several species of attractive ground cover that deer will not eat. Many of these plants also thrive in shade, making them an excellent choice for planting under more established species.


Catnip plants are an herbaceous perennial herb with white flowers and a reputation for driving house cats crazy. The herb thrives in slightly alkaline soil and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. It is important to note that Catnip will grow up to three feet tall and three feet wide.

Japanese Pachysandra

This plant is a broadleaf evergreen perennial and has adapted to spread throughout the garden. If you want to contain this plant in one part of your garden, you must destroy its runners each year. This plant quickly out-competes weeds and other invasive species. Therefore, the Japanese Pachysandra is an excellent deer-resistant ground cover for a large area.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff is a beautiful and fragrant ground cover which bears tiny white clusters of flowers. This perennial will quickly suffocate weeds and spread out throughout the garden similar to Japanese Pachysandra. Sweet Woodruff is adapted to grow in the shade, but it will thrive in full sun as well. This plant is also edible and makes a great addition to any herb garden.

Liriope Spicata

This species of ground cover is an excellent deer-resistant ornamental grass. It can be used as a border for your yard, or it can serve as an all-over replacement for traditional grass since it only grows to be about 1 inch tall. In autumn, Liriope Spicata produces a dark berry which replaces its white and lavender flowers. It grows vigorously and can be difficult to contain, so be prepared to handle a lot of maintenance if you decide to keep it in one area.

Vinca Minor Vines

Vinca Minor Vines are an outstanding choice for deer-resistant ground cover because of their beautiful flowers. Also known as Creeping Myrtle or Periwinkle Flowers, these plants produce beautiful light blue and purple flowers. In addition, it has the potential to creep throughout your entire garden blooming intermittently throughout the summer.

These ground cover are deer resistant mostly because of the odors they produce. The odor that many people would consider alluring actually repels deer. Your nose will benefit from planting deer-resistant ground cover plants as will your blossoming garden. It is a good idea to plant a variety of deer-resistant species if you wish to repel deer from your garden altogether.

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Saturday – April 20, 2013

From: Newnan, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers, Wildflowers
Title: Deer Resistant, Fast Growing Groundcover Suggestions for Georgia
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Our driveway is 1/4 mile in length and is steep on both sides (one side up one side down). It currently has grass that our contractor planted using seed when we built our house. We are unable to cut the grass due to physical limitations since it is too steep for a lawnmower. We are looking for a perennial ground cover that is 1) a Georgia native, 2) fast spreading, 3) deer resistant, 4) that will grow in full sun or partial sun, and 5) needs no watering as water is not available that far from the house. I would prefer some type of bloom of any color but, it is not mandatory. Grasses that are no maintenance would also work. It would also be impossible for us to till the clay soil on these steep hillsides so ease of taking root is a necessity. I have searched the Mr. Smarty Pants database and found a phlox but, it sounds like the seeds are doubtful to come up and otherwise, I would have to plant each plant individually. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: Georgia, Habit – herb, Duration – perennial, Light Requirement – sun and part shade, Soil Moisture – dry, Height – 0-1 ft. Additionally you can narrow down your search further by flower color and blooming times. When you have about a dozen possibilities, take a look at the deer resistant list and see which plants are mentioned.

Three native plants to be considered follow:

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) sun or shade tolerant, takes some moderate foot traffic, 6-12 inches tall, yellow blooms spring-fall. Easy to propagate by cuttings or division on your own. Low water use.

Chrysogonum virginianum var. australe (Southern green and gold) Low maintenance, low groundcover for dappled shade. Yellow blooms in spring. Good for dry, fast draining soils.

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit) Vigorous spreader, drought tolerant, white blooms in summer, full sun or part shade. Deer resistant.

From the Image Gallery

Calyptocarpus vialis
Southern green and gold
Chrysogonum virginianum var. australe
Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora
Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora
Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

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