It is important to be aware that some plants are magnets for attracting
deer depending on your gardening goals. Many of us who enjoy our
butterfly garden also appreciate wildlife gardening but know
foraging deer can cause a great deal of damage.
Regardless of wanting or not wanting deer in the garden,
the plants listed on this page are deer candy.
Many of these same plants also help attracting butterflies.
Those flowering plants that attract butterflies are highlighted in pink.
Important to note is with the difference in regions also brings different degrees of how much plants will be eaten. Areas where deer prevention becomes necessary, there are many options for keeping deer out, including making your own homemade deer repellent.
- Rhododendron spp. Also called Rosebay. Azalea is a deciduous woody perennial shrub. Small blooms with colors ranging in whites, pinks, purples, reds, oranges and yellows. Blooms occur April/May and last for about two weeks, depending on when winter breaks for the season. Some species bloom June through September. See Rhododendron.
Azaleas especially attract Swallowtail butterflies and are toxic to horses, cats and dogs.
Blueberry Tree/Blueberry Bush
- Blueberry trees are deciduous perennials. Berries are green to indigo-colored, turning blue when ripe. Act fast when picking ripe berries - they get eaten quickly by deer where butterflies may never enjoy any nectar from blueberry bushes.
- Solanaceae family, or nightshade family. Also called Million Bells. Annuals requiring sun and are usually found in hanging baskets. With small petunia like flowers, this cousin has differences to the petunia. Plant produces flowers at a fast pace. Flower colors range from white to corals, pinks, purples, reds and more.
- Asteraceae family. Many varieties and colors.
Garden hardy mums are the perennials we are accustomed to. These are capable of being planted and over-wintering as long as roots can develop. The hardy mums sold in fall usually die once planted lacking a developed root system just before winter.
There are exhibition varieties which are usually not as sturdy as the hardy mum. Either way, both hardy and exhibition mums are good for attracting deer.
- Family is Ranunculaceae. Large to small flowering perennial vines that come in many colors.
- Also called Flame Nettle and Coleus blumei. Lamiaceae family (Mint family). Tender perennial that after a season outside die once frozen. Indoors it grows as perennial. Many vibrant colors
of leaves. Not a flowering plant.
- If growing vegetables, corn is a big deer attractant.
- Asteraceae family (Sunflowers, Daisies and Asters). Cosmos
plants are both perennials and annuals depending on variety, 20–26 species of flowering plants. Cosmos flower colors are usually in reds, pinks, oranges and whites and bloom in summer
Crab Apple Tree
- Rosaceae family, Malus species. Crab apple trees are not edible because of the sour taste unless dressed up and cooked. Flowers in spring, fruit grows in autumn,
Many pollinators including butterflies are attracted to flowering crabapple trees. If your space is limited or apartment gardening, consider this tree in a container for attracting butterflies.
- Family - Xanthorrhoeaceae. As the name states the day lily blooms for a day - up to 24 hours, then withers away. These are perennial plants that grow wild but there are many hybrid cultivars. There are a wide range of flower colors including yellows, oranges, pinks and multi-blend colors.
- Also known as plantain lily. These herbaceous perennials are good at attracting deer because of their fleshy roots and tender new leaves. Small flowers are white to lavender and bloom in summer. Hostas are known for the leaves which range in sizes, colors, textures and shapes.
- Grow as full plants, woody perennial shrubs and trees. Not all hydrangea plants are known for attracting deer depending on hybrid. The hydrangea tree 'Limelight' with bright chartreuse blooms that change to a rich dark red in autumn has proven to be a sturdy option for deer repellent plants. See deer prevention for the types of plants that deer are likely to leave alone.
- Family - Balsaminaceae.
Up to 1000 different species. In winter climates impatiens grow as an annual where as warmer climate they can remain a perennial. Pollinators are attracted to impatiens but it is not big on lists for
flowers that attract butterflies. Many times these are found in hanging basket form, especially the New Guinea impatiens.
Lettuce and Leafy Crops
- If growing vegetables, tender leaves are always a big deer attractant.
- Family - Magnoliaceae. Subgenus species magnolia grandiflora very popular in United States.
- Kalmia latifolia. Blueberry family - Ericaceae. Also called Calico Bush. An evergreen shrub with flowers blooms. Toxic to many mammals.
- Nemesia is a tender Herbaceous perennial in planting zones 9-10, otherwise it is an annual. Many colors including whites, Purples, lavenders and pinks.
- Both commercially and non-commercially grown.
- Family - Calenduleae, cousin to Sunflower. Also known as African Daisy. Both an annual and perennial depending on location. Variety of colors including blue, purple, pink, white and yellow. Blooms May to July.
- Petunias are annuals that are found in hanging baskets as well as planted in the ground. Many colors and newer cultivated varieties, many attract butterflies.
- Rhododendron spp. Also an Azalea but has larger flowers and leaves. Blooms later in the season than azalea, deciduous. See Azalea.
- Many Rose types, except Rugosa Rose. Perennial Shrubs with many colors and soft enticing petals for attracting deer.
Scarlet Runner Bean
- Phaseolus coccineus. Most have red flowers, some white. Runner Bean is a perennial vine but can be annual depending on region.
- Family - Asparagaceae. Perennial, shade plant with whitish-green
flowers that bloom in spring. A member of the lily family. Yes, deer
like this one but the good news is that it grows back fast. Popular for
- Phlox paniculata. Deciduous perennial that spreads to about two feet wide and three feet tall. Blooms June to October with colors of lavender, white, pink and red.
- Helianthus annuus. This huge flower is an annual and yellow in color.
Sweet Pea Plants
- Lathyrus odoratus. Fabaceae family, or legume family. Also called Sweet Pea Shrub. The sweet pea plant is a non-edible, annual climber with flowers that are usually in pastel shades of blue, pink, purple and white and bi-colours . Flowers midsummer.
Sweet Potato Vine
- Annual that grows fast. Sweet potato vines are popular for container gardens.
- Scrophulariaceae or Snapdragon family. Also called the Wishbone Flower. Colors include white, yellow, pink, violet, purple and magentas. Blooms June until first frost.
- Family - Liliaceae. Perennial bulbs that bloom in spring and come in many colors.
- Violaceae, or violet family. Also called Pansy Flowers and Johnny Jump Up. The viola flower can be a perennial, annual and shrub. So many color medleys to lure butterflies but soft petals for attracting deer.
- Pelargonium x hortorum. Not Hardy geranium. Zonal geraniums are annuals. The common colors they come in are red, pink, salmon, white, rose, cherry-red, or bicolored.
Attracting deer with Trees:
- Acorn nut from the Oak tree is a big one for attracting deer,
Genus - Quercus, Fagaceae, or beech family.
- American Arborvitae, or Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), Cupressaceae family.
- Buckeye trees (Aesculus glabra), Sapindaceae family.
- European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia), Rosaceae family.
- Frasier Fir (Abies fraseri), Pinaceae family.
- Yew trees - Many species of coniferous trees, or cone-bearing
If the goal is to keep deer out, see:
If deer are the goal for your garden:
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