Having a lush, colorful garden where deer live is possible, if you choose plants with known resistance.
There are several different garden-worthy flowering tobacco species, cultivars, and hybrids such as Nicotiana. All nicotiana have tubular flowers adored by hummingbirds, and since the blooms emit their fragrance in the evenings, the primary pollinators you’ll spy feeding on them are nocturnal moths. Just keep this amazing plant away from your tomato plants because it can attract tomato and tobacco hornworms that may then lay eggs on your tomatoes. Still, it’s a deer-resistant annual plant that’s well worth growing. Plus, it’s easy to start from seed and has no pest or disease issues.
Sun-loving canna are deer-resistant annuals that live for many years, as long as you dig up the tuberous roots each autumn and store them in a box of peat moss for the winter. They’re perennial in tropical climates, but where winters are cold, we grow cannas as annuals. Cannas grow quite large (up to 5 feet tall) and have bold, tropical leaves that make a real statement in the garden. Foliage can be green, burgundy, or even striped or variegated. The tall flower spikes add color to the late summer garden.
There are so many wonderful salvias for gardeners to grow! While there are plenty of perennial salvia species, the frost-sensitive annual varieties of salvia are longer blooming. Members of the mint family, all salvias have a square stem and the foliage is fragrant when rubbed between your thumb and forefinger. Classic deer-resistant annuals, salvias thrive in full sun and are drought tolerant.
Calendulas are old-school, deer-resistant annuals. They return on their own from seed dropped the previous fall. Calendula is used in many herbal products, and the flowers are edible. Blooming in shades of orange, yellow, rust, salmon, and even pink, there are both single- and double-petaled varieties.
These bright-blooming annuals are a god-send to gardeners with deer issues. Their reliable blooms look beautiful in the vase and in the landscape. Depending on the variety, snapdragons grow from 6 to 36 inches tall. Their unique flowers look like tiny dragon heads that snap open like a jaw when pressed on both sides. Pollinated primarily by bumble bees who can easily pop open the flowers, snapdragons are deer-resistant annuals that come in many colors. From pink, purple, and burgundy, to red, yellow, orange, and white, snapdragons offer so much color to the garden.
Sometimes called summer snapdragons, the spiked blooms of angelonia are reminiscent of snapdragons, but their individual flowers are far smaller and different in shape from a true snapdragon. Angelonias are non-stop bloomers from late spring through autumn, as long as the plant is occasionally deadheaded. There are lots of different varieties and cultivars of this deer-resistant annual flower, each of which offers a unique bloom color or growth form. Typically topping out at 12 to 18 inches high, there are some more compact varieties that have recently hit the market too. Angelonia looks great in containers as well as garden beds.
A summer favorite of the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The round bloom clusters consist of many small, tubular flowers that often come in changing colors. If you’re up for the challenge, potted lantana is easy to overwinter in a garage where the temps stay just above freezing.
Fragrant ground cover, alyssum is one of those deer-resistant annuals that you can use just about anywhere, including in containers, foundation plantings, vegetable gardens, flower borders, and hanging baskets. Tiny clusters of blooms top this plant non-stop from spring through fall. Though white is the most common color, sweet alyssum also comes in purple, lavender, pink, and salmon, too. Because it tops out at just 3 or 4 inches and trails along the ground, sweet alyssum makes a beautiful annual ground cover, too.
Looking a bit like mini powder puffs, ageratum flowers add a soft texture to the garden. There are many short bedding-style varieties of this plant. The blooms come in light or dark blue, purple, or white, depending on the variety.
Everyone loves nasturtiums, and having them on a list of deer-resistant annuals is a must. Their round, succulent leaves and colorful flowers fill the garden like few other plants can. Trailing varieties creep along the ground, while bush-forming varieties stay more compact. Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seeds sown directly into the ground in mid-spring. The flowers are edible and come in shades of orange, yellow, red, and pink.
Annual Black-Eyed Susan
Their fuzz-covered, thick-textured leaves and flower buds seem to deter the deer, plus they self-sow and return to my garden each year. Technically, they’re a biennial, but northern gardeners grow them as deer-resistant annuals. There are many different varieties of tough, drought-resistant annual black-eyed Susans that are well worth growing, including ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Toto’, and ‘Denver Daisy’.
Many gardeners adore spider flower. The flowers are definitely prolific and adored by various pollinators. The plant makes quite a statement in the garden; some varieties reach 6 to 8 feet tall! Look for more compact selections if you need something of a smaller stature. Blooms are dark or light pink, or white.