Deer-Resistant Annuals Bring a Colorful Season to Your Yard

pink splashes on green leaves of the polka dot plant

Are you looking for deer-resistant annuals to plant this season?

Planting annuals in deer country often feels like burying dollar bills in the ground. You hope to find them when you come back, but don’t really expect it.

Brightly colored and persistently blooming throughout the growing season, it is hard for any gardener to resist the lure of annuals, even as those doe eyes watch you dig your planting holes.

I’ve tried soaps, sprays, hair, granular deterrents, urine, blood, whirligigs, air guns, shouting and flapping my arms. But my four-legged friends just stare and resume their munching.

It hurts my pride.

Not one to surrender without a fight, I’ve stumbled upon a few standbys deer don’t seem to like.

Here are five trusty, deer-resistant annuals.

Marigolds for the Smell of It

Tall, short, or in between, I think marigolds were the first flowers I planted as a kid.

There was a period when the bright oranges and golds were regarded as garish in the garden. But with the proliferation of bright, outdoor furnishings these days, the hot colored annuals have been invited back to the party. Marigolds definitely fill the bill.marigold

In my front garden, I have mostly pastel colored perennials. I like to throw in a few annuals for those times when I am between perennial blooms. You might think that marigolds wouldn’t work here, but I’ve found some soft yellow hues, and a lime green, that work well.

The deer don’t seem to like the scent of marigolds. I do — to me, it is the sweet smell of success!


Sweet Alyssum Are Proven Deer-Resistant Annuals

Unlike pungent marigolds, you’d think the sweet smell of alyssum would attract deer. It doesn’t.

sweet alyssum
photo: Forest & Kim Starr

Sweet Alyssum is a great edging plant, blooms all season, and brings a light, airy feel to the flower bed.

Don’t get into the mindset that it can only be planted at the edge, though. I like to set alyssum throughout the border as a filler between perennial specimens.

As an added bonus, I’ve had alyssum self-sow in the flower beds. Now, that’s an investment that yields great dividends.

Dusty Miller for Texture

The leaves are what make this annual valuable.

Silver, furry, and finely cut, dusty Miller’s foliage brings grace to the garden.

The plants grow to about 2 feet. They will flower, but only with inconspicuous yellow buttons.dusty miller

Dusty Miller is a tough annual. It often comes back to life after a mild winter, putting it in the class of tender perennials.

I think it is the fuzzy texture that the deer don’t like.

Sorry, deer.

Polka Dot Plant: Look but Don’t Taste

Polka dot plant is another sturdy annual planted for it’s foliage.

I’m guessing the white, pink, and red splashed leaves don’t taste very good.

polka dot plant

Polka dot plants form foot high mounds and, like alyssum, make a good filler between perennials.

They produce some attractive blue flower spikes in late summer, but it is definitely the pretty, splashed foliage that is the main attraction.

Ageratum Blue, Dilly, Dilly

I love blue flowers; actually, I just love the color blue. So, thankfully, ageratum provides that lovely shade in a deer-resistant annual.

Here, again, I think it is the texture that the deer don’t like.

Ageratum grows to about 1 ½ feet. It requires sun, and blooms throughout the summer.

I find that this particular shade of blue mixes well with both hot and pastel color palettes, making ageratum a valuable annual that can bring consistency to your planting beds.

By Danny Steven S. (Own work)

There you have it – five annuals that will bring beauty and resiliency to your yard. 

Looking for more deer-resistant plants? Here are some perennials and bulbs  you may like.

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4 comments on “Deer-Resistant Annuals Bring a Colorful Season to Your Yard”
  1. A. JoAnn says:

    Thank you so much for the additional ideas! I was doing pretty well avoiding deer damage this year, until I saw a couple of bucks two nights ago. Now I see that some of my willow bushes are missing tips. Sigh…

  2. Good information, and you’ve reminded me that I want to put some polka-dot plant in my lasagna garden, up under a copse of trees smack in the middle of a well-traveled deer path! I’ve had good luck with all of those you mentioned, plus Cleome (they don’t like the thorns, I guess!), Vinca (the flower, not the vine), and annual Dianthus. (They leave the perennial Dianthus alone, as well.) I love the smell of Alyssum!

  3. We have lots; once I counted 30 wandering through the backyard. There is controversy about how to control the population.

  4. It sounds like you’re surrounded by herds of deer! I’ll bet you don’t have these little guys in Ohio though. They are everywhere in the UK. They’re very bold fellas grazing, and you often see them wandering along through the woods next to very busy roads.

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