21 Deer-Resistant Annuals for Your Flower Backyard

Many of us have deer visit our garden and quickly devour tasty blooms and leaves. No plant is deer-proof, but the first line of defense is choosing plants that aren’t particularly appealing to our cloven-hoofed visitors. 

Plants with aromatic foliage and textured leaves and flowers (fuzzy, rough, spiny) are good options in deer-prone areas. Some plants contain toxins as defenses to deter predators naturally. Fencing and natural repellents help, but annuals that hold their own are the best investments.

Deer visit the garden for a variety of reasons. Lean seasonal food sources, habitat loss, population increase, and easy picking can all be reasons for deer predation. Deer especially favor new, tender shoots of growth; fortunately, plants often recover from this initial nibbling. 

Annuals rarely or seldom severely damaged by deer are the best options against a tasty food source. Here are a handful of my favorite deer-resistant annuals with a burst of seasonal color.


QIS Fiery Sunrise Blend Gomphrena Seeds


Blue Victory Salvia Seeds


Indian Peace Pipe Nicotiana Seeds


A close-up showcasing the delicate, white and purple petals of nicotiana flowers, intertwined with green stems, creating a harmonious botanical composition in full bloom.The nicotiana plant thrives in organically rich, well-draining soil with consistent moisture.

Loads of star-shaped trumpet flowers make nicotiana (flowering tobacco) a striking garden annual. Tubular blooms in deep red, pink, lime green, and creamy white dazzle from summer through frost. The plant’s jasmine-like fragrance attracts butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

Flowering tobacco has sticky leaves and slightly hairy stems. Plants also carry alkaloids (toxins) that deer find distasteful.

For best blooming and vigor, nicotiana needs soils rich in organic matter with even moisture and good drainage. In hot summer climates, protect nicotiana from direct afternoon sun.

Angel’s Trumpet

A close-up of white Angel's trumpet flowers hang gracefully, their petals cascading downward, framed by a lush, blurred background of vibrant foliage.The leaves and seeds of this plant are toxic when ingested in large quantities.

Brugmansia’s size and enormous, pendulous trumpet flowers make it a specimen in the garden. Commonly called angel’s trumpet, blooms range in color from creamy white to apricot to yellow and appear in summer through frost. The highly fragrant flowers draw pollinators, including bats, hummingbirds, and moths. 

Deer steer clear of angel’s trumpet leaves and stems, which have fine hairs and are sometimes coarsely toothed. When ingested, the leaves, flowers, and seeds are toxic to humans and animals. Be cautious around these plants.

A tropical shrub, brugmansia overwinters in the mulched garden bed where it is hardy or indoors in containers. It needs rich, moist, well-drained soil to thrive and does best with morning sun and dappled afternoon light. Angel’s trumpet is salt tolerant and withstands light frost and drought.


A close-up of purple vinca flowers interwoven with green leaves; in the background, a gentle blur accentuates the natural earthy tones of the ground, creating a serene botanical scene. Annual vinca needs only one organic fertilizer application per season.

Annual vinca brings abundant color with low maintenance needs. In shades from pastel pink to bold magenta, the blooms pop against an attractive backdrop of deep, glossy green foliage. Flower “eyes” brighten bloom centers in contrasting colors, often clear white, yellow, or pink. Depending on the variety, plants grow upright or trail and cascade.

Annual vinca contains alkaloids that deer avoid (and humans and pets wouldn’t want to ingest, either). It’s beautiful as a mass planting in full sun, where it may “screen” other tender annuals from deer damage.

Annual vinca thrives in hot and dry conditions in well-draining soils. At planting time, fertilize vinca with a balanced, organic application. A single application lasts all season, as vinca doesn’t require many added nutrients.

Sweet Alyssum

Delicate white alyssum flowers bloom elegantly, contrasting with the softly blurred outlines of surrounding plants, creating a tranquil and harmonious scene in the garden.This member of the mustard family attracts pollinators with its fragrant flowers.

Sweet alyssum is an old-fashioned deer-resistant annual with globes of fragrant white blooms covering plants in spring and fall. The bursts of snow white make it an ideal filler planting. Alyssum’s feathery foliage and small flowers create a low-growing carpet, bringing fine texture to the display.

In the mustard family (Brassicaceae), sweet alyssum leaves aren’t tasty to deer. Its flowers have a sweet and honeylike fragrance that draws pollinators, but the strong scent deters nibbling ungulates.

Sweet alyssum is an easy-care annual that thrives in full to partial sun and well-drained soils. It does best in cool climates and may turn yellow and fade in summer heat. Provide partial shade in hot climates. They’ll resume blooming with the cooler temperatures of early fall.


Snapdragons of white, red, yellow, and pink bask in the warm sunlight, their colorful petals reaching skyward, creating a cheerful display of nature's palette in full bloom.
All varieties of snapdragons are deer-resistant due to their bitter taste.

With their tall, upright bloom spikes, snapdragons bring an infusion of color to the annual display. At varying heights, they anchor the back of the border or fill the interior with a fountain of color.

While snapdragon flowers are edible, their flavor is bitter. This is good news for growing them in gardens visited by deer. Deer rarely damage them. 

Remove spent blooms to promote continual flowering. Snapdragons thrive in the sun in moist, rich, well-drained soils. In mild climates, snaps bloom all winter long. In colder climates, snapdragons bloom in spring, summer, and fall.


A bunch of purple verbena flowers nestled among lush, deep green leaves, with another cluster visible in the background, adding layers of color and texture to the scene.These plants have rough leaves that serve as a backdrop to their showy blooms.

Annual verbena yields clusters of small, star-shaped flowers on the tips of mounding, upright, or trailing stems with dark green foliage. Their long bloom season, low growing habit,  and color selections from peach to blue-violet complement a variety of other annuals.

Verbena leaves form a lovely, deep backdrop to its showy blooms. They’re rough and coarse when it comes to nibbling, making them a popular deer-resistant annual option.

Verbena tolerates bright sun and drying out between waterings, but it appreciates regular water for best blooming. Perennial verbena, like ‘Homestead Purple,’ is a good performer in hot, humid climates. Trim verbena if it gets leggy to rejuvenate growth.


Red nasturtium blooms nestled amidst lush green leaves, their delicate petals unfurling under sunlight, offering a striking contrast against the verdant foliage in this close-up botanical scene.
An easy-to-grow annual produces edible leaves and flowers with a peppery taste.

Nasturtium is popular for its attractive round leaves in true green on stems that climb or trail. It bears tubular yellow, orange, red, or cream blooms, sometimes all on the same plant. With a loose and rambling form, nasturtium lends itself to informal and naturalistic designs.

The leaf and flower of nasturtium are edible and have a peppery flavor. Enjoy the young leaves and flowers (slightly more mellow) in salads and as garnishes. Deer and rabbits don’t enjoy the spicy, slightly bitter taste.

Nasturtiums are easy-to-grow annuals in sunny locations. They tolerate dry conditions and partial shade but bloom best in sunny locations with regular water.


A close-up showcases purple cleome flowers in a cluster, standing out against a softly blurred backdrop of lush green foliage, highlighting their delicate petals and intricate details.Colorful cleome attracts pollinators and makes great cut flowers.

Cleome boasts blooming wands of purple, pink, rose, and white flower clusters. Tall, upright stems hold delicate flowers with long stamens (hence the common name spider flower). Long, narrow seed pods emerge after each bloom.

This deer-resistant annual’s plant defenses include fine hairs that make leaves feel sticky. When crushed, leaves carry a pungent odor. Some cleome stems even contain prickles. This trifecta makes the plants unpleasant for deer browsing.  

Cleome grows quickly from seed and self-seeds in the landscape. Pull any unwanted volunteers to keep them from spreading to other garden areas. Remove seed pods as they develop to reduce spreading, or heavily mulch the area the following spring to reduce volunteers. Some sterile varieties, like ‘Senorita Rosalita,’ won’t reseed.

The colorful blooms of spider flowers attract numerous pollinators. Best in a mass, cleome creates an informal, wild look from early summer through frost. Cleome also makes excellent cut flowers.


Clusters of vibrant lantana blooms in shades of purple and yellow, accompanied by a delicate butterfly, contrasting beautifully with the verdant backdrop of lush, green leaves.This plant can cause mild skin irritation when leaves and seeds are touched.

Lantana brings a show of color to the annual garden all season long, with flowers of multiple colors in the same cluster. Lantana cultivars run the spectrum of color palettes from pale peaches and pinks to bright reds, oranges, and yellows.

Alkaloids in lantana have medicinal and astringent properties, though leaves and seeds can cause mild skin irritation. Plants are toxic to humans and wildlife when ingested. The plant gives warning signs in its slightly spiny stems and coarse, aromatic foliage; deer seldom damage the plants.

Lantana grows easily in the landscape and requires little maintenance. It prefers regular watering in well-draining soils and doesn’t thrive when overwatered. Lantana loves full sun and needs no fertilizer to bloom all season. You may even have luck finding a native species that will perennialize in your garden.


A close-up of vibrant orange calendula blooms contrast against verdant foliage, capturing the essence of nature's beauty in intricate detail.The calendula plant is known for its multi-layered daisy-like flowers.

Calendula is long-blooming, with bright ray flowers from spring to frost in cool climates. In hotter climates, plant calendula in the cool temperatures of fall and spring (and even over the winter) for seasonal color.

The multi-layered daisy-like flowers are usually rich yellow or orange, with pink, white, and bicolor varieties. Fine hairs cover the stems, and the leaves are slightly aromatic and sticky—a key to this annual’s deer resistance. The leaves and flowers are edible (blooms make a lovely garnish) if a little bitter.

Calendula is easy to grow in full sun and well-drained soils. They’ll wither in high summer heat but recover (in cool climates) for fall.

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Purple pentas bloom in clustered arrangements, contrasting against lush green foliage in the backdrop, creating a vivid and harmonious botanical display in a garden or natural setting.The flowers provide vibrant color and nectar while rarely harmed by deer.

Pentas yield a profusion of star-shaped flowers in bloom clusters of red, pink, lavender, white, or all of the above. Red pentas are the top choice of hummingbirds in the annual garden, though any available penta draws them. Flowering continues all summer through frost.

Deer seldom severely damages pentas. The stems and undersides of the leaves contain fine hairs. 

Pentas are tough annuals that withstand hot and humid summers and periods of drought. This easy-care annual brings long-lasting, vibrant color and sweet nectar to the display.


Bright orange marigold flowers sit gracefully atop green leaves, contrasting colors forming a picturesque scene of natural beauty, evoking feelings of warmth and cheerfulness in the observer's heart.Colorful marigolds repel deer with their pungent fragrance and foliage texture.

Marigolds’ prolific pom-pom blooms in sunny yellow, deep gold, creamy white, and garnet contrast beautifully with their feathery deep green or purple foliage. They bloom reliably all summer, and their economy makes them an excellent investment for a punch of garden color.

Marigolds bear a pungent, minty fragrance in their flowers, stems, and leaves. Fragrance and foliage texture make them unappealing to deer (even though humans enjoy their edible blooms).

Marigolds charm the garden with their fragrance, cheerful color, and versatility as fresh and dried blooms. They grow quickly from seed and thrive until hard frost in full sun with well-drained soils. If soils are lean, amend them with organic matter at planting time.


A close-up of an orange zinnia, its petals unfurling under the warm sunlight, surrounded by a soft blur of pink blooms, creating a harmonious garden scene filled with vibrant hues and natural beauty.These plants resist pests and diseases with their heat-loving, long-lasting blooms.

Zinnias bring large, vibrant, double-disc flowers to the annual display. Blooms range in color from white to magenta to lime and bicolor. Plants grow low and mounding or tall and airy, depending on the variety.

Zinnia is resistant to deer and rabbits because of its rough leaves. They have a sandpapery texture, making them tough and undesirable.

Zinnias’ heat-loving blooms last from spring until frost. Zinnias need good air circulation, well-drained soil, and full sun to prevent pests and fungal diseases, especially in humid climates. In areas like the South with high heat and humidity, try disease-resistant varieties like the tall ‘Queeny Lime’ and ‘Profusion,’ a dwarf zinnia loaded with successional blooms. 


Vibrant pink strawflowers, their centers adorned with sunny yellow hues, pop against a blurred backdrop of verdant foliage, creating a vivid contrast of colors in a lush, natural setting.The durability of this flower makes it ideal for long-lasting floral arrangements.

Strawflower is a warm-season annual with long-lasting blooms from spring until frost. The unique lowers are stiff and papery in white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. Strawflowers resemble daisies with disk florets and surrounding rays of color.

The rigid texture of the plant and bloom, along with fine, cobweb-like hairs on the leaves, are the primary deer deterrents, so they are rarely damaged.

Strawflowers retain their color when cut and dried for a long-lasting floral arrangement and are also called “everlastings.” Carefree annuals, strawflower grows in average to dry soils. It tolerates drought and full sun to partial shade conditions. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new shoots and additional flowering.

Mealycup Sage

Purple mealycup sage blooms tower gracefully, while a lush carpet of leaves sprawls beneath, forming a verdant tapestry at the feet of the majestic floral display.The mealycup sage thrives in hot and dry conditions.

This vivid blue salvia lends a striking vertical element to the garden. Its rich blue-purple bloom spires contrast beautifully with other annuals in yellow, white, red, orange, and pink. Tubular blooms are dusted in white hairs, resembling flour or meal (hence, mealy or mealycup sage). 

Mealycup sage is a short-lived perennial native to prairies, plains, and meadows in the Southwestern U.S. It grows as an annual outside its hardiness zones. The aromatic, sagey leaves (plants are in the mint family) make an unappealing meal for deer.

Other annual salvias, like red salvia, have the same deer-resistant qualities and colorful blooms. Their nectar-producing flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Salvia thrives in hot, dry conditions in well-drained soils (in wet soils, plants may be weak or leggy). Mealycup sage is drought-resistant but blooms best with even moisture.


A close-up of yellow melampodium flowers nestled among lush green leaves, offering a glimpse into the delicate beauty of nature's botanical masterpiece.These easy-to-grow annuals are deer-resistant and drought-tolerant once established.

Melampodium, or butter daisy, features sunshine yellow daisy-like blooms atop bright green foliage. These cheery annuals bloom continuously, attract pollinators, and require little maintenance. The seeds offer a food source for songbirds.

Deer seldom damage melampodium. Leaves are velvety and slightly fuzzy, some with wavy or toothed margins, 

Sun-loving melampodiums are among the easiest annuals to grow and are drought-tolerant once established. They need no deadheading or pinching to retain their tidy appearance and profuse blooming. Ensure proper spacing for good air circulation, especially in humid climates, to prevent powdery mildew.


Purple angelonia flowers stand tall amidst lush green stems, contrasting with a backdrop of blurred blooms and verdant foliage, creating a vibrant scene of botanical elegance.The ‘Archangel’ and ‘Serena’ series of Angelonia are highly disease-resistant.

Angelonia brings colorful bloom spikes to the warm-season display in lovely blue, purple, pink, rose, white, and bicolor. Stems bear petite two-lipped flowers atop delicate, rich green foliage. Flowers don’t need deadheading for a continual, long season of blooms.

The foliage is slightly aromatic with toothed margins – not a favorite among deer.

Angelonia thrives in full sun with rich soils and good drainage. It is drought, heat, and humidity-tolerant and ideal for sunny annual beds in hot summer climates. The ‘Archangel’ and ‘Serena’ series are highly disease-resistant to phytophthora fungus rot.


A close-up of spherical, purple gomphrena flowers nestled amidst leaves and delicate stems, showcasing intricate natural beauty and vibrant color contrast in a tranquil botanical setting. A resilient summer annual called gomphrena grows quickly from seed.

Gomphrena is an old garden favorite with petite pink, red, gold, magenta, or white flowers. Its rugged nature belies the cheery pom-pom blooms, which are perfectly globe-shaped. Commonly called globe flower, gomphrena brings a sea of color to the annual border.

Gomphrena flowers have a papery texture, and the narrow, velvety leaves have fine hairs. Deer tend to avoid these stemmy plants. 

Gomphrena grows quickly from seed and thrives in full sun with well-drained soils. It’s a tough summer annual that withstands heat, humidity, and dry conditions. Gomphrena may overwinter in mild climates.


A close-up captures a bunch of petite heliotrope blooms in rich purple hues, contrasted against a backdrop of leaves, creating a striking visual contrast in this floral composition. This flower thrives in sunny gardens with rich soil and good air circulation.

Heliotrope boasts deep violet blooms and dark green leaves. Its flowers and intensely sweet fragrance make this old-fashioned annual a garden favorite. Star-shaped flowers in flat clusters of purple-blue or lavender cover compact plants from spring until frost.

Heliotrope is another annual with multiple defenses. Its strong fragrance and hairy leaves offer superficial deterrents. The plants also possess alkaloids, which are toxic when ingested in large quantities. Deer rarely visit heliotrope.

Heliotrope is low maintenance and blooms best in sunny garden locations with protection from direct afternoon sun in hot summer climates. Ensure good air circulation and rich, consistently moist soils. Heliotrope’s carefree growth, vibrant blooms, and vanilla, fruity scent bring long-lasting interest to the annual display.


Lush indoor potted caladiums showcasing variegated leaves in shades of green, pink, and white, adding a burst of tropical elegance to any room's decor, thriving in low-light conditions.These fast-growing plants recover quickly from partial ingestion by animals.

Caladiums enliven the annual display with distinct arrow-shaped leaves in decorative patterns and colors. Heights vary from low-growing to tall, in fancy and lance-leaved shapes. Leaves are green, red, pink, or white – or combinations of each – with colorful veins, blotches, and splotches.

All parts of the plant contain toxins harmful to humans and animals if ingested in large enough amounts. I’ve seen deer test out young caladium plants, which recover quickly from a few eaten leaves.

Caladiums are fast-growers with showy foliage that lasts until frost. They thrive in partial shade or shade, with some varieties (especially red lance-leaved) suited to more sun. Caladiums grow quickly from small tubers and depend on regular water throughout the growing season.


A close-up of blue ageratum flowers contrasted against verdant, delicate leaves, creating a lush, natural composition bursting with color and texture, evoking a sense of tranquility and serenity in nature.The floss flower’s charm is enhanced by its delicate appearance and delightful fragrance.

Ageratum, or floss flower, features tufts of true blue flowers that bloom from May through October. The genus Ageratum holds approximately 43 species of annual or perennial herbs. A. houstonianum is noted for its blue, feathery bloom clusters, which add a soft haze to the garden display. 

The floss flower’s delicate look and delightful fragrance add to its charm. Deer and rabbits find the fuzzy blooms and downy leaves uncharming.

Ageratum is somewhat drought-tolerant but performs best in moist, well-drained soil. Grow them in sunny to dappled light garden locations. 

Final Thoughts:

If deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat whatever is available, even if it is not a favored plant. We’ve all seen deer ignore the “resistant list” and try anything from hollies to camellias to any number of perennials and annuals, even those with slight toxicity levels.

For your area, the local university extension office is an excellent resource for regional deer-resistant suggestions. Of course, your own experiences tell the true tale of deer favorites! Opt for plants with characteristics not favored by the local fauna for the best defense and a colorful annual display.

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