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Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flowers: Ask The Oracle

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Recently a reader asked this on The Garden Oracle facebook page:


QUESTION:  Any useful ornamental flowers that bunnies (and deer) don't find tasty? I've replanted my front yard 3 times! They've eaten all my Yarrow, Chamomile & Cone Flowers!


A Wary Rabbit Dines on Fresh Flowers in the Garden.  Read On to Find Out Which Types of Plants and Flowers are Most Resistant to Herbivore Pests Such as Deer and Rabbits in this Garden Oracle Blog Post!
A WARY RABBIT DINES ON FRESH FLOWERS IN THE GARDEN

ANSWER:  That is a tough one! We have deer and rabbits both and they can be quite a challenge!  Unfortunately they don't always follow the rules according to what they are supposed to not eat.  The ideal situation is to have a fenced yard or garden or beds with screening to keep pests at bay, but if barricades aren't an option or aren't working you definitely have to get creative with your plantings - especially since some of the plants your visitors are encroaching on are already often listed as deer/rabbit resistant!

You might try using plants with pungent scented foliage; especially the more potent flowering perennial culinary herbs such as: Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Sage, Winter Savory, certain things in the Mint family such as Oregano and Lemon Balm (both self-sow prolifically so make sure to deadhead), and Elephant Garlic or Garlic Chives. Most of these are left alone by deer and rabbits and are also quite hardy and low maintenance.

Plants and Flowers with Pungent, Aromatic and/or Silver-Leaved or Fuzzy Foliage (Such as This Example of Artemesia 'Valerie Finnis') are Often Quite Resistant to Herbivore Pests Such as Deer and Rabbits, with the added Benefit that Many of These Types of Plants are Also Often Low Water Useage, Hardy, Drought Tolerant and Relatively Free of Insect Pests and Diseases.
SILVER FOLIAGE LIKE ARTEMESIA "VALERIE FINNIS" DETERS NIBBLES
Good choices for non-culinary plants with pungent scented foliage are things like: Salvias, Agastache, Catmint (Nepeta), Hyssop, Catnip, Calamint, Creeping Thyme, Russian Sage (Perovskia), Bee Balm (Monarda), Sagebrush, scented-leaf Geraniums (true Geraniums, not Pelargoniums), Creeping Thyme, Daisies of all types, Chrysanthemums of all types, Feverfew, and many of the silvery and fuzzy leaved plants such as Artemesias, Dusty Miller, Lamb's Ears, Dianthus (Carnations and Pinks), Lemon Verbena, Lantana (check varieties for hardiness), Verbascum, California Poppies, etc.

Another great option is ornamental onions, or Alliums.  These are wonderful additions to any flower garden and are usually sold as bulbs to be planted in fall or spring, although sometimes are sold as live plants or seeds.  There are many colors, flower sizes, shapes, heights and and a range of bloom times to choose from.  Some of the more garden-worthy varieties are: Globemaster, Drumstick, Purple Sensation, Caerulium, Cristophii, Moly, Aflatunense, Mount Everest, Giganteum, Karataviense, Schubertii and Nigrum.


Ornamental Onions, Known by Their Botanical Name of Alliums, are a Great Choice for Pest Resistance of All Kinds Including Deer and Rabbits Because Their Foliage and Flowers Posesses Some of the Potent Sulfur Compounds that Make Regular Onoins and Garlic So Sharp Tasting and Odoriferous - Yet They Come in an Amazing Variety of Colors, Shapes, Heights, Flower Sizes and Bloom Times!
GLOBEMASTER ALLIUM WITH LAMB'S EARS, WALLFLOWERS AND HEUCHERA MAKES A NICE VIGNETTE
The most sure choice is poisonous and/or stickery plants, which may not be right for everyone but there are a fair number of time-tested options for the perennial garden.  Certain poisonous flowers that are common choices are things like: Daffodils, Lily of the Valley, Liriope (Lily Turf), Digitalis (Foxglove), Digiplexis, Monkshood, Penstemon, Morning Glory, Aconite, Wolfsbane, Columbine (Aquilegia), Arum Lily, Colchicum (Autumn Crocus or False Crocus), Cleome (also has spines), Larkspur, Daphne, Angel's Trumpets (not hardy), Bleeding Heart, Hellebore, Euphorbia (Spurge), Hyacinth, Kalanchoe (not hardy), Kalmia (Mountain Laurel), Castor Bean (very poisonous but very attractive foliage) and Calla Lilies.

For stickery plants there are a number of flowering plants in the Thistle family which can be quite striking additions to the perennial border such as Globe Thistle (Echinops) in a few colors and varieties including blue and white; as well as large scale thistle relatives including Teasle and Cardoon which are great for adding height, architectural drama and texture to the flower garden.  Red Hot Pokers are also very effective in a similar manner and are usually left alone by nibbling visitors.


Columbines (Botanical Name Aquilegia) are Good Examples of Wildflowers which have Certain Toxins or Mild Poisons in Their Foliage and Flowers which Make Them Quite Pest Resistant.  The Most Common Colors are Blues, Pinks, and Mauves Which Sometimes Have Bicolors with White or Yellow in Them, but There Are Also Some Stunning Hybrids or Cultivated Versions in Doubles, Bicolors and Shades of Light Yellow, Golden Yellow, Orange, Red, Blue, Purple, White and even Green!  They All Self Sow Quite Prolifically!
COLUMBINES (AQUILEGIA) HAVE MILD TOXINS & USUALLY AVOID ANIMAL BROWSING
Another choice is to go UP!  Deer (and especially rabbits) can only reach so high, making most mature vines and trees fairly immune to their advances.  Of course they may need to be caged when young, and lower growth may still get nibbled and the occaisonal branch ripped down if not protected, but they are generally a good bet and there are many beautiful flowering trees and vines which make wonderful additions to the landscape.  Often times evergreen trees, shrubs and vines are also quite resilient to browsing herbivores with the added benefit that they provide year-round greenery and interest and make a nice backdrop, visual block and/or anchor point.

Also, many wildflowers and native plants are good choices because they have developed defenses to resist browsing animals that are often bred out of more cultivated or modern varieties as a side-effect of the hybridization process, so try including wildlowers in your plantings or scattering native species wildflower seeds in drifts.  As with most of the plants listed here these are not necessarily foolproof; animals under environmental stress will still find ways of adapting to these defenses and nibble or browse certain "resistant" plants.  Animals act differently in different regions and situations and develop immunities to different plant toxins in localized populations that may change their browsing habits.  Remember that "Pest Resistant" does not necessarily mean pest-free, so the best advice is to experiment with these options and see what works for you! 


Cardoons are Giant Members of the Thistle Family which can be Very Dramatic and Architectural Specimens when Added to Flower Beds, Mixed Borders or General Landscaping and are Naturally Quite Pest Resistant as they have Spiny, Rough,  Fiberous Foliage with an Acrid Taste.  The Flowers are Often Quite Stunning with Lavender, Pinkish or Purple Feathery Hairs That Prodrude in Large Tufts from the Spiny Bracts Below and Smell Similar to Fragrant Chinese Jasmine Tea!
FLOWERING CARDOONS ARE BOLD, PEST RESISTANT ADDITIONS


You can find many of these plants, seeds and bulbs through my suppliers HERE,
and you can browse many flower seeds and plants directly on The Garden Oracle site HERE.


Here are Links Directly to Supplier Pages of Deer & Rabbit Resistant Plants & Flowers:

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Herbs at Burpee
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials at Burpee

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials at Direct Gardening
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flower Bulbs at Direct Gardening
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flowering Shrubs at Direct Gardening
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flowering Vines at Direct Gardening
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Container Plants at Direct Gardening
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Herbs at Direct Gardening

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Annuals at Home Depot Online Garden Center
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials at Home Depot Online Garden Center
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Deciduous Shrubs at Home Depot Online Garden Center
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Evergreen Shrubs at Home Depot Online Garden Center

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flowers at Botanical Interests Seeds

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials at Monticello Shop
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Shrubs at Monticello Shop

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Ground Covers at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Flowering Shrubs at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Evergreen Shrubs at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Shrubs (All) at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Trees (All) at Nature Hills Nursery
Deer & Rabbit Resistant Vines at Nature Hills Nursery

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Calla Lillies at Pacific Callas


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