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Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants

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We've Got Plants!  And Deer!

Click on a thumbnail for larger photos

Kafir Lily

Impatiens recover

Upright Fuchsia


Pride of Madeira - No delicacy for deer!

Who? Me? Eat Ivy?

Sally Holt's Watercolor

Vista Vineyards Fawn - Story

Can you see the deer in this one?

Deer Resistant Plants

This table is a summary of the letters and comments below. Use the From and Date Columns to locate the letter or comment for more information. Many links go to NNV archives or other Web sites - use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this page.  These plants are all "low maintenance" unless otherwise noted.






Lion's Tail (Leonotis) Deer, Drought Evergreen shrub, produces clusters of beautiful orange flowers at the end of branches, look like the end of a lion's tail Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Coral Bells (Heuchera) Deer Perennial ground cover, leaves resemble geranium leaves, produces small flowers at the end of 18 in. long stems, compact growth around 12 in. high by 12 in. in diameter. There are several hybrids, some with bronze foliage that's quite striking. Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Myrtle (Myrtus) Deer, Drought Evergreen shrub, 5-6 ft. high, 4-5 ft. wide, berries in fall Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Lenten Rose, Hellebore (Helleborus) Deer Perennial, to 3 ft. tall Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Kafir Lily (Clivia miniata) Deer Thrives in total shade, to 2 ft. tall,  produces beautiful orange flowers in early spring Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) Deer Perennial, delicate red and white heart-shaped flowers Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Periwinkle (Vinca major and minor) Deer, Drought Perennial ground and bank covers, lavender blue and white flowers Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Calla Lily (Lantedeschia) Deer 2-4 ft. tall perennials, differing water needs, lily-like bloom Gary Rauh 4/1/05
Cleveland sage
(Salvia clevelandii)
Deer, Drought, Fire (most) Native California species, one of my favorites, takes a lot of neglect, blue whorl of flowers spring/early summer Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Lavender Deer, Fire Almost any kind does well, I have heterophylla and 'Provence' and they do well Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Australian fuchsia
Deer, Fire?

'Ivory Bells' or 'Dusky Bells' (shrub-like groundcover)

Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Ceanothus Deer, Drought Native California species, 'Dark Star' (shrubby, not groundcover, deer-resistant because of its smaller, more rigid leaves) Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Lavender Cotton
(Santolina chamaecyparissus)
Deer, Drought Greyish foliage for contrast, yellow flowers Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
"Midnight Blue" Beard-Tongue (Penstemon gloxinoides) Deer 'Midnight' is a dark blue, one of my favorites Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
California Fuchsia
(Zauschneria californica)
Deer, Fire Native California species, low, greyish foliage, vivid red flowers late summer Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Deer Grass
(Muhlenbergia rigens)
Deer, Drought Native California species, large, hardy grass, plain-looking, but provides interest when used with groundcover Stephanie Curtis 9/6/04
Purple Hop Bush (Dodonaea) Deer, Drought Various heights, full sun for best color Pat Benham 9/3/04
Scaevola Deer Lavender blue fan-shaped blossoms, some are evergreen and nearly "ever-blooming" Pat Benham 9/3/04
Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) Deer Various heights, some self-sow Pat Benham 9/3/04
Flax (Phormium) Deer, Drought Large with sword-like leaves, good focal point Pat Benham 9/3/04
Carpet Bugle (Ajuga) Deer Ground cover, can invade grass. Small flower spikes - blue, violet. Pat Benham 9/3/04
Fuchsia Deer, Fire? Little hot pink ballerinas, prostrate or upright Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Lily-turf Liriope Deer Purple flower spikes, spikey grass-like clumps Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Plectranthus Deer Creeping Charlie, Swedish ivy and other sorts; can become invasive Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Lamb’s Ears (Stachys) Deer S. byzentina, white, furry, tongue shaped leaves; some have purple flower spikes Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Scabiosa (Some) Deer “Pincushion flower” Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Germander (Teucrium) Deer Fuzzy, felt-like, very pale green leaves Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Succulents Deer, Drought?, Fire? Some produce stalks of delicious-looking, candy-corn-like flowers.  Most succulents will survive during dry weather but some watering needed for optimum appearance. Judy Thompson 9/3/04
Lantana (Various
types - see below)
Deer, Drought Low-growing, purple or white or shrubby orange, yellow varieties including multi-colored flowers on a single plant. Fast growing. Blooms profusely from spring to fall. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Bougainvillea Deer, Drought Bloom profusely from spring to fall. Medium growing. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Bird-of-Paradise Deer, Drought Bloom spectacularly in the spring. Medium growing. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Plumbago Deer, Drought Blue and white flowers. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Society Garlic Deer, Drought Purple flowers. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
(Nerium Oleander)
Deer, Drought, Fire Green dense foliage, white, red or pink blooms year around.  Poisonous if ingested. Full sun. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Bottlebrush Deer, Drought Red flowers. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Dwarf Rosemary
(Rosmarinus Officinalis)
Deer, Drought, Fire Tiny blue or white flowers. Grows on steep slopes, good for erosion control. Full sun. Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Dusty Miller Deer, Drought Mainly for the foliage Tracy Kelly 6/18/04
Pride of Madeira
(Echium Fastuosum)
Deer, Drought, Fire Easy to start from cuttings. Large plants with tall blue blooms in spring. Easy to prune (just break off branches). Messy leaves. Full sun, partial shade. Judy Thompson 6/18/04

Other Resources

bulletArvind Kumar's Articles on California Native Plants
bulletBracey Tiede's "Hot Topics" Articles
bulletSanta Clara County FireSafe Council List of Fire (and Deer) Resistant Plants
(See Page 17 of Living With Fire in Santa Clara County)
bulletCalifornia Native Plant Society
bulletLas Pilitas Nursery Deer Resistant Plant Page
bulletSan Francisco Chronicle, Not Tonight Deer, Sandra Gorry, 11/13/04

NNV Note:  The letters and comments below are a "push down list" with the latest entries at the top.  Start at the bottom of the page to read Tracy Kelly's e-mails which led to this page.  The comments from Tracy Kelly, Bracey Tiede and others came in mid-July, 2004, as they were reviewing an early version of the list.

4/1/05 - You can add these to your list based on our experience (see list above). It's nice to have a list that pertains to our deer - their appetites sometimes don't match the published lists of deer-resistant plants.  Gary Rauh


9/6/04 - Some deer-resistant plants I recommend (and feel free to use them on your deer list for NNV):

*Salvia clevelandii (one of my favorites, and takes a lot of neglect at my place; blue whorl of flowers spring/early summer)

Lavender species (almost any kind does well; I have heterophylla and 'Provence' and they do well)

Correa 'Ivory Bells' or 'Dusky Bells' (shrub-like groundcover)

*Ceanothus 'Dark Star' (shrubby; not groundcover; deer-resistant because of its smaller, more rigid leaves)

Santolina chamaecyparissus (greyish foliage for contrast; yellow flowers)

Penstemon gloxinoides ('Midnight' is a dark blue; one of my favorites)

*Zauschneria californica (low, greyish foliage; vivid red flowers late summer)

*Muhlenbergia rigens (large, hardy grass; plain-looking, but provides interest when used with groundcover)

* denotes native California species

Sincerely, Stephanie Curtis, Curtis Horticulture


9/3/04 - Click here to read the article about the 9/3/04 entries above. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this page.  E-mail me if you have questions. Judy Thompson (


7/18/04 - Look on the web for This site will tell you all about this deer repellent. An application lasts for three months. It will discolor the foliage but the color returns after a few days. Non toxic. It was developed in Sweden.

Should be applied early in the season - I guess that would be spring. It comes in a spray or a compound that you mix as you need.

Heard about it on the Bob Tanem radio show Sunday, July 18, 2004. Bob has a gardening radio show on KSFO on Sunday mornings at 7:30. He has interesting guests and answers gardening questions during the program or from e-mail.

On checking their distributors, the product can be found at Target Specialty Products, 1155 Mabury Road, San Jose, (408) 293-6032.  Good Luck!!  Marilyn Kromrey


7/14/04 - Your page looks great! I hope it helps others who love both the deer and their gardens.

I was disappointed to hear the deer will eat Agapanthus. But not as disappointed as I would have been if I had planted several and had them “munched”!

I am so looking forward to learning from other people’s experiences!  Thanks,  Tracy Kelly


7/13/04 - Looks like a good start. Since I don't deal with deer in my garden (thank goodness), I can't contribute much here except what I read elsewhere. I've also heard that a deerproof plant in one place is not so in another. Two five foot high fences placed four feet apart will keep deer out of a garden. That may be a good solution for some properties.

Here is a list from Las Pilitas Nursery, a source for California native plants and information: . The list includes plants with numbers to indicate their deer and fire 'proofness'. The higher the number, the better.

Here's a link on deer there too: The point made is that some natives will hold their own against the deer if the plants are not watered and fertilized to make the leaves succulent. Makes sense. The page is entertaining too.  Cheers,  Bracey Tiede (UC Extension Master Gardener)


7/12/04 - Tracy, re your question on Agapanthus being deer resistant:  The deer don't seem to bother the many Agapanthus plants in the East Highlands Triangle - but maybe that's because the deer have their eyes on the green San Jose Country Club at that point.  However, we have several Agapanthus in our yard near a deer path and the deer certainly do eat the leaves and keep them from blooming.  So I don't think we can say that Agapanthus meet your criteria for being deer resistant.  Judy Thompson


6/18/04 - Dear Judy, Thank you so much for your very helpful reply.

The ideas you suggested sound fantastic. I think it will be extremely useful to every non-fenced gardener in the area! I would like to also suggest allowing people to post questions on specific plants that they are interested in, but with which they have no experience. And possibly an “edible, but not to death” column. For example, the deer will eat ivy without really harming the ivy plant or ruining the look of the ivy. This might give the deer something to eat, encouraging them to leave other plants alone. (Or it might attract them in greater numbers – a bit of a risk!)

And lastly, it would be nice to know when the plant blooms. I was so impressed by your suggestion, the Pride of Madeira, except that I am looking, almost exclusively for summer blooming plants.

I am sorry that I do not have any pictures to accompany my suggestions, but they are pretty common plants and most people are probably familiar with them.

1. Lantana – the low-growing, purple or white variety. They are drought-tolerant, low maintenance, deer-proof and fast growing. They bloom profusely from spring to fall. Both the purple and the white varieties are very pretty.

2. Lantana – the shrubby orange, yellow variety. They are drought-tolerant, low maintenance, deer-proof and fast growing. They bloom profusely from spring to fall. I love the multi-colored flowers on a single plant.

3. Bougainvillea – all types. They are drought-tolerant, low maintenance, and deer-proof. They bloom profusely from spring to fall. They are medium growing, but worth the wait.

4. Bird-of-Paradise. They are drought-tolerant, low maintenance, and deer-proof. They bloom spectacularly in the spring. They are medium growing, but also worth the wait.

5 - 10. Plumbago (blue and white), Society garlic (purple), Oleander (all colors), Bottlebrush (red), Rosemary (as a ground cover, not for the flowers) and Dusty Miller (mainly for the foliage), are all drought-tolerant, low maintenance, and deer-proof. They all bloom profusely from spring to fall, and are fast growing.

I have a few more that I will send later, but I hope this helps the list get off to a good start!

If anyone has any information on Agapanthus, specifically will the deer leave the flowers alone, or if anyone can recommend a deer-proof, drought-tolerant, fast-growing, flowering vine, I would really appreciate the information.

I do love seeing the deer, especially in the spring when they bring their fawns. And I have no problem growing ivy for them to graze on. But I am so excited at the thought of expanding my deer-proof plant list without planting so many deer appetizers!

Judy, thank you again for the wonderful service you provide. I look forward to seeing our list grow!  Tracy Kelly


6/18/04 - Thank you, Tracy. I like your idea and I’d like to work this into a short article for the next edition, which will come out in early August (since we are skipping July). The article would announce the start of our list of deer resistant plants and, using your message below, invite readers to add more plants to the list or comment on the current entries. This will get more attention for your letter than just putting it on the Letters page now.

I see the list as a separate page with a table of deer resistant plants and maybe a couple more columns to indicate whether or they are also drought or fire resistant or not. There’d be room under the table for readers’ comments – sort of like a separate “Letters to the Editor” page for plants. The table would also have the names of the people who suggested the plant and, if they agree, a link to contact them by e-mail. We might also include some “horror stories” about plants and gardens lost to deer.

I have one plant to start the list and it sounds like you have several. My candidate is Pride of Madeira. Click here for the little FAQ I wrote on it and click here for a photo. 

If you’ll tell me about your candidates, we’ll start the table and see where it goes. We’ll be busy through the end of June but we have time to work with you on this in July. We could also invite people to submit local deer photos for these pages – we see lots of deer but we have never been able to take a good photo in our yard.

Does this fit in with what your have in mind?  Thanks,  Judy Thompson


6/17/04 - Hi Judy, I want to thank you for the fantastic job you do with the Neighborhood Voice. You are a neighborhood treasure!

I also have a question that I would like to pose to your readers concerning the deer that grace so many back yards in this area. I think that a lot of people probably feel as I do: the deer are beautiful and I don’t want to fence them out. But I DO want flowers in my garden!

I have lived and gardened in this area for ten years and in that time I have discovered several plants that truly seem to be deer-proof. To qualify as deer-proof, they must never have been eaten by the deer. A plant that is not eaten for 2 – 3 years and is then decimated, does not make the list!

I am happy to share this list with anyone who is interested and would really love to hear anyone else’s deer-proof list. Trial and error is a great way to learn, and I want to learn from someone else’s trials!

Is there any way to post this question to your readers? Thank you for the great service that you are doing.  Tracy Kelly


Copyright© 2004-2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved. New Neighborhood Voice assumes no responsibility for the reliability or accuracy of any information posted on this page.  Updated 6/3/05.

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