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  • Writer's pictureHelen Newling Lawson

Deer-Resistant Plants That Only Look Delicate

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

After about the third time writing a plant description that read something like "This plant is way tougher than it looks," I realized it was time to put together a post featuring plants with dainty charm but serious deer-resistant power.


Poppy flowers are often described as looking like tissue paper, and this series of photos, taken just a minute or so apart, show how even a slight breeze can ruffle those petals.


Want to talk about looking dainty? One of epimedium's common names is fairy wings, for crying out loud. Although its cute spurred flowers, held aloft on wiry stems, emerge with the spring

ephemerals, epimedium (also called barrenwort) won't wither away when temperatures climb. Far from it - the lovely heart shaped leaves on this well-mannered groundcover can handle dry shade like a champ (see it featured in my Dry Shade Deer-Resistant Design), and in my Zone 7 climate will also persist through winter.

This perennial blooms in shades of white, pink, orange, yellow, or red, depending on the variety. New foliage often emerges mottled with shades of pink or red, and the fall color, can also bring another splash of interest to a woodland garden.

Bleeding heart

Also in the "cute flower" category, these are old-fashioned favorites that have never gone out of style (and never will, I hope). They are the perfect addition to a woodland garden, and go great with ferns, another g0-to deer-resistant choice.


Often touted as a "see-through plant," Gaura sends up long wiry stems that hold up surprisingly large flowers (an inch wide or so). The name of one popular variety, Whirling Butterflies, perfectly sums up how those flowers dance about in the breeze. I use it in my full sun plan to fill in the gap after the allium has finished blooming.

The deer haven't troubled mine (yet), but I have heard complaints from others gardeners, so let me know in the comments if this is proving less than deer-resistant for you.

Love-in-the-mist (Nigella)

I always get excited when I learn of another deer-resistant annual. This one does like to reseed, so be sure you like the look (or be willing to do a little hand-pulling). Dainty flowers, funky little seedpods, and feathery foliage that's similar to Amsonia (a deer-resistant perennial if you like that ferny look but have full sun).

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