The Top 10 Deer Resistant Plants For Shade -

The Top 10 Deer Resistant Plants For Shade

deer resistant plants for shade

Choosing plants for a shade garden can be a challenge. Their lack of sun can limit your options for sure.  Then if you add deer resistant plants for shade, you might be tempted to think your choices are non-existant. That thought however, is not correct.

There are many deer proof plants for shade that you can choose. The main challenge is overcoming a mindset that thinks colorful flowers are the only way to beautify a garden. Not true.

Keep in mind, as we said before, deer resistant does not mean that deer will never bother them. If they are hungry enough, they will eat just about anything. The best you can do is hope they leave your plants alone.

Many deer resistant plants that grow in shade are beautiful in their own right. Many are perennials and many also sport full blooms at various times during the year.

As you know, deer usually hang out in wooded areas - the same place that many humans like to call home too. Perhaps even you. Unfortunately, living in this environment means you need 2 things - plants that thrive in the shade but also deer resistant.

We know this first hand. We live in the woods and deer are prevalant here, so we can give you first hand advice. Plus, if you want to know how to deer proof your yard that involves more than just choosing the right plants, you can read this article.

What you should do is look at each plant we've mentioned below on it's own merits; that is, it's blooms, it's size, and it's foliage, and use those characteristics to decide on plants that will give you the most variety.

When you think about it, shade gardens are no different than any garden. You should always looking for variety - different colors and sizes of foliage, different textures and different sizes.

With shade plants though, that variety comes mainly from the foliage - which can be beautiful in it's own right. Combining different deer resistant plants with different leaf sizes and textures will give you beauty in your shade gardens. We know this from experience.

Here then are some great choices for deer resistant plants for shade.

#1 - Spirea

spirea deer resistant shade plant

Size: 2 to 5 feet - depending on variety
Sun: Full Sun To Partial Shade
Planting Zones: 4-8

Spirea is an excellent deer resistant plant for shade because many of it's varieties grow to the size of a small shrub, with smallish leaves and, depending on the amount of sun your garden gets, white, purple or pinkish blooms.  The flowers come out in early summer and continue blooming off and on through the end of summer.

Pruining or sheering these plants will encourge new growth and more blooms even quicker. For one client, we take the hedge trimmers to them 2-3 times per year to keep them at their preferred size and this results in tons of blooms, which they love.

The most popular variety, spirea japonica (japanese spirea), sports lime green foliage and bright pink blooms while other varieties offer a greener leaf and various colors of flowers. Either way, they make an excellent addition to any shade garden. In fact, we have them growing in total shade within a heavily wooded area and even though they don't bloom, they still provide a presence in the garden and that's OK.

The other variety we like that does well in partial shade is the elegent looking "bridal wreath spirea." This variety looks a lot different than the other varieties. It grows taller and wider 6-8 feet either way, and it's blooms fill the branches with white blossoms in the spring that make it a show stopper.

If you're shopping for spirea, be sure to notice which variety you're looking at so you purchase the correct one for your location. Since this ariticle is about deer resistant shade plants, we wanted to include it here because it is a perfectly good option for you.

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#2 - Hellebore (Lenten or Christmas Rose)

hellebore in shade garden

Size: 1-2 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
Sun: Partial To Full Shade
Planting Zone: 5-9

We've talked about hellebores before here, but what we didn't mention in that particular article is that this plant is deer resistant. We have a few planted directly in the main pathway that deer travel through our property and they have yet to bother them.

Hellebores bloom in full and partial shade at the beginning of the season, usually around the Christian holiday of Lent - hence the name. The other variety, the Christmas rose blooms around the Christmas holiday but we're not talking about that plant here.

Hellebores are one of the first plants to emerge from the ground in the spring, and one of the first to bloom as well.

After the blooms fade, the foliage remains for the remainder of the growing season, which means the garden in which they are planted continues to benefit.

This plant is a truly "plant-and-forget" plant.  It's dependable to always show up at the same time every year.

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#3 - Adjuga

image of ajuga in garden

Size: 6 inches
Sun: Full Sun To Partial Shade
Planting Zone: 3-9

Ajuga is a ground cover that is very hardy. It grows along rhizome roots which means it spreads over the ground quickly and prolifically. You can plant it in a shaded garden and it will do well. Because it spreads into a thick covering, it will prevent weeds from taking over and offer up it's attractive foliage to boot.

The leaves can range from solid green or brown to a varigated green and redish. Different varieties have different leaf varigations, from green, white, redish and browns. We like the "chocolate chip" variety with it's darker brown leaves and "burgandy glow" that features pinkish burgandy leaves, as the name implies.

About the blooms, they show themselves in blueish/purple, verticle spikes, similar to salvia. They bloom in the spring for only a few weeks. However, those few weeks are - well, shall we say, it's an assult on your senses. It's during this time that their show will be spectacular, especially if they have covered quite a bit of the ground. You'll have a carpet of purple flowers covering your garden, which will look marvellous!

Another plus to adjuga is, because it covers the ground so completely, it will reduce the amount of mulch you'll need, which means spending less money on mulch - a good thing if you're on a tight budget. Among other reasons, this is the one that we like the most.

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#4 - Astilbe

astilbe in shade garden image

Size: 6-24 Inches Tall
Sun: Partial Shade
Planting Zones: 3-8

Astilbe is a great deer resistant plant you can use in shade gardens because it's blooms are quite large, which will give color to an otherwise darker garden. Although the blooms only last for a short time like other plants we're covering here, you'll still get that burst of color in early summer.

They bloom in late spring or early summer with large pink blooming spikes of flowers that can get up to 5 feet high, depending on the variety. Most varieties however, grow approximately 24-36 inches tall.

As is the case with most shade plants, they'll need to be kept moist, but their wooded area is well suited for this because shade trees don't allow the soil to dry as as it would under not, direct sunlight.

Looking at astilbe and it's gorgeous blooms you will be fooled into thinking blooms that large and beautiful would need full sun, but that's not the case. Partial shade is the ideal location and the fact that deer will stay away is an added reason to consider them.

Astilbe spreads in clumps and can be divided after a few years the same way other perennials can be divided. Once you start them, you could be having multiple plants in multiple locations around your property. This is a great thing.

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#5 - Bleeding Heart

bleeding hearts in garden

Size:1-3 feet, depending on variety
Sun: Partial To Full Shade
Planting Zones: 3-9

The bleeding heart is one of the most attractive shade plants you can use in your garden and with some varieties, you get a plant that, literally, needs zero care.

All varieties of bleeding hearts you'll see are perennials so they'll come back every spring and be one of the first plants to bloom for the year. However, one variety is ephemeral - meaning it dies off after blooming, while the native "fringed" variety continue to thrive throughout the growing season.

The 2 varieties we like the most are the "ephemeral" bleeding heart and the "fringed" native variety, which is the smaller sized plant and blooms.

The ephemeral variety emerges in spring and booms until the weather gets hot. Once the heat arrives, it will die back and the dead foliage will need to be cut back and removed to keep your garden looking attractive. This makes it a good plant for a spring show, but will not be a continuous presence in the garden all year. The blooms on this variety tend to be larger though so it's worth considering for that reason.

Although this variety can spread, it doesn't do so as frequently as our other favorite, which might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view.

The other variety we like, the "fringed bleeding heart" is a smaller version of the same but the good thing about this plant is it's native to woodlands of the eastern U.S. and reseeds itself and spreads rapidly. Even better, it grows and blooms from the spring through the fall - continuously, with no care whatsoever.

Either variety takes up a large amount of space and if you dedicate one section to these beauties, you won't be sorry.

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#6 - Japanese Painted Fern

japanese painted fern deer resistant plant

Size: 12-24 inches
Sun: Partial To Full Shade
Planting Zones: 4-8

Most, if not all, ferns are deer resistant. We have yet to see even one type eaten that we have planted in our own gardens.

In the above image you'll see the japanese painted fern in the foreground, with another type in the background.  They are both deer resistant.

For other ferns native to the northeastern U.S. check out these images:  https://www.projectnoah.org/missions/8084231

We love ferns for the way the multiply in a shaded garden. This could be a curse however, because they could be invasive and end up growning in places you don't want them. You'll then need to dig them out and if your gardens are anything like ours, you'll have to do it frequently.

However, there is one fern that doesn't have this problem for us and that is the japanese painted fern.

This variety of fern is much smaller than the others, which is another plus as we add it to gardens.

Another difference is the foliage. The fronds are a varigated green, brown and whiteish, which is how it get's it's name.

This fern is very ornamental and dainty and will provide contrast in your garden by way of it's different colored fronds and it's different texture. We think of it as one of the prettier ferns out there and is a great deer resistant plant for shade so check it out.

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#7 - Creeping Jenny

creeping jenny deer resistant shade plant ground cover

Size: Short Ground Cover
Sun: Full Sun To Partial To Shade
Planting Zones: 3-10

As is the case with many ground covers, creeping jenny could be considered your best friend or your worst enemy. The reason? It's a ground cover that spreads very rapidly and if you're not careful, could smother out other plants. That's the bad, now for the good, and actually there are several good things.

The first good thing we like about this plant is it's color - a bright yellow. It really sticks out in a shade garden without much other color around.

Secondly it needs absolutely no care at all, except possibly pulling it out when it gets too out of control and starts taking over everything else around it.

Third, it's a great plant to use to keep weeds from growing. Those pesky unwanted weeds just can't get a foothold to grow through this plant's dense foliage.

Finally, it's shallow rooted mean pulling it out is super easy and takes mere seconds.

Put it all together and it adds up to a great deer resistant plant that will add immensely to your shade gardens.

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#8 - Japanese Forest Grass

japanese forest grass

Size:12-24 inches
Sun: Partial To Full Shade
Planting Zone: 5-9

Japanese forest grass is a member of the Hakonechloa family of plants but for simplicity, you don't need to know that.

What you should know is although there are several varieties, the one we like the most is "Golden Japanese Forest Grass" because it can tolerate full shade. Other varieties do better in partial shade.

Although the different varieties come in a few leaf colors, the "golden" variety has bright yellow foliage - which really brightens up a shade garden.  You'll notice this in the image above.

Other varieties have different colored leaves, some varigated, some solid, bit all attractive.

Another positive characteristics is the leaves, which flow in a graceful arch down to the ground, almost like a water fountain. This feature makes it look very gracefull and elogant.

Planting japanese forest grass in groups is a great idea for filling up a shade garden with deer resistant plants.

We think this plant is absoultely stunning and would make a great addition to any shade garden.

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#9 - Japanese Pieres (Andromeda)

japenese pieres in flower box

Size: 5-10 Feet Depends On Variety
Light: Partial Shade To Full Shade
Zones: 5-9

Japanese Pieres, also called andromedia, is a medium sized shrub that does well in shade and is also deer resistant.

It can grow up to 10-12 feet, so planning is essential so as not to overwhelm the space in which it is planted. The image shows one planted in a flower box and kept to a manageable size. However, in a shade garden, you'll want it as a shrub.

It can also be used as a privacy shrub, as it's foliage is dense enough to block out anything behind it.   We give it a mention here.

This plant is beautiful in the spring because it blooms with small, white flowers that come out on branches that droop downward in graceful, fountain like arches.

You'll see this shrub in asian gardens especially, so if you're going for that theme, you should consider it. However, even if your theme not asian, it's still a worthwhile deer resistant plant for shade.

The best thing about this plant isonce established, it needs absolutely no care at all.

We have several of these planted in a wooded garden that have been there for well over 10 years and they've thrived, despite having done NOTHING to them at all. If you want low maintenance, you can't do better than japanese pieres.

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#10 - Rhododendron

rhododendron with lavender blooms

Size: 10-12 Feet
Light: Partial Shade To Full Shade
Zones: 4-8

Rhododendrons are very popular plants in gardens today - and for good reason. They are actually consider a large  shrub and will make a statement in any shade garden. Besides being deer resistant, they make a good privacy shrub as well, 2 positive attributes that make this shrub a winner.

The leaves on rhododendrons are a dark glossy green, making them one of the stand out features of the plant. The other stand out feature is the blooms.

The flowers on rhododendrons are big, beautiful masses of color that explode in late spring with their showy shades of pinks, purples and whites. They're positively beautiful.

Here in the northeastern U.S. you will often times see them growing wild in the woods along country roads and in these locations, when they bloom, the colorful flowers create quite a site in an otherwise wooded area. One road that we've traveled in particular comes to mind. It's spectacular in May.

This plant is also one that needs absolutely no care at all once established. Although you might read that deadheading the spent flowers helps them bloom the following year, we never do this and never needed to.

One thing to keep in mind is that this plant prefers very well drained, moist soil, so when planting, be sure to use a lot of peat moss to help aerate the soil. In addition, rhododendrons like acid soils, so routinely adding a fertilizer meant for acid loving plants, such as hollytone, is a good idea.

Limitations Of All Deer Resistant Plants For Shade

All the plants above have proven the test of being deer resistant. When we say this however, we don't mean deer proof. There is really nothing you can do if deer are hungry enough. However, there are other ways to deer proof your yard, as mentioned in this article: How To Keep Deer Out OF Your Gardens.

Yours truly have deer problems. Deer are around our neighborhood almost daily.

We find that we prefer planting a mixture of things - both plants that deer like and ones they don't. We choose not to limit our options because of the wildlife. How can we do this?

We have a second line of defense, which is a spray called Repells All that works on the plants that might be susceptible to deer damage. Between these two methods; that is, planting deer resistant plants and spraying the ones that are not, we find we can live a life relatively free of deer worries. Sure, it happens every now and then but it's never the decimation we find so prevalent in other yards.

Perhaps you want to try this 2-pronged approach as well - or maybe not. It's up to you.

We've given you some examples of deer resistant plants for shade that you could choose to plant and be happy with that.

Whatever you choose, we know you'll do whatever you're comforable with and be good with it.

Get your free report now, showing you other landscape tips and tricks you can use in your gardens.

Happy gardening!

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