Shade tolerant & deer resistant plants

Hey garden lovers!

I know, I know…summer is in full swing, but in many parts of the country Fall is a great time to do some planting, so I thought I’d pass along some ideas for some shade tolerant and deer resistant plants you might want to consider over the next couple of months.

Is it my imagination, or are deer everywhere lately?  At our house in NY, they’ve been known to come right up to our stoop, and we’re NOT in a rural area.  Unbelievable!  At our cabin in Massachusetts, they’re regular vegomatics. Although I do have plenty of hosta there, I have to spray regularly. In White Plains, for whatever reason, they seem to leave our hosta alone.

Deer are funny, unpredictable creatures. You and your neighbor may have the same identical plantings, but they might leave their’s alone and use your yard as an all day buffet.  The best we can do to protect our landscapes and investment is to try to purchase plants that deer don’t find particularly yummy. Keep in mind that if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat shoe leather. Young plants are particularly vulnerable, and every planting, no matter how deer resistant, should get sprayed the first year they’re planted.  Once established, they should be able to hold their own.

Here are some pictures of shade tolerant/deer resistant plants with brief descriptions. Most images, except where indicated, were sourced from White Flower Farm, a lovely nursery located in Litchfield, Ct. (but you can order on line too!) Enjoy!


The Britt-Marie Crawford variety (pictured below), boasts large dark leaves that have a chocolate/maroon/purple color.  By late summer,you should see some lovely bright orange flowers.  They make a good companion to hostas, but we know hostas are not exactly deer resistant!  They are happiest in partial shade/full sun and prefer to be kept moist.

deer resistant/shade tolerant plants, ligulara, rocket

Japanese painted ferns

This lovely fern has grayish green and sometimes deep red ferns.  It prefers partial shade and moist soil.

japanese painted fern, deer resistant plants, shade tolerant plants

Bleeding Heart

There are many varieties of Bleeding Heart, which gets its name from the heart shape of the flowers. All of the varieties prefer evenly moist soil and little or no direct sun. Love those heart shaped flowers!

Bottle brush buckeye

Looking for a deer resistant shrub? How about one that attracts butterflies and has lovely fall color?  Look no further than the Bottle Brush Buckeye!  It can grow as high as 8′, making it a good specimen plant as well.

Bottle brush buckeye, deer resistant, shade tolerant plants



Astilbe’s are a hardy addition to your shade garden.  They’re pest-free and can be used in a woodland border or even as ground cover in mass plantings.  They prefer to be kept moist though. Drought conditions are a big no-no.

 deer resistant plants, shade tolerant plants

Skip laurel

This is my all-time favorite deer resistant shrub.  This is a picture of the side of my house, and that large shrub on the right is a Skip Laurel.  It’s probably about 12′ tall now.  I keep meaning to get this trimmed!  If you look to the far left, that’s another Laurel we bought about 3 years ago.  And there’s more below. Told you I liked these!

schip laurel, deer resistant plants, shade tolerant plants

When we bought the Skip Laurel above about 7 years ago, it looked like these…

schip laurel, shade tolerant plants, deer resistant plants, northeast zone plants



This plant has it all. It is happy in all kinds of soil, has lovely flowers for three months in early Spring and is about as deer resistant as they come.  Rumor has it the white hellabore is best if you want the vegomatics to stay away.



Lilyturf are happy in practically any light conditions, including dense shade, and will tolerate prolonged dry spells quite well. What more can you ask for? Sign me up.

lily turf, deer resistant plants, shade tolerant plants

Wild ginger

I don’t have any Wild Ginger, but I think I’m seriously going to consider getting some.  Those in the know say they’re among the great foliage plants for shade.  They have lovely shaped leaves in beautiful shades of green that can be shiny, textural or even contain striking silvery patterns.   They prefer rich soil and like to be kept moist.

wild ginger, shade tolerant plants, shade loving plants, deer resistant plants


I hesitated to include these in this post simply because I find boxwoods are a bit high maintenance.  Well, actually, not really, but they do require yearly trimming unless you want them to get hummungous. They grow fairly rapidly, and can be happy in partial shade or sun.  This is a picture of some boxwoods in our yard that we’ve had for maybe 12 years or so.

boxwoods, shade loving plants, deer resistant plants


Brunnera is happiest in a woodland garden or along a streambed.  They grow to about 12″ and about as wide, and from May to June you will see little clusters of blue flowers.

shade tolerant plants, deer resistant plants

Jack in the pulpit

The picture speaks for itself. This is one unique looking plant which is quite happy in shade. I’m gonna get me some :).

deer resistant plants, shade tolerant plants

Sweet woodruff

Sweet woodruff is a lovely ground cover that displays little white flowers in late summer.  I have quite a bit of woodruff which is not quite in full bloom yet, so I didn’t take a picture because quite frankly without the flowers they’re non-descript.  But I do highly recommend woodruff if you’re in need of ground cover in a shaded area and you’re looking for something compact that produces flowers.

sweet woodruff, shade tolerant plants, deer resistant plants

Virginia bluebells

Bluebells are great under deciduous trees or shrubs, but should be planted with ferns or hostas since after June, they tend to go dormant and then everything would look kinda bald otherwise.

virginia bluebells, shade tolerant plants, deer resistant

Hope this will help make your little corner of the world puurdy :).


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