shade flowers and flowering shrubs that are deer resistant

Asked June 4, 2020, 2:18 PM EDT

I've been trying literally for years to find anything that flowers (preferably perennially) to plant that will provide color and life to my yard. I have a long list of my failures. Those that succeed are quickly eaten by deer. I need help to know what will survive to provide flowers through the seasons (ok, not winter) and when/how/where to plant and take care of them. I'm surrounded by trees and next to wooded area. If this is too much to ask, do you recommend someone? Thanks in advance

Howard County Maryland

4 Responses

Do you have photos of the area(s) in question? This may help us determine how much space is available, the light levels, and any other conditions like wetness from root downspouts or competition from tree roots.

Multiple deer-resistant lists exist, although they should be taken with a grain of salt since deer will eat anything at least once (especially starving or young inexperienced deer) and some herds have regional differences in what they prefer to eat. Here are a few lists from more local sources to get you started:

There are a wide variety of plants tolerant of (or which prefer) shade, though variations in soil wetness or dryness will narrow-down that list. If you let us know some of the plants that have worked for you (deer aside), we may be able to judge what the growing conditions are like.

You can certainly plan on winter interest as well - not many people do, which is unfortunate - if you wish. Several shrubs and a few perennials bloom in winter, and plenty more evergreen plants can be used to provide interest in the form of foliage color, texture, and plant shape. Some deciduous shrubs have interesting bark colors, and others have decorative shapes that are best appreciated when the leaves are off. Even dormant perennials, like grasses and flowering plants that have gone to seed, can be decorative in winter, especially in frost or a light snow.

We're happy to help with some ideas, but would benefit from having a bit more information.


Thanks so much for your fast response. I've tried new things every year. Right now, what has survived are Daffodils, Tulips (tho sometimes only leaves, no flower,)
A few crocus, Campanula, Muscari, Clematis, Ligulara, Cardinals (sometimes),
A few digitalis, A few heleborisn 1 heuchera, Some lilies (many without flowers)
2 azaleas, and or course deer favorites which also do best: hostas and hydrangeas.
The list of what failed is too long to include. I don't know if the locations help either.
The backyard and side need alot of help.
The front around trees is dominated by daffodil stems which hide small plants.
Also, am wondering if it would be better to have raised beds...I dont know what's best. Attached are 3 photos: front, back and right side. Is there any chance of someone coming for a consult? I'm happy to pay you. Thanks in advance,


Given the extent and density of mature trees, the root competition will be challenging. Using raised beds may help if any areas are poorly drained, but otherwise it would not only be easier to select wet-loving plants instead but also avoids potentially smothering some of the trees' roots.

Due to the amount of space involved, an on-site visit (or even remote consult) by a landscape designer might be best, as you were originally leaning toward. While we do not have specific recommendations for such persons or businesses, you could query web forums or social media groups for the area for suggestions. This local site gives some tips:

Ideas for candidate plants with showy flowers for shady sites with deer problems include the following, though this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are also plenty of other shrubs and perennials not included below that offer colorful and interesting foliage instead of showy flowers, and using a mix of these can also provide interest throughout the seasons. Variations in moisture preferences among these plants allow for better use in some areas over others (such as where the roof downspout drainage exits for wetter spots or among tree roots for drier spots). If you want to research the looks and habits of these plants before meeting with a landscaper, you can inform them of any favorites that you could ask them to include in their designs.

  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
  • Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
  • Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
  • Sweetbox (Sarcococca) - conspicuous fragrance but more inconspicuous flowers
  • Holly-leaf Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus) - same as above
  • American Purple Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) - showy berries
  • Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
  • Fothergilla (Fothergilla)
  • Witchhazel (Hamamelis)
  • Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
  • Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Bleeding-heart (Dicentra spectabilis and Dicentra eximia)
  • Primrose (Primula)
  • Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica)
  • Blue Wood Aster (Aster cordifolius) and White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus)
  • Blue Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum)
  • Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
  • Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum, Polemonium reptans)


Thank you so much for your detailed advice about the types of plants that might do well. I will try to find someone who is willing to just come out and give me advice though doubt most think that would be worth their time. Budgetarily tight :)
Stay well and thanks again,