Do Deer Eat Irises Plants and Flowers?

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It’s wonderful to live in an area with wildlife, but it can get annoying when chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, moles, voles, and deer help themselves to your flowers, fruits, and veggies. 

For example, do deer eat irises? What can you do to protect your flower and veggie gardens against deer and other wildlife? 

Deer and IrisesPin

One way of dealing with this problem is to plant flowers that are beautiful to you but do not appeal to wildlife, such as irises. This article will discuss the possibilities of growing irises and other deer and wildlife-repellent plants in your yard, garden, and landscape. Read on to learn more. 

What Are Some Of The Best Deer Resistant Flowers? 

Irises are definitely on the top regarding deer resistance, but several spring flowers that grow from bulbs or tubers are rather unappetizing for deer. This is because these plants are often toxic and have strong scents that repel deer. 

All irises are deer resistant. You may mix and match these 5 top choices for a beautiful and varied spring garden: 

  • Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) is an evergreen variety quite tolerant of dry conditions. 
  • Japanese Iris (Iris ensata) is another evergreen that makes a good choice in boggy conditions. 
  • Dutch Iris (Iris × hollandaise) bulbs can be planted in the autumn to provide bright, lively color in the springtime. 
  • Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) is an early bloomer that produces lovely deep blue and purple flowers. 
  • African Iris (Dietes Vegeta) is actually an ornamental grass that grows easily in enthusiastic clumps. The leaves are stiff and fan-shaped. The 3” blooms are bright yellow with splashes of red and orange. In tropical settings (USDA hardiness zones 8B- to 11), they bloom lightly year-round.

Most Spring Bulbs, Rhizomes & Tubers Are Deer Resistant

Other deer-resistant spring bulbs and tubers include lilies, such as Lily of the Incas (Alstroemeria), which thrives in a tropical setting. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) come in various colors, sizes, and bloom types suitable for any garden setting. 

Mix and match lilies with irises and other beautiful, pollinator-friendly, deer-resistant spring bulbs, rhizomes, and tubers, such as: 


Narcissus types come in various colors, sizes, and bloom types. Some are more deer resistant than others, thanks to lycorine content. Narcissus species daffodils are readily available in garden centers and plant swaps in the autumn.

Once planted, they are low maintenance and add color and charm to woodland settings, flower gardens, cutting gardens, planters, and more. 

Crocus Tommasinianus “Tommie”

Tommie (Crocus tommasinianus) is a variety of crocus that is especially deer resistant and quite unpopular amongst voles and chipmunks. These pretty little plants produce early spring blooms in shades of purple, lavender, and pink. They spread and naturalize easily in woodland and grassy settings and make lovely border plantings. 

Galanthus Nivalis “Snowdrops”

Galanthus nivalis or Snowdrops are tiny early bloomers that resist deer, rabbits, squirrels, and a wide variety of wildlife due to their bad-tasting toxicity, which is caused by the presence of lycorine, a poisonous alkaloid.

Although they are toxic, they are unlikely to be dangerous to kids and pets because they taste terrible. Snowdrops’ blooms are small, white, and bell-shaped. This plant makes a nice woodland planting and will naturalize easily into grassy areas. 


Alliums are members of the onion family that produce large, round clusters of pretty flowers in shades of white, pink, and purple. They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes with many different bloom colors. All of them possess an oniony scent that deer dislike. 

Fritillaria imperialis “Crown Imperial”

Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) is, as its name suggests, a giant. Each large (rather smelly) bulb produces a flower stalk that stands slightly over 3′ feet high, topped by a large, bell-shaped bloom wearing a crown of green leaves. The foliage and blooms are a bit musty smelling, even to people. 

Deer, rabbits, and rodents really dislike the smell. The strong scent of the bulbs will protect your garden against moles and other underground garden dwellers.

Good drainage is essential to prevent bulb rot, and it is important to lay the bulbs on their sides when planting to avoid having a water pool on the top of the bulb during heavy rains. 

Mix In Some Deer-Resistant Perennials & Annuals For Variety

Non-bulb choices in deer-resistant plants include: 

  • Ornamental Salvias
  • Snapdragons
  • Nicotiana
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Lantana
  • Peonies
  • Sages

These are examples, to name just a few. 

All of these have strong scents that deer avoid. Mixing annuals and perennials into your garden allows you to easily change up your combinations yearly, quickly fill in gaps, and add blooming hanging baskets and planters. 

Use Deer-Resistant Plants To Protect Your Other Plants

In addition to simply creating a landscape where deer don’t nibble, you can intersperse your veggie garden and your vulnerable plants with deer-resistant plants to protect them against deer and rodents. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Create a border of irises and other bulbs around your vegetable garden to help keep your produce safe. 
  • Use Irises, Lilies, and Daffodils as companion plants for Tulips to help disguise them against deer. Adding a few Crown Imperials to the mix may be especially helpful in this pursuit. 
  • Mix narcissus bulbs with your potatoes, carrots, turnips, and the like to guard them against predation by moles and gophers. 

Designing a deer-resistant garden can be a challenge. Still, if you make careful choices and plan smart combinations, you can keep your prized plants safe without having to fence your yard or spray potentially dangerous repellent chemicals. 

Is It Dangerous To Plant Deer-Resistant Irises And Other Plants? 

Many plants we discuss in this article are deer resistant because they are poisonous; however, it is not usually hazardous to plants. 

They repel deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, and voles because their toxicity causes them to smell and taste bad. If a curious or hungry animal does take a bite, a burning sensation in the mouth will quickly ensue. 

For this reason, it’s improbable that any animal or child will ingest enough of any of these plants to do any real harm. 

That doesn’t mean that these plants are entirely deer-proof, though. If deer and other wildlife can get food otherwise, they will pass these by.

Nonetheless, even though there are plants that deer don’t find particularly appealing because they contain toxic elements, a starving deer will eat whatever it can find. 

For this reason, we must not plant invasive plants that will crowd out the native plant deer and other wildlife need to survive. 

In this video, the University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist, Kim Todd, shows us a potentially invasive species of iris.

Invasive Iris

Before planting irises or any other wildlife-repellent plant in your yard, check with your own local agricultural extension to be sure you are not planting something that is potentially invasive. 

Why Should You Let Wildlife Into Your Yard? 

Wild animals’ habitat gets smaller and smaller by the day. Many types of wild animals have adapted to live around and among people. 

They may live primarily in the ever-shrinking woods, but often they need a corridor to get from one woodland setting to another. 

Making sure your yard is safe (but not necessarily inviting) for wildlife will help them navigate the changing world and survive without gobbling up your prized plants. 

Choosing attractive plants that are not appetizing to deer and other wildlife can help establish a habit of “just passing through” for these animals. 

They won’t stop and nibble if you don’t give them a reason to stop and nibble. Instead, they’ll simply make their way from point A to point B. 

Watching them do so can be interesting, entertaining, and even awe-inspiring. 

Follow the tips presented here to create a beautiful, deer-resistant yard with irises and other easy-care, attractive plants. 

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