We get asked all the time, “What plants will the deer stay away from?”  This is a great question. John’s 30 years of experience really come into play here.  This blog post includes names and descriptions of plants that work really well for deer populated areas around Bergen County, NJ  If you get a lot of deer and you want to install plants not on this list, we can help you there too, with an affordable and study deer fence.  We can build nearly invisible deer fencing as well. John Helmke will be happy to come to Old Tappan, River Vale, Montvale, Rockleigh or Norwood, or anywhere in between, to provide you with a free consultation.

But if you have deer and don’t want a deer fence, here are some good options.  This list provides a guide and was developed from a variety of sources.  Please keep in mind that no plant is completely “deer proof”, particularly when deer densities are high and especially when deer may be starving during rough winters.


Woody, ornamental boxwood are a beautiful choice. They are slow-growing evergreen shrubs and small trees, growing to 2–12 m (rarely 15 m) tall. The leaves are opposite, rounded to lanceolate, and leathery; they are small in most species, typically 1.5–5 cm long and 0.3-2.5 cm broad, but up to 11 cm long and 5 cm broad.  The flowers are small and yellow-green, monoecious with both sexes present on a plant. The fruit is a small capsule containing several small seeds.  Helmke can plant these for you anytime and there are very rarely, if ever, damaged by deer.

Astilbe is a beautiful perennial choice that Helmke plants frequently for our customers.  It is an herbaceous plant rarely damaged by deer.

Native to the far east, these beautiful plants and their hybrids have revolutionized the perennial possibilites of moist, shaded American gardens. Astilbes are companions of ferns and impatiens–they’re some of the few flowers that make big color in full or partial shade.  These plume-flowered plants have ultra-handsome fern-like foliage, (usually dark glossy green) and stiff stems that always hold the elegant plumes aloft without any staking. Flower arrangers find the flower plumes are just as handsome in a vase as in a garden.

Butterfly bush

Of the approximately 100 species nearly all are shrubs less than 16 ft tall, but a few qualify as trees, the largest reaching 98 feet.  Both evergreen and deciduous species occur, in tropical and temperate regions respectively. The leaves are lanceolate in most species, and arranged in opposite pairs on the stems; they range from 0.39–11.81 in long. The flowers of the American species more commonly as cymes forming small, globose heads. Each individual flower is tubular and divided into four spreading petals about 0.12–0.16 in across, the corolla length range 3–30 mm in the American species, the wider variation in the latter because some South American species have evolved long red flowers to attract hummingbirds, rather than insects, as exclusive pollinators.

The colour of the flowers varies widely, from mostly pastel pinks and blues in Asia, to vibrant yellows and reds in the New World, while many cultivars have deeper tones. The flowers are generally rich in nectar and often strongly honey-scented. The fruit is a small capsule about 0.39 in long and 0.039–0.079 in diameter, containing numerous small seeds; in a few species the capsule is soft and fleshy, forming a berry.


Wisteria vines climb by twining their stems either clockwise or counterclockwise round any available support. They can climb as high as 66 ft. above the ground and spread out 10 m 33 ft. laterally. The world’s largest known Wisteria vine is in Sierra Madre, California, measuring more than 1 acre in size and weighing 250 tons. Planted in 1894, it is of the Chinese lavender variety.

The leaves are alternate, 15 to 35 cm long, pinnate, with 9 to 19 leaflets. The flowers are are purple, violet, pink or white. There is no yellow on the leaves. Flowering is in mid to late summer in the American species and W. japonica. The flowers of some species are fragrant, most notably Wisteria sinensis.


Forsythia are deciduous shrubs typically growing to a height of 3 ft 3 in–9 ft 10 in’, with rough grey-brown bark. The leaves are borne oppositely and are usually simple, though sometimes trifoliate with a basal pair of small leaflets.  The flowers are produced in the early spring before the leaves, bright yellow with a deeply four-lobed flower, the petals joined only at the base. These become pendent in rainy weather thus shielding the reproductive parts.

It is widely stated that forsythia flowers are able to produce lactose (the milk sugar). Lactose is very rarely established in other natural sources except milk. However, the presence of lactose could not be confirmed.[6] The actual fruit is a dry capsule, containing several winged seeds.

The genus is named after William Forsyth (1737–1804), a Scottish botanist who was royal head gardener and a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.


Spireas are small to medium sized deciduous shrubs that produce cascades of flowers in spring and summer.

Among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow, spireas are often used in foundation plantings, as hedges, and in perennial gardens. Most spireas bloom in late spring to midsummer. Flower colors include pink, red, yellow, and white, depending on the variety. Some types have colorful fall foliage. Size depends on the species and variety, and can range from 2 to 10 feet tall and wide. Low-growing bumald spirea and medium-sized Japanese spirea can be used throughout the landscape. Vanhoutte spirea ), the classic bridal wreath spirea, grows up to 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide, so give it plenty of elbow room. Masses of small, white flower clusters cover the plant in the spring.

Renaissance spirea This graceful, deciduous shrub features a massive display of pure white flowers and colorful orange-red fall color and offers improved disease resistance over older varieties. 5-6’ tall and wide, this is a flower arrangers favorite. Water regularly.

For fabulous foliage my favorite has to be ‘Mellow yellow’ spirea, also known as ‘Ogon’.  The feathery foliage is reminiscent of the finely dissected bluebeard  leaf except this is a bright shade of yellow-gold.

“Double Play Big Bang” Spirea –where the peeling cinnamon tree bark plays off the warm sunset tones of the spirea. The spirea foliage opens golden with orange overtones and shows rosy new growth before turning a fresh shade of summer green which acts as a foil to the tufty pink flowers. This variety offers the largest flowers of all and should be a butterfly magnet this summer.

Consultations are always free at Helmke Industries.  Call us 845-398-2300 or email us [email protected] for questions, comments, or additional information about our products and services.  Happy gardening!