I’m regularly asked by other gardeners what my favorite heat-loving, deer-resistant perennials are, and what has survived year after year.
Even though I’ve written a lot about my favorites, I’ve combined my various posts into one article, adding FIFTEEN new tough-as-nails perennials.
I’ve also indicated if they bloom early 0r mid-summer (or both!) Click here to read about late-summer bloomers.
It’s important to keep in mind that the appetite of deer vary region by region (sometimes within a relatively small area) so experiences will differ.
Not to mention the time of year. Late fall (after a long, hot summer) hungry deer will eat just about anything.
However, this list is what I’ve found successful over several decades.
So drumroll, please – here they are, all in one place! My favorite heat-loving, deer-resistant perennials that will tolerate a blistering hot summer!
1. Stokesia ‘Blue Frills’ (Stokes Aster) zones 5-9, deer-resistant, blooms early summer
When the stokesia blooms in my garden, that’s my signal that summer has begun!
Many traditional varieties are in shades of light blue), but check out the color of ‘Blue Frills’! These flowers are a vivid bluish-purple on upright stems with dark green foliage – a welcome addition to the parched garden.
The flowers are HUGE (3-4” across) and bloom once the garden really starts to heat up in mid-summer.
Tons of pollinators adore this plant, and whenever I need a photo of a butterfly, I head out to the stokesia.
They’re a perfect front-of-the-border plant, growing to 2’x2’ and are happy in my BAKING HOT sunny border.
2. Monardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’ (Scarlet Monardella) zones 6-10, deer-resistant, blooms early and mid-summer
This little perennial is actually evergreen in my garden, growing to a tidy 6″ x 12″ wide.
It’s the perfect sun-loving perennial to add to tight corners (like in this space between my patio and giant granite boulders.)
Despite its size, you can spot the vibrant red blooms across the garden. It’s profuse 2-inch clusters of feathery tubular flowers beckon to every hummingbird around!
3. Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmos) zones 9-11, deer-resistant, blooms early and mid-summer
One of my favorite perennials of all is the Chocolate Cosmo.
On a warm day, the velvety maroon flowers have a delicious vanilla-chocolate scent that butterflies can’t resist.
It’s a warm-climate perennial that really comes into its own once the temperatures heat up.
For those of you who live in colder climates, you can dig the tubers to store over the winter, or treat as an annual.
I particularly love this planted near grasses, with the 24″ wands mingling together with the blades of grasses.
I have Chocolate Cosmos throughout my garden, but some of my favorites are planted in a little garden bed that borders my pool.
A few years ago, my daughter begged me to plant strawberries in this bed so she could swim up and have a snack (or, simply forage for them when she’s hungry…)
This is my garden’s version of Chocolate-Covered Strawberries! 😉
4. Helichrysum amorginum ‘Ruby Clusters’ (Strawflower or Curry Plant) zones 8-11, deer-resistant, blooms early and mid-summer
If you’ve got a hot and dry spot at the front of the border, you might consider ‘Ruby Clusters.’
Growing to just 10″ x 16″, the silver foliage ‘pops’ when surrounded by other green plants.
But once the dark pink buds first appear in the spring, that’s when the show starts.
The flowers start out as little ruby-red balls, then open to pink, then morph to soft yellow. They’ll remain on the plant for another 4 weeks (or until you dead-head them.)
These little helichrysums have performed so well for me that I’ve now added a new variety to my garden – ‘Ember Glow’.
I just love the soft apricot balls that first appear (don’t they look fantastic with the orange-red berberis behind it?)
Several years ago, I grew a different variety of strawflower from a small cutting (below.) This is helichrysum italicum and I SO appreciate it’s long-lasting bright yellow blooms and curry-scented foliage. I leave the faded flowers on the plant for another few months, appreciating the soft tan colors, until I finally trim them back.
5. Calylophus hartwegii ‘Texas Gold’ (Sun Drops) zones 5-9, deer-resistant, blooms early-mid summer
This tough little Western native is covered with cheery yellow blooms that bees adore.
I planted this one last October, and it bloomed for six months straight before taking a much-needed rest. SIX MONTHS!
Sun Drops prefer well-drained soil and full sun and are very drought-tolerant.
Sun Drops even tolerate reflected heat, making them ideal to plant next to a hot driveway.
Once it stops flowering, I cut it back by 1/2 to give it a rest before it ramps back up again in a few weeks.
6. Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower) zones 3-9, deer-resistant, blooms early-mid summer
For three years I nurtured these little plants that I grew from seeds collected many years ago. Patience paid off!
Thankfully, once they decided to stick around, there seems to be no stopping them, and each year they grow more and more robust.
Take one look at the flower bud, and you can see why it’s called ‘Balloon Flower.’ But it’s the crazy colors (below) that randomly appear on the flowers that I love most.
7. Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller) zones 8-11, deer-resistant, blooms early-mid summer
This is the one area in my garden that doesn’t receive any irrigation at all (click here to see some truly awful ‘before’ photos!)
And while I ‘try’ and keep it watered, in reality it only receives a bit every few weeks.
Boy, oh boy, is this senecio tough! This particular grouping is going on three years old now and all it asks of me is the tiniest bit of love.
It blooms for several weeks at a time and when finished I dead-head it, perhaps cutting it back by 1/3, and that’s it!
8. Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) zones 8-10, NOT deer-resistant, blooms early summer
Confession time: In the past, I wasn’t a huge fan of agapanthus because (I’ll admit) they’re just so darn common. They seem to grow everywhere here in California to the point of being a bit boring.
After moving to my new garden and experiencing all the new challenges I’ve had to face (intense heat, browsing deer, non-functioning irrigation system, etc.) I’ve had a change of heart.
I LOVE AGAPANTHUS! Anything that showers me with flowers with little to no attention from me has my vote!
Over the past few years, I’ve tried a few new varieties from Sunset’s Plant Collection, which have risen to the top of my list.
The first is Sunset’s agapanthus ‘Ever White,’ which is a sweet little dwarf variety, growing to just 1 ½’ x 1 ½’.
I love the small size, as many common varieties grow to gigantic proportions (I have old clumps here that are at least 6’ wide and 6’ tall when in bloom!)
‘Ever White’ is perfect for the front of the border, and the crisp, cool white flowers are a welcome sight on a sweltering hot day.
And did I mention they re-bloom? This means I can enjoy the flowers throughout the summer, instead of other varieties that bloom only once.
The second variety is ‘Indigo Frost,’ which has to-die-for blue and white flowers that stand out among the more typical shades of solid blue.
It’s a little taller than ‘Ever White’, growing to about 2’x2’ (add an extra foot once the flowers start to bloom.)
While agapanthus flowers are like candy for deer, they tend to leave the strappy leaves alone.
So, once the flowers begin to bloom, I spray the plant with Deer Out, and it works like a charm – deer stay away for weeks at a time.
The other variety I love is ‘Summer Sky’, which I found (of all places) at Home Depot. I’ve since seen many variegated varieties in the nurseries that look the same but with different names.
I originally bought it for the foliage, and how it complemented the blue succulents (below) but the tall blooms of light blue flowers are just as lovely.
The hummingbirds think so, too (if you look closely you can see one on the middle flower, left.)
9. Phygelius CandyDrops ™ Tangerine (Cape Fuchsia) zones 6-9, deer-resistant, blooms early-mid summer
This compact variety was originally bred for containers, where mine lived for several years. When I moved up here five years ago, I looked in an oversized container that I had brought with me and saw that I must’ve stuck it in there (temporarily, I’m assuming) for the move up here.
It bloomed and bloomed with TOTAL NEGLECT on my part (I was busy unpacking and all the chaos that comes with moving), so I decided to rescue it and plant it in the garden.
Since then, it’s rewarded me with weeks and weeks of soft apricot blooms.
It’s smaller than other more common varieties (which can grow up to 4’ and can often look woody & unkempt) and tops out at about 2-feet.
It’s happiest in partial sun (especially in my hot climate), with moderate water (it’s planted near the bottom of my garden to take advantage of the overspray from a nearby lawn.
Another fantastic variety to try is Monrovia’s phygellius Colorburst Yellow, with TONS of nectar-rich tubular flowers that hummingbirds adore.
This variety is planted in our Lake Tahoe garden (zone 6) and has so far survived the crushing snow (knocking on wood!)
In my last garden, I planted CandyDrops ™ ‘Red’ in a window box placed just outside of my office window, and loved to watch the hummingbirds while I worked. (click here to see four different versions of my window box.)
10. Euphorbia ‘Charam‘, zones 6a-9, deer-resistant, blooms early-mid summer
They’re SO tough in our area, requiring very little water, resisting browsing gophers/bunnies/deer, and are evergreen in our mild climate.
‘Charam’ is a wonderful (though sometimes hard to find) variety, growing to just 2’x2′.
It’s an English hybrid (a cross between e. amygdaloides and e. martinii) with a very compact form, and long blue-green leaves.
But it’s those lime-green blooms that get me every spring, causing me to swoon for weeks!
The blooms fade throughout the summer, but remain green until the early fall (which is why I’ve included it in this summer-blooming list.)
11. Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paws) ‘Harmony’ & ‘Tequila Sunrise’ zones 10-11, deer-resistant, blooms early to mid-summer
For those of you who garden in colder climates, I’m sorry to tempt you with these tender beauties (maybe you could grow them as annuals?)
Personally, I’d be lost without them in my garden and those that I design.
While there are lots of varieties in the nurseries, in my experience, the only ones I bother with are the yellow ‘Harmony’ and the orange ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (sometimes ‘Big Red,’ too.)
These are the really tall ones, growing to 5’, and have proven to be the most reliable, returning each year bigger and better than the last.
Kangaroo Paws reign from Australia (the name gives it away, right?) so you know they’re TOUGH.
The hottest days don’t phase them, and they want very little water (in fact, too much is the kiss of death for them.)
In the photo, left, I’ve tucked the yellow ‘Harmony’ in very tight spaces naturally occurring between the existing granite boulders.
As I knew the soil would be shallow and fast-draining, they were the perfect choice for these spots.
Oh, and did I mention they’re a favorite among hummingbirds (below?)
12. Allium ‘Lavender Bubbles’ zones 4-8, deer-resistant, blooms mid-late summer
As you may know, there’s a LOT of allium varieties, but ‘Lavender Bubbles’ tends to bloom later than many of the spring bloomers.
And here’s a fun fact: did you know allium is latin for garlic?
Starting in late June and lasting through the end of July, the 2-inch purple balls float above the silver foliage of my senecio ‘Silver Gleam.’
For those of you who subscribe to Fine Gardening magazine, there’s a fantastic article about alliums, and the Chicago Botanic Garden’s trial results.
Click here to access the article online (fingers crossed the link works – sometimes their online information is limited to so many views per customer.)
And for more of my favorite ball-shaped flowers, click here (more lovely allium pics, too!)
13. Lantana (annual, except in mild climates 9-11) deer-resistant, blooms early, mid-summer and fall, too!
Similar to agapanthus in that I’ve typically turned my nose up at them, I’ve fallen back in love with these tough, non-stop blooming perennials.
One of my favorite varieties is ‘Dallas Red’ (in the foreground of the photo) as it has the most vibrant, rich reds and oranges I’ve seen.
The taller ‘Radiation’ is in the back, and grows to 3-4′ with softer shades of orange and yellow.
They look pretty horrible in the winter (many people think the plant has died and proceed to rip them out!) but they bounce back again once the heat arrives.
Pollinators adore them, as do hummingbirds, and deer won’t touch them.
Tons of flowers in every color imaginable, very little water, what’s not to love?
14. Bouvardia ternifolia (Firecracker Bush) zones 7-10, deer-resistant, blooms mid to late summer
Native to the Southwest, this is an amazing perennial that will attract every hummingbird in the area to your garden.
I’ve only seen it offered once at our local nursery and wish I’d find it again, as I’d buy several more – it’s that great.
It has stiff, upright stems that reach 3-4 feet tall, and once the temps begin to heat up, the vibrant scarlet red flowers come out (and never stop until the first frost!)
15. Salvia pachyphilla ‘Mulberry Flambe’ (Mojave Sage) zones 5-9, deer-resistant, blooms mid-late summer
As you may recall, salvias are an integral part of my garden (click here for my favorites that bloom throughout the year.)
So when I saw the fantastic colors of these ‘Mulberry Flambe’ from High Country Gardens, I knew I had to try them.
I especially appreciate their small and compact habit, growing to just 18” x 2’.
Mine have quickly grown to full size in just a few months, and the blooms have been non-stop for three months now and counting.
As a bonus, the silvery-green-gray foliage is incredibly fragrant, smelling just like hiking in the hills.
16. Helenium ‘Short & Sassy’ (Sneezeweed) zones 4-9 & deer-resistant
The common name of helenium is ‘sneezeweed,’ which is such an unfortunate nickname!
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t cause people to sneeze at all.
Apparently, eons ago the helenium leaves were used as some sort of snuff – hence their misleading nickname.
This compact variety has a much longer bloom time than other heleniums, and it’s the perfect size to tuck in front of my euphorbia ‘Blackbird.’
Growing to a manageable 2’x2’, ‘Short & Sassy’ pumps out the cheery orange and yellow blooms for a solid 4-6 weeks.
It does require a bit more water than the surrounding low-water perennials, but for me it’s worth it. I just love this plant.
Mine is STILL blooming after 6 weeks!
17. Echinacea pallida (Coneflower) zones 4-9, deer-resistant, blooms early summer
I first saw this native variety of coneflower growing in Wave Hill, and knew I had to find some for my garden.
I finally found some online from Prairie Nursery, and I’m thrilled with how they’ve thrived over the years.
Their pink petals are thinner and longer than other varieties, gently drooping downwards, appearing fragile and delicate.
They start out a brighter pink (below, left) then gradually fade to a soft, muted pink before dropping off to reveal amazing seed heads that hang on through the winter.
Once the winter winds batter the long stems to the ground, I like to gather up the dried seed heads to use as decorations (they last for years!)
18. Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’ zones 4-8, Deer-Resistant, blooms late-summer
I’m a sucker for prairie plants.
Which is why when I first spotted this variety at the Bellevue Botanic Garden, I vowed to find some for my own garden.
This is a tall variety, growing to 4-5’, with tons of starry golden-yellow late-summer blooms.
While I’ve never seen them available in local nurseries, I’ve ordered mine from Bluestone Perennials.
Even though the tags say they need moist soil, mine have done really well with medium to low water. I just make sure to provide at least 3-inches of mulch to help retain the moisture.
(Brown-Eyed Susan) is another old-fashioned favorite in my garden, which I look forward to every summer.
Once the heat arrives, mid to late summer, it quickly grows to 4-5’ tall and is FILLED with a million little gold flowers, attracting every pollinator in town.
It’s a short-lived perennial, but since it produces a fair amount of seedlings, I always have more to plant once the mother plant eventually dies.
As these plants can quickly become top-heavy, I like to place peony-rings (like the ones below from Gardener’s Supply) over the top of the newly-emerging plant.
As the plant grows, the foliage and flowers quickly obscure the rings and provide a summer’s worth of support.
I also use these supports with other perennials, such as verbena bonariensis, solidago ‘Firecracker, and helenium ‘Mardi Gras’.
19. Eriogonum grande var. rubescens (Red Buckwheat), zones 8-10, deer-resistant, blooms early thru mid-summer
Red Buckwheat is one of my favorite little plants the front of the border, growing to a tidy 12″ x 3′ wide.
It’s native to California’s Channel Islands (which tells you it thrives in hot, dry environments!)
I have mine planted under my oak tree as it’s a very low-water plant (perfect for oaks – click here to read more!)
20. Phlox paniculata zones 4-8, deer-resistant, blooms mid thru late summer
The best variety of phlox in my garden, by far, is the old fashioned (and commonly available) pink garden phlox.
This clump (left) came from my grandmother’s garden and out-performs any phlox I’ve grown before.
Blooming with 4’ tall plumes of the most delicious smelling flowers for 6-8 weeks, it attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and I’ve even spotted a hummingbird moth in the early evening!
I also grow the white ‘David’s Choice’ variety (left.) ‘David’ is powdery mildew-resistant, in case that’s a problem in your garden.
‘Bright Eyes’ (below) grows in our Lake Tahoe garden and is another fabulous variety that reliably returns year after year.
And, as a side note – chipmunks and voles tend to leave this phlox alone in our garden!
21. Leonotis leonura (Lion’s Tail) zones 8-11, deer-resistant, blooms early summer
I’m so lucky Lion’s Tail is evergreen in my garden (vs. an annual in cold climates) as it’s one of my favorites for adding a long-lasting burst of orange.
However, I’ve heard repeatedly that some people are frustrated with their Lion’s Tails because they look rangy.
The trick is to give it a HARD haircut after blooming (usually mid-July) – hard, as in at least 1/2 to 2/3.
The plant will quickly bounce back and fill in with more lush, dark green growth that will soar to giant proportions once hot weather hits again next year.
The Lion’s Tail in my garden towers over 6’, and has more velvety orange flowers than I can count – it’s simply stunning!
Laughing in the face of 110-degree days, the flowers continue to bloom for several weeks, eventually forming attractive dried seed heads.
22. Hibiscus ‘Perfect Storm’ zones 5-9, blooms early thru late summer, NOT Deer Resistant!
Confession: I don’t plant a lot of tropical flowers, like hibiscus, in my garden.
Yet, one of my very favorite perennials is this unbelievably tough Hibiscus hybrid.
I’ve heard from several readers that hibiscus isn’t deer resistant in their gardens, so while it’s remained untouched in mine, I’m listing it as ‘NOT Deer Resistant’ (but worth telling you about, nonetheless!)
The huge, and I mean HUGE (7-8” at least) pink and white flowers bloom non-stop throughout the summer, but honestly – it’s the foliage that I’m wild about.
Take a look at the inky, mauve and green foliage (yes, that’s another stokesia planted in front of it!)
Unlike other maroon-colored foliage that often bleaches out to green during the heat, this one holds its own throughout the summer.
It doesn’t need to be coddled, either, surviving in this hot spot in my garden without flinching. I water it, along with my other plants, 2-3 times a week during the summer – that’s it. Even during a week of 100+ temps!
Here’s my husband, Tom, who couldn’t resist climbing in the middle of the hibiscus to show just how large the flowers are – ha!
Even though this pic looks superimposed, it’s not. And, believe it or not, Tom has a pretty large head in real life!
Pruning this hibiscus is a little different than other perennials since it’s one of the very last plants to emerge in spring.
In fact, to remind you where it’s planted, it’s best to leave a few deciduous stems standing throughout the winter.
Once it eventually emerges, it soars to 4×4 and will reward you with all the dark, dusky, flowery beauty you could want!
23. Francoa ramosa (Bridal’s Wreath) zones 7-9, deer-resistant, blooms mid thru late summer
The lovely, wispy blooms of francoa begin blooming just as the temps heat up, mid-summer.
I’ve had this francoa for many years (taking a cutting with me from my last garden) and it’s one of the toughest perennials I have.
Growing to 24″ x 24″ wide, the oversized and coarse foliage remain close to the ground most of the year.
But once mid-summer arrives, 24″ tall slender stalks of flowers appear (to the delight of hummingbirds.)
Click here to read more about how I use this plant in the garden (and to the weird stems it sometimes forms!)
24. Epilobium canum (aka: Zauschneria) ‘Everett’s Choice’ zones 8-11, Deer-Resistant, blooms late summer thru fall
I much prefer ‘Everett’s Choice’ over other California Fuchsias, as its foliage isn’t quite as hot and gray looking as others.
This variety has more of a bluish-gray-green color to it, helping to appear more lush.
It slowly spreads to form a low 12” x 24″ mat, and only requires occasional deep watering.
The vibrant red-orange blooms appear early summer and will last through the fall, attracting tons of hummingbirds and butterflies.
Click here to read my post about my favorite Top 30 super-tough native plants.
25. Lavender stoechas ‘Javelin Forte White’ zones 7-9, deer-resistant, blooms early thru mid summer
Most lavenders are bloomed-out by now, except for Monrovia’s ‘Javelin Forte White.’
As of this post, this lavender has been blooming for 16 weeks (and counting!) and even though the plant needs to be cut back, I haven’t the heart as it’s still filled with white flowers!
When the flowers first emerge, they’re deep purple with little white tufts on the top (photo below.) But as they age, they lose their purple color and are mainly white.
Click here to read an in-depth post about all the lavenders in my garden, when they bloom, and how I prune them.
Well, there you have it – my updated list of 25 heat-loving, deer-resistant perennials!
If you’d like to see even MORE flowers in my garden that look fantastic during the hot late summer months, click here .
If you have any plants to add to this list, please share with us!
We could all use some inspiration!