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Do Deer Like Agapanthus? African Lily Deer-resistance.

» Deer stories » Deer resistant plants » Do Deer Like Agapanthus? African Lily Deer-resistance.
gardener notes Gardeners Notes
Plant type: bulbs
Deer resistant: no
Our plant hardiness zone:
New Zealand: subtropical
U.S. Zone 10b

Lily of the Nile, also known as Agapanthus or African Lily, is a beautiful flowering plant native to South Africa that has become popular in gardens all over the world. Agapanthus is a member of the Amaryllis family and is a herbaceous perennial plant. It grows from bulbs and produces long, strappy leaves that can reach up to 2 feet long. 

agapanthus growing by the house

Photo by W Noort on Unsplash

With its large, striking blue or white flowers and long, slender green leaves, it's easy to see why Agapanthus has become a staple in many gardens. Lily of the Nile has thrived in New Zealand. The plant is now commonly found growing alongside roads in the country. However, despite its popularity, Agapanthus poses a significant risk to the survival of native plants in the region, and many local councils have designated it as a pest species.

Our roadside is no exception. Lily of the Nile is blossoming there (was in mid summer, at the time of writing it's mostly green flowers there), and sometimes we cut out a few to treat our deer.

agapanthus and deer

Is Agapanthus Deer Resistant?

While it's widely believed that deer tend to avoid Agapanthus, we see with our own eyes that our deer are enjoying it quite a bit, especially the blossoms.

We've cut a couple of flowers for the purpose of shooting this video and it's not the best, we'll probably do a better one when more flowers are also in bloom (most are green at the moment).

Deer vs Agapanthus

Deer are wary of this new basket we brought the plant in so they're being cautious, but the bravest of them snatches out the flower and chews down. Once we've taken the plant out and thrown on the ground - it was munched down by the surrounding deer and is no more.

Will Agapanthus Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

If deer do eat your Agapanthus the plant is likely to bounce back. Agapanthus is a resilient plant and can survive being eaten by deer, in fact, once established, it can require either a strong back or a strong poison to dig Lily of the Nile out. However, if the damage is severe, it may take some time for the plant to recover and bloom again and it will lose its aesthetic appeal in the meantime.

Do Rabbits Eat Agapanthus?

Rabbits are said to avoid Agapanthus due to its bitter taste. However, if rabbits are hungry enough, they may nibble on the leaves or flowers. If you have a problem with rabbits in your garden, it's best to protect your Agapanthus with a physical barrier, such as a wire fence. Thankfully, a rabbit fence is much easier to do than a deer one.

Around our farm, there’s a fruitful family of rabbits hopping about, and agapanthuses are flourishing as well, so just from casual observation there doesn’t seem to be a big problem.

Keeping Deer Away From Agapanthus

If you live in an area with a high population of deer, it's important to take steps to protect your Agapanthus. We have written extensively on the topic of keeping deer out of your garden. In that post we discuss the effectiveness of a few ways to keep deer away: deer-resistant plants, deer repellent products, hedge and physical barriers etc. Make sure you read it.

If you’re interested in purchasing some Agapanthus plants, we appreciate it if you buy through our affiliate link, which bears no additional cost to you:

3 Bareroot Blue Agapanthus.

You can also purchase seeds, but most reviews are underwhelming, people saying it’s hard to start from seed or they’re getting wrong seeds!

Deer-Resistant Alternatives to Lily of the Nile

If you're looking for a deer-resistant alternative to Agapanthus, there are a few beautiful plants to choose from. Not too many, because deer eat most things vegetarian.

We’d like to recommend this particular plant that looks very much like Agapanthus, but should actually be deer resistant. We can’t verify this with our deer yet because apparently nowhere to buy bulbs or live plants from in New Zealand and it is forbidden to order seeds from abroad (NZ protects its flora very carefully). So we’re only trying to start some from seeds and it will take a couple of years for them to blossom. :( But deer are not fans of onion and garlic - is for sure.

We’re talking about ...

Ornamental Onion (Allium)

Agapanthus and allium, despite their similarities, are from two different botanical families.

allium flowers

Agapanthus vs Allium
Agapanthus Allium
Flower shape Large, round clusters Tall, globe-shaped clusters
Stem characteristics Long, sturdy stems Thin, delicate stems
Flower color Typically blue or white Range of colors including purple, pink, white, and yellow
Leaf shape Strap-like Long, narrow, grass-like
Native region Southern Africa Cosmopolitan, found in various environments
Growing conditions Full sun and well-draining soil Full sun and well-draining soil
Plant type Perennial Perennial
Ease of maintenance Generally easy to grow Generally easy to grow

Is Allium Deer Resistant?

deer frowning upon allium plants

Ornamental onion is said to be one of the deer proof plants. However, always pays to note that starving deer may eat anything, including meat. That, however, is an extremely rare occurance.

As mentioned, we'd love to plant alliums and test with our deer right away but it's impossible at the moment, but once our tiny seedlings hopefully turn into mature plants we'd be excited to verify alliums deer-resistance on our farm.

Factors that speak in favor of allium being deer resistant include that this is onion, and deer dislike onions and garlic. Garlic is often used in deer repellent formulations.

If you decide to plant some of these fancy looking onions in your garden, we appreciate it if you buy using our affiliate link (no additional cost to you). Here is where we’d buy the bulbs from, based on good reviews: Allium Blend Purple - 30 Bulb Pack. Tell us how they performed vs your deer population!

more ornamental onion views

Allium photo by Patrick Nizan

Some other deer-resistant plants include:

  1. Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
  2. Daffodils
  3. Irises
  4. Hyacinths
  5. Purple Toadflax
  6. Nasturtium
  7. Endless Summer Hydrangea
  8. Lavender (Lavandula)
  9. Freesias
  10. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) - reportedly.

In conclusion, while Agapanthus is not quite deer-resistant, it is a resilient plant that, once established, is unlikely to ever truly leave your garden. However, if you live in an area with a high population of deer, it's important to take steps to protect your Agapanthus as deer damage can leave it looking aesthetically unappealing. There are a few alternative plants to consider growing instead, with higher deer resistance. One of them is likely to be Allium (Ornamental Onion) which is looking quite similar, too.

Update April 2023: Was able to source a few giant allium bulbs from other private gardeners!

allium bulbs

Planted, awaiting the results!

Last modified 01 December 2023 at 15:24

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Plants alphabetically
Aagapanthus [bulbs]anemone [bulbs]armeria [perennials]arugula [annuals]aster [annuals]
Bbamboo [perennials]
Ccalla lilly [bulbs]coneflower [perennials]courgette [annuals]cyclamen [bulbs]
Ffoxglove [perennials]freesia [bulbs]
Hheuchera [perennials]hyacinth [bulbs]hydrangea [shrubs]
Iiris [perennials]
Jjasmine [vines]
Llobularia [annuals]
Mmarigold [annuals]mint [perennials]
Nnasturtium [perennials]
Ppea [vines]purple toadflax [perennials]
Ssalvia splendens [perennials]snowflake [bulbs]sweet potato [annuals]
Ttomato [perennials]

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