We are building a sitting area with a bench and a few chairs, and I would like to set up a trellis (47" high x 60" wide) with some sort of perennial climbing flowering vine behind the bench. This is both to block the view behind the bench with a wall of green and flowers, and to provide a beautiful backdrop for the bench itself. The latter is probably the more important goal.

We live in SouthWestern PA and have a large number of deer so we would like a plant that is deer resistant. We also would like to be able to use the bench without fear so I would like something unpalatable to bees. We had originally planned on Wisteria, but upon doing some research found that it doesn't meet either of these points.

Is there a climbing flowering vine that won't attract bees or be eaten by deer?

  • Flowering and not attracting bees is not really compatible. Bees doesn't cause troubles. You may fear the wasp instead. About Wisteria (and other plants): you may use a net to protect from deers, just for the first years. Roses are more resistant. Mar 5, 2019 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


Firstly, even if You were to populate an entire garden with plants that never produce flowers, it still wouldn't prevent yellow-jackets, wasps or hornets from flying in and possibly building their nests nearby because nectar isn't the only food source for them. You see, come spring all the way through summer, wasps need protein to support the hive and the queen and that protein comes in the form of other insects and pests that are present in almost every garden. Come autumn, they shift their attention to sugar for the winter and in doing so through out the growing season, they help pollinate plants and get rid of harmful insects. So see them as pest eaters for that's what they really are. What you can do, however, is minimise the number of these annoying stingers by making sure your garden isn’t a wasp magnet or in your case, choosing the right climber and caring for it correctly. If your willing to compromise on flowers, then choose a fruitless grapevine that is of course attended to for pest infestations. However if flowering is a must then choose a climbing rose. There are a few things wasps are particularly not fond of. Red flowers (wasps aren’t attracted to warm red colours). Marigolds (many insects don’t like the smell). Closed and double-flowered plants such as roses (too hard to access). Flowers that don’t produce much nectar such as Geraniums. Flowers that bloom before wasp season. So from the list, red colour + roses and you get a climbing rose that would probably work best given the criteria.


The OP has found a paper that discusses pollinator flower color preferences and has asked that it be added to this answer. The paper, titled "Pollinators show flower colour preferences but flowers with similar colours do not attract similar pollinators" is from the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine and was published in 2016.

  • Thank you; that's great information. So you would suggest something like Tess of the D’urbervilles (which seems pretty cold-hardy)? Would you recommend a partner plant to grow with it? I had been considering Jackmanii Clematis with Purple Wisteria to give a rich, multilayered appearance that provided color throughout the season. I would love to see some specific suggestions added to the answer if you have any.
    – Nicholas
    Mar 6, 2019 at 15:09
  • I was gonna suggest a few climbers but really, the one that you've pick out (and i see you did a little research) would do really well with the limited amount of space that you have. Plus, i hear it's disease resistant, blooms multiple times throught out the growing season and has a lovely fragrance to it. So ya, i think it's an excellent choice to have. However thought, do keep in mind the location of your trellis. The rose would thrive best facing a south direction where it would recieve the most sunlight. If your trellis stands on the east or west side of the house, you'll get less blooms. Mar 8, 2019 at 16:55
  • Also, wisterias and clematis are big growers and aren't really the right choices for your rather small trellis in addition to what we've talk about earlier regarding your concern for wasps. Mar 8, 2019 at 16:55
  • Thanks. The trellis will sit Southwest of the house facing SouthEast. It should receive early morning light, and then light from noon on, with no trees nearby for shade, so it should have plenty of light. My only concern is the bench blocking sunlight from the plant base for most of the day, but hopefully that won't be a problem once it starts climbing.
    – Nicholas
    Mar 8, 2019 at 17:52
  • For others that may find this question in the future, would you be willing to work a link to this paper into your answer: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970366. I found it really helpful and it didn't come up easily in my Googling.
    – Nicholas
    Mar 8, 2019 at 17:56

If you want a plant that bees don't bother to visit, buy something that has double flowers - these are often sterile and don't produce pollen, so they're no use to bees. As for deer resistant, that's another matter altogether; Trumpet Vine and Wisteria are not terribly attractive to deer, but they are both attractive to bees. Finding something that fulfils both objectives is, I fear, going to be impossible... If you decide on a rose (even though they're not necessarily deer resistant) choose one that has flowers with as many petals as possible - for instance, the climbing variety 'James Galway' (https://www.gardenia.net/plant/rose-james-galway-auscrystal) is densely petalled and that makes it much harder for bees to access any pollen, and therefore less attractive to them. Check the height and spread of any rose before buying though, to make sure it has the appropriate height and spread for your purposes.

  • Thanks for this great information. James Galway is pink, which seems to be a more attractive color for wasps and bees. It's also a bit tall for my purposes. If I understand correctly then Tess of the D’urbervilles seems pretty densely petalled, and has an unattractive (to pollinators) color. Am I correct that that's a good option? If planting at the suggested spread (about 40" apart) should I look for a partner plant to compliment it, or leave the rose to climb the trellis alone?
    – Nicholas
    Mar 6, 2019 at 19:22
  • I'm unconvinced that reds are any less attractive than pale colours to pollinators, frankly - the way insects perceive colour is different from the way we do. Roses of that type are often described as 'paeony flowered' because of the density of petals - Falstaff Climbing is even denser, ,but perhaps a bit taller. Whether you choose a complementary colour rose or not is up to you - that's very much an aesthetic, personal decision. It'll look fine on its own, or with perhaps a paler, paeony flowered rose.
    – Bamboo
    Mar 6, 2019 at 22:16
  • @bamboo, i beg to differ. Ive grown quite a few roses. Different varieties, different colours and so far the roses that have never given me problems with pests (wasps included) are the ones i have in red. There's this minaiture rose i have in red that i really liked so i went in and got another. This time in yellow and within just a few days, i began to notice aphids latching themselves onto the flowers. I had it placed next to the red. Same problems i had with shades of pink and white so when i read about wasps not liking the colour red, i kinda found it to be somewhat credible. Mar 8, 2019 at 17:35
  • @Bamboo Thank you for the advice. However, after Hamid commented on coloration being a factor I did some research and came across this paper: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970366 . I was considering growing two Tess roses at the 1/4 and 3/4 points of the trellis with a Clamatis in the middle, as photos of them together are stunning, but I think I'm going to stick just with the red roses given this information. Though I may try some potted annuals nearby in other colors to see how that goes in my yard as an experiment.
    – Nicholas
    Mar 8, 2019 at 17:49
  • Clematis is not only highly attractive to most pollinators when in flower, but also vulnerable to deer, so I wouldn't have recommended it for those reasons anyway. As for some colours being attractive, Hamid was referring specifically to wasps, but from personal observation, I can see that bees love purple flowers (lavender) and that wasps love orange and yellow colours (on a beach towel or teeshirt for example) during high summer... Bees also seem to prefer flowers with bi colours such as pansy, where the central blotch seems to attract them, especially if its dark...
    – Bamboo
    Mar 8, 2019 at 18:16

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