3 Categories of Deer Repelling Plants

Deer running away from d"deer repelling" plants, and the title "3 Categories of Deer Repelling Plants".

Take a second to think about it. If you were a deer and you saw a nice landscaped yard with a variety of plants all lush from watering and fertilizing, what would you do if you were that deer?

Damage to landscaping done by deer is disheartening at the least but also very costly if you want to keep that color and beauty in your yard. With deer populations expanding as well as suburban sprawl, deer and humans mixing is inevitable.

Fencing is one option, but does not look good and costs a fair amount on its own. There is nothing that is actually “deer proof”, just “deer resistant”, even that fence. However, fret not, there are a plethora of plants out there to still give you everything you want out of your landscaping. There are many variables on what makes a plant attractive or not, but the basics are: if it pokes, if it smells, or if it’s poisonous, deer will most likely leave it alone.

Smelly Things

Deer don’t like most aromatic herb plants. For instance, rosemary is a delicious aromatic herb used in kitchens across the world, but did you know that deer really don’t like it. The scent is strong for us but to a deer’s sensitive nose the pungent aroma is just too much. Not to mention, it is one of the easier plants to grow, being drought resistant.

Marigolds last all summer and into the fall. They also happen to be another objectionable plant to deer. An added benefit is that they repel insects as well.

Another good and smelly plant is sage, including Russian sage. When my tulips are coming up, I cut down last year’s sage and spread it over the tulip tops.

Other plants that are the bane of deer everywhere are ornamental salvias, and lavender, as well as flowers like bee balm, peonies, zinnias, and bearded irises.

“Pokey” Things

Cactus or other spiny / thorny plants and hedges are great deterrents. Just like you wouldn’t want to walk through a briar patch, a deer won’t either. Do not plant barberry, it may be thorny, but it is highly invasive, in some cases illegal, on the east coast.

Roses can go either way with deer. They don’t like the thorns but they will nibble on the rose buds. Lambs ear is another plant that, while not exactly spiny, the fuzzy texture is not pleasant to deer. 

Poisonous Things

Before we start this section be warned, these plants, for the most part, are harmful to children and pets if ingested. For instance, the National Capital Poison Center says that children and pets should be closely monitored if there is foxglove present.

One option in this category is lining your garden with foxglove, a very ornate flower. Foxglove contains digitalis which is harmful to the heart.

There is also the castor bean as an effective deterrent against deer. The fruit of the castor bean plant is used to make the poison ricin and highly dangerous.

Butterfly weed, also known as milkweed, adds a nice pop of orange to your property from the flowers as well as attracting butterflies by the dozens. However the milky sap is bitter and toxic.

Other poisonous plants include oriental poppies, alliums, wolfsbane, and daffodils.

Final Thoughts

While thinking about what to plant, make sure to know if the plants you are looking at are invasive. These types of plants can do a lot of harm to the environment, and the economy.

Here are some links on various states’ deer resistant plants:

  1. New Jersey Deer Resistant Plants
  2. Delaware Deer Resistant Plants
  3. Pennsylvania Deer Resistant Plants
  4. New York Deer Resistant Plants
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