Plants that Deer Do Not Eat


Deer can be a major nuisance for gardeners and homeowners, as they often feed on plants and cause damage to landscapes. However, there are certain plants that deer tend to avoid due to their taste, smell, or toxicity. In this article, we will explore some of the plants that deer do not eat, providing detailed descriptions and information about each.

1. Daffodils (Narcissus)

Daffodils, with their vibrant yellow or white blooms, are a popular choice for gardens and landscapes. One of the reasons why deer tend to avoid daffodils is their toxicity. Daffodils contain toxic alkaloids that make them unpalatable to deer. These plants are also known for their strong scent, which further deters deer from grazing on them.

1.1 Types of Daffodils

There are several types of daffodils available, each with its unique characteristics. Some common varieties include:

  • Trumpet daffodils
  • Large-cupped daffodils
  • Small-cupped daffodils
  • Double daffodils
  • Poeticus daffodils

Regardless of the type, daffodils are generally not preferred by deer.

2. Lavender (Lavandula)

Lavender is a fragrant herb that is loved by gardeners for its beautiful purple flowers and aromatic foliage. While lavender is a favorite of bees and butterflies, it is not a preferred food source for deer. The strong scent of lavender acts as a natural deterrent for deer, keeping them away from the plants.

2.1 Varieties of Lavender

There are many different varieties of lavender, each with its unique growth habits and flower characteristics. Some popular varieties include:

  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • French lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
  • Spanish lavender (Lavandula dentata)
  • Hidcote lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’)
  • Munstead lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’)

No matter which variety you choose, deer are unlikely to bother your lavender plants.

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3. Marigolds (Tagetes)

Marigolds are cheerful, vibrant flowers that are commonly used in gardens and flower beds. These plants have a distinct smell that deer find unappealing, making them a great choice for deer-resistant gardens. Marigolds also produce a chemical compound called thiophenes, which further repels deer.

3.1 Types of Marigolds

There are various types of marigolds available, including:

  • African marigolds (Tagetes erecta)
  • French marigolds (Tagetes patula)
  • Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia)

All of these types have shown to be effective in deterring deer.

4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is a versatile herb that is not only used in cooking but also adds beauty to gardens. The strong scent and woody nature of rosemary make it unattractive to deer. This perennial herb is often used as a natural deer repellent in landscapes.

4.1 Varieties of Rosemary

There are several varieties of rosemary available, including:

  • Common rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)
  • Blue Spires rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Blue Spires’)
  • Tuscan Blue rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’)

All of these varieties are generally avoided by deer.

5. Peonies (Paeonia)

Peonies are beloved for their large, showy blooms and delightful fragrance. While these flowers may attract bees and butterflies, they are not a favorite food source for deer. Peonies have a bitter taste and produce compounds that make them less appealing to deer.

5.1 Types of Peonies

There are several types of peonies, including:

  • Herbaceous peonies
  • Tree peonies
  • Itoh peonies

Regardless of the type, peonies are generally safe from deer browsing.

6. Boxwood (Buxus)

Boxwood is a popular choice for hedges and landscaping due to its dense, evergreen foliage. While deer may occasionally nibble on new growth, they generally avoid boxwood plants. The strong scent and bitter taste of boxwood make it less attractive to deer.

6.1 Varieties of Boxwood

There are many varieties of boxwood available, including:

  • American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
  • English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’)
  • Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis)
  • Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla)

Regardless of the variety, boxwood is generally not a preferred food source for deer.

7. Salvia (Salvia spp.)

Salvia, commonly known as sage, is a group of flowering plants that are highly attractive to pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Fortunately, they are not as appealing to deer. The strong aroma and slightly fuzzy leaves of salvias make them less palatable to deer.

There are numerous salvias available, including:

  • Common sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)
  • Black and blue salvia (Salvia guaranitica)
  • May Night salvia (Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’)
  • Hot Lips salvia (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’)

Most salvias are not preferred by deer, making them a great addition to deer-resistant gardens.

8. Yarrow (Achillea)

Yarrow is a hardy perennial that produces clusters of small, colorful flowers. While yarrow is highly attractive to pollinators, it is not a top choice for deer. The bitter taste and strong scent of yarrow deter deer from feeding on the plants.

8.1 Varieties of Yarrow

There are many different varieties of yarrow available, including:

  • Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • Woolly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa)
  • Desert Eve yarrow (Achillea ‘Desert Eve Red’)
  • Summer Pastels yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’)

Most varieties of yarrow are not preferred by deer.

9. Catmint (Nepeta)

Catmint, also known as catnip, is a perennial herb that is highly attractive to cats but not as appealing to deer. The strong fragrance of catmint helps deter deer from feeding on the plants. Catmint is also known for its beautiful, lavender-blue flowers.

9.1 Types of Catmint

There are several types of catmint available, including:

  • Common catmint (Nepeta cataria)
  • Walker’s Low catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’)
  • Purrsian Blue catmint (Nepeta faassenii ‘Purrsian Blue’)
  • Little Titch catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Little Titch’)

Regardless of the type, catmint is generally not preferred by deer.

In conclusion, while no plant can be guaranteed to be completely deer-proof, the plants mentioned in this article are generally avoided by deer due to their taste, smell, or toxicity. Including these plants in your garden can help deter deer and protect your precious plants from their browsing.

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