Most of us find out the hard way that hungry deer and rabbits will eat almost any vegetation within their reach. However, you can make your garden a little less inviting by including plants they dislike and avoiding those they prefer.
In general, deer avoid plants with a sticky, rough or fuzzy texture (like Euphorbia, Pulmonaria, Dusty Miller or Lamb’s Ears ) and plants with spiny protection (like Barberry).
Not surprisingly, deer stay away from poisonous plants! Daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers that have a toxicity that deer avoid.
Deer also turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents. Deer use their sense of smell to detect predators. Strongly-scented plants may confuse a deer’s sense of smell, which makes them uneasy. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, lavenders, thyme, peonies and bearded irises are too stinky for deer.
Plants that Help Keep the Deer at Bay:
- Any plant can become edible to a deer when food is scarce. Deer are capable of remembering plants that normally would turn them away and may start browsing them regularly in future years. Some gardeners have successfully planted a perimeter garden of deer fodder to provide food so the garden plants are left alone.
- Deer will often rub the felt off their antlers on your most tender tree trunks; potential for damage is high. To protect trees, wrap trunks loosely with chicken wire up to several feet off the ground beyond the height deer can reach.
- There are a number of commercial products which are used as repellents for deer.
- People also use their own recipes for home made sprays. Gardeners should be advised to use caution when trying home remedies. These remedies are not necessarily ‘tried and true’ and may not be safe for use on all plants.
- Often a plant’s mature foliage is resistant and usually deer eat new growth of the plant or nibble or bite off flower heads and buds.
- Fawns will try just about anything and will expand their menu when necessary.