Deer Resistant Herbs for the Garden



In North America, one of the biggest problems that gardeners face every year is deer. Annually, deer destroy more garden plants than any other four-legged creature. There are deer resistant plants that can help to lessen the problem, but it needs to be understood that they aren’t really “deer-proof” plants.

That should be a clear disclaimer. There is very little that is ‘proof’ from deer. For instance, having seen a deer jump an eight foot chain-link fence with very little effort, it is pretty clear to me that a deer-proof fence is either a matter of wishful thinking or extreme cost.

Likewise, deer-proof garden plants are virtually a contradictory term. A hungry deer will eat nearly any plant, including cactus and plants that would be poisonous to humans. All that said, there are plants that deer don’t particularly like eating and a few that they find offensive, primarily because of the aroma, provided that they aren’t really hungry.

Interestingly, there are several of these that are aromatic herbs that are commonly used for seasoning food or making tea. Here are a few.



Deer don’t care for the flavor or aroma of this plant. The plant isn’t hard to grow, but it normally is low growing and not the best ground cover. Most people won’t grow enough of it to be a major deterrent for deer.



Garden sage is another plant that deer will usually bypass, if there are other plants growing nearby that they can eat. Sage is an attractive plant and the flowers are lovely. It also often gets bushy, so it isn’t a bad plant to grow. It doesn’t really repel deer, though. Planted right next to chard, for instance, the deer will still eat the chard.

Lemon balm


Also called lemon mint, this is one plant that deer don’t like the smell of. This is a pretty plant with pretty blooms and it tastes great in tea. It is also hardy and can help repel deer.



Rosemary is another repellent plant, however it is a little harder to grow in all locations. Still, it is fragrant and is known to be a plant that deer avoid. It is a wonderful culinary herb.



Though basil is grown as an annual in most of the US and Canada, this plant is said to repel deer. I can’t verify that personally, since I’ve had deer happily munching on my basil throughout the summer. Basil is highly fragrant, though, and it does repel many insects, such as flies (which includes mosquitoes).

Incidentally, you might notice that all of the above are species of mint. What is a little surprising is that deer are not repelled by the most representative of the mints; peppermint and spearmint.



At least in Oregon and Montana, the one plant I’ve had the most luck with in deterring deer has been lavender. Deer clearly don’t like the smell of it and have avoided gardens where I’ve grown lavender around the border. Lavender is also beautiful, it is a powerful insect repellent and I love the smell. It is useful as a seasoning, yet is quite good for repelling biting insects like mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers and ticks.

None of these are proof against deer, but if they are grown throughout the garden, they can make the fruits and vegetables less appealing to the deer. Used with other methods of repelling deer, these plants increase the likelihood that the deer will leave your garden alone. These are all great plants to grow for other reasons, so this just gives one more reason to plant them.




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