Hero Image

Deer-Resistant Plants 

Deer tend to avoid plants that are smelly, wooly, prickly, or poisonous. Photo: Marie Narlock
Deer tend to avoid plants that are smelly, wooly, prickly, or poisonous. Photo: Marie Narlock

It's possible to have a lovely unfenced garden even if there are deer in your neighborhood. You just have to be willing to experiment, accept periodic nibbling (or worse), and be diligent in spraying deer repellents on your favorite-but-susceptible plants. 


You might be surprised how many attractive plants deer dislike!

Learn what deer tend to avoid:
Poisonous • Spurge (euphorbia)
• Foxglove (Digitalis)
• Hellebore
• Daffodils (Narcissus)
• Oleander (Nerium)
Smelly • Catmint (Nepeta)
• Lavender
• Fragrant herbs such as mint, oregano, rosemary, society garlic (Tulbaghia)
Woolly or hairy • Lamb's ear (Stachys)
• Nettles
(Lamium), some sage (Salvia)
Gray or silver • African daisy (Arctotis)
• Olive (Olea), Westringia
Prickly • Agave
• Barberry (Berberis)
not roses, however!
Ornamental grasses, sedges and restios • Sedge (Carex)
• Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon)
• Rush (Juncus)
• Miscanthus
Conifers • Juniper (Juniperus)
• Pine (Pinus)
• Agave
• Aloe
• Jade (Crassula)
Southern hemisphere plants 

(Plants from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand)
• Correa
• Grevillea
• Osteospermum
• Plumbago

Keep an eye on what your neighbors are growing successfully 

Individual deer have different tastes, so even if a friend in Novato can grow agapanthus safely, Tiburon gardeners may never enjoy a single bloom.

Test before you invest
If you're considering an extensive planting of a new species, buy one plant and install it in your garden for a month or so. It may not last a week!

Protect recent nursery purchases
They are particularly vulnerable, because they are often fertilized and flush with succulent young growth. When setting out new plants, spray with deer repellent, cover with wire cages, or protect with netting draped over stakes. Remember that repellents must be reapplied regularly. 

Brace yourself for some losses
This is especially true in autumn when deer seek water content as much as nutrition, munching on plants they normally ignore.

If all else fails, consider fencing 
Deer normally will not jump a 6-foot fence, but if chased or threatened they can clear an 8-foot fence on level ground.