Having a garden that is prone to deer attack is not uncommon. In the UK we have wild muntjacs who can roam and enter our gardens to feed themselves over winter.
Deer resistant herbs will help to deter them from eating your more tempting plants, but nothing is foolproof in the depths of Winter when food is scarce. Use these herbs to line your flowerbeds; Rosemary, Lavender, Feverfew, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Russian Tarragon, Sage, Yarrow and Bee Balm.
Let’s look at how to plant each of these herbs in the best way to deter deer.
Herbs That Are Deer Resistant
There is a lot to be said for these herbs in their own right. Tasty and with lovely foliage and flowers. However they work well to deter deer as they are so pungent. The flavors that herbs release are actually in self-defense to attack and designed to prevent them from being eaten.
Just be aware that even with using lavender or rosemary as a box hedge to a flowerbed, some deer will still find the flavor palatable. This is not 100% guaranteed and we have seen muntjacs trample the best laid plans when we have had a long and hard Winter.
In warmer parts of the world, Summer will be your toughest time with deer attacks. Meaning they are foraging for moisture as much as sustenance and nourishment.
Rosemary A Hardy Perennial To Deter Deer
Rosemary is a hardy evergreen shrub. Meaning in Winter it can be perfect for preventing deer from trampling through your flowerbeds. It has a strong and pungent flavor, nit too dissimilar to pine and will therefore be perfect for those deer with a more gentle palate, however in the height of Winter it is a suitable food source if all else has been covered by snow.
To find out more about growing this handy culinary herb I have written an article outlining propagation! It is great for those of us who want to grow food for free and as rosemary can grow to be 6 feet in height a hedge will be perfect for deterring deer. Have a read here.
Lavender – A Hedge To Deter Deer
lavender is the perfect perimeter herb as it will deter deer with it’s strong aroma. Growing to around 3 feet in height in some cases, lavender can be easily maintained and form a nice little hedge or pathway cover. It is important to note that deer may well choose to walk over the younger plants and it will take a few years for your lavender to become established.
Start your lavender from seed in pots and bring out when they are of a reasonable size. For anyone looking to grow lavender from seed or propagation have a look at an article I wrote a few years ago, available here.
Feverfew A Strong Aroma And Irritant To Deer
Feverfew is a nice looking perennial herb, with full foliage and daisy-like flowers. It has an almost citronella aroma from the leaves and flowers. It is also an irritant if you brush past it. As well as repelling deer it is also known to repel mosquitos and other nasty flying pests.
It is a prolific self-seeder so make sure to dead head your feverfew, or allow it to fill the border to flower beds or your front yard. Deer will find it distasteful and avoid feverfew. If you want any advice and tips for growing this handy flowering herb, have a look at an article I wrote which will take you step by step.
Oregano Is Not Loved By Deer
Oregano is another pungent herb that releases it’s strong flavor when chopped or chewed. This makes it unpalatable to deer. However unpalatable in Spring is not the same as the desperation of scorching Summer or snow covered Winter. So we grow ours in hanging baskets – for a full guide have a look at this little article I wrote here. Then you can have them strategically positioned on a pergola in your front yard or even at the fence of your perimeter.
Oregano is drought tolerant and will give off more aroma in the height of Summer, which also helps it survive a herd of deer moving through. This is because it gives off the most aroma, just when the deer are at their most needy.
Thyme To Deter Deer
You can grow thyme as creeping thyme, across a pathway or as an upright shrub in borders. However you decide to grow your thyme it will help to deter deer due to it’s strength of aroma. Thyme is also a pungent herb when eaten raw and this will aid it to stay alive. However with enough deer one mouthful each can destroy your crop.
Best to use thyme as a perimeter herb to protect your more vulnerable and precious plants. For more on growing thyme I have an article available here.
Lemon Verbena Is The Strongest Citrus Herb
For my money lemon verbena has the strongest citrus taste and smell of many herbs. It will grow best in a sunny location and will thrive when deer are at their most keen. Lemon Verbena is sharp to eat as well as pungent and this combination help to deter deer from the area. I grow ours in a pot and bring inside during Winter months and this is the one drawback when thinking of using to deter deer. Perfect for Summer foragers though!
For a full guide on growing and caring for this tasty little herb have a read of my article from a year or so ago, available here.
Russian Tarragon – Not French!
Russian tarragon is known for it’s Winter hardy nature and it will be both pungent in aroma and flavor. Once eaten never forgotten and it is so easy to grow at home. Avoid planting in direct sunlight but ideal to use in pots around the perimeter of your garden to deter deer from eating anymore. Bitter and sour in all in one, Russian tarragon will not be the preferred choice for deer or muntjacs.
For a full guide on growing tarragon I have written an article available here.
Sage Ideal With Lavender To Deter Deer
Interplant sage with lavender to produce a lovely looking miniature hedge and border to a flowerbed. This will act as a very pungent and aromatic barrier to many deer. It is also important to note that sage is a very strong flavor when eaten raw and will deter most deer.
One word of caution with sage is that it has pretty moist leaves and if the deer are seeking moisture rather than just food they may forego the unpleasant taste.
Yarrow Is Great To Interplant & Deer Resistant
By planting yarrow in your herbaceous border you are essentially scattering the unpleasant aroma to deer. Also you are sort of watering it down so be mindful of this in the first year or so it will not be as effective. Yarrow is a great self-seeder and therefore it will grow to fill the gaps. Perfect as yarrow grows to around 1.2m in height and will have large umbelliferous flowers ranging in color from white, to pink and reds.
I have written an article on growing yarrow as this is one of my favorite herbs in terms of flowers and foliage!
Bee Balm To Attract Bees & Deter Deer
In all of my year’s I have never known a deer to eat bee balm. It may be the aroma from the flowers or the sheer mass of leaves that put them off. But I also think the size and color of the flowers can be quite stark to animals. Bee balm will be a great addition to your garden but planted on the outskirts of your home it will form a barrier to deer.
For more information on this stunning plant have a look at a recent article I have put together available here.
TOP TIP – use these herbs as a screen to prevent deer from attacking your more vulnerable herbs and plants. Tactical planting is the way to work in harmony with nature, without harming nature!
A Few Herbs Deer Do Not Like To Eat
I have not included these herbs in the ‘resistant to deer’ category as although deer do not like to eat them they will still be tasted. With enough deer tasting them they won’t survive. I have also heard of certain areas where the deer even like the taste, or have grown accustomed to the taste shall we say?
- Lemon Balm
All of these herbs fall into the tender stem category for me and this means that they are prone to being trampled on by herds of deer. Although deer do not like the taste of them they are just too small or soft to provide any true sense of resistance to deer.
What Next & Further Reading
- www.wildlifetrusts.org For more reading on the muntjac deer in the UK.
- Ways to stop cats from pooping in your garden A nasty subject I know, but one we struggled with from a neighbors cat for a long while.
- Rabbit Resistant Herbs To Grow Today when you get one garden pest you will get another! Ideas to help you to humanely and gently deter rabbits from your garden.