Alphabetical Plant Listing


How to Keep Deer Away From Your Garden

What are Deer?

Deer are a type of mammal that belongs to the Cervidae family. They are known for their slender legs, cloven hooves, and distinctive antlers, which are typically grown and shed annually by the males of most species.

Deer have a varied appearance, but generally, they have a sleek, muscular body covered in short fur that can range in color from brown to gray to reddish-brown. They have large eyes and ears that help them detect predators and food sources.

Male deer, also known as bucks or stags depending on the species, typically have antlers which they use to compete for mating opportunities with females, also known as does or hinds. Female deer usually do not have antlers, although, in some species, they may have small bony protrusions on their heads.

Deer are found all over the world in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even deserts. They are herbivores and feed on various vegetation, including leaves, twigs, and grasses.

There are many different species of deer, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose, reindeer, and caribou, among others. Each of them has its own unique characteristics and adaptations to its environment.

Deer play an important role in many ecosystems, serving as prey for a variety of predators and also contributing to the distribution of plant seeds as they move through their environment. Deer are also hunted by humans for their meat, hides, and antlers and are a popular game animal in many parts of the world.

What Do Deer Eat?

Deer are herbivores. Their diet varies depending on the season and food availability in their habitat. Generally, deer feed on leaves, twigs, fruits, nuts, and grasses. In the spring and summer, when new growth is abundant, deer primarily feed on leaves and soft plant shoots. They may also eat flowers, buds, and fruits. Here are some common garden plants that deer are known to eat:

  1. Hostas: Hostas are a common target for deer, and they will often devour the leaves and flowers.

  2. Roses: Deer will eat the leaves and flowers of roses, and they may even eat the thorny stems.

  3. Daylilies: Deer feast on the flowers and leaves of daylilies.

  4. Flower bulbs: Deer love the tender foliage, stems, and leaves of spring bulbs such as tulips, crocus, and snowdrops or summer bulbs like dahlias.

  5. Flowers: cosmos, hibiscus, hydrangea, impatiens, lily turf, or sunflowers are prized by deer.

  6. Vegetables: Deer will eat a wide range of vegetables, including lettuce, beans, cabbage, broccoli, beets, peas, and carrots.

  7. Fruit trees: Deer will eat the leaves, fruit, and bark of fruit trees, including apple, pear, and persimmon trees.

  8. Pansies and violets: Pansies and violets are real delicacies to them.

  9. Rhododendrons and Azaleas: Deer will eat the leaves and flowers of rhododendrons and may even chew on the woody stems.

During the fall, as the leaves begin to fall and the weather turns colder, deer focus on harder foods like twigs, branches, and nuts. In the winter, when food is scarce, deer may eat bark from trees and shrubs, as well as dried leaves and grasses.

How Long Does a Deer Live?

The lifespan of a deer can vary depending on the species, as well as the environment in which they live. In general, smaller species of deer tend to have a shorter lifespan, while larger species may live longer.

White-tailed deer, which are found throughout much of North and South America, typically live for around 6 to 14 years in the wild, although they can live longer in captivity. Mule deer, another species found in North America, have a similar lifespan, typically living between 6 and 10 years in the wild.

Moose, which are the largest member of the deer family, can live up to 20 years in the wild, although their lifespan is often shorter due to hunting and other factors. Caribou, which are found in the northern regions of North America and Eurasia, can live up to 15 years in the wild.

Reindeer, which are also known as caribou in North America, have a lifespan of around 15 years in the wild, although some individuals have been known to live up to 20 years or more.

It's important to note that the lifespan of a deer can be impacted by various factors, including habitat loss, disease, and hunting. In general, deer that live in protected areas and have access to plentiful food and water sources are likely to live longer than those in more challenging environments.

How to Identify Deer Damage?

Identifying deer damage in your garden or property can help you take steps to prevent further damage and protect your plants. Here are some common signs of deer damage:

  1. Browsing damage: Deer will often nibble on leaves, stems, and other parts of plants, which can cause significant damage over time. Browsing damage typically results in jagged or torn edges on leaves and stems.

  2. Trampled plants: Deer can also cause damage by trampling on plants, breaking stems and branches, and flattened flowers and foliage.

  3. Rubbing damage: Male deer will often rub their antlers on trees and shrubs, which can cause damage to the bark and even kill the plant over time.

  4. Uneven plant growth: If deer are eating some plants more than others, you may notice that some plants are growing unevenly or not at all.

  5. Feces: Deer droppings are often found near the plants they are feeding on and can be identified by their small, pellet-like shape.

  6. Tracks: Deer tracks are often visible in soft soil or mud and can be identified by their cloven-hoof shape.

If you suspect deer are causing damage to your property, it's important to take steps to protect your plants and prevent further damage. This can include installing fencing, using deer repellents, or choosing plants that are less attractive to deer.

How to Get Rid of Deer?

If you are experiencing a deer problem on your property and want to get rid of them, there are several methods that you can try. Here are some common strategies for deer control:

1 - Fencing

Fencing is one of the most effective methods for keeping deer out of your property or garden. Here are some tips for using a fence to get rid of deer:

  1. Choose the right type of fence: A fence that is at least 8 feet tall and made of a material that deer cannot easily jump over, such as woven wire or deer netting, is recommended. Electric fences can also be effective, although they require more maintenance and may not be suitable for all properties.

  2. Install the fence properly: Ensure it is installed securely and there are no gaps or holes in the fence that deer can squeeze through.

  3. Use visual cues: Adding visual cues like flags or streamers to the fence can help deter deer from approaching it, as they may view these objects as a threat.

2 - Deer repellents

Deer repellents are products that are designed to deter deer from entering your property or garden. There are several types of deer repellents available, including:

  1. Scent-based repellents: These products use natural or artificial scents that are unappealing to deer, such as predator urine, rotten eggs, or strong herbal scents.

  2. Taste-based repellents: These products are sprayed onto plants and make them taste bitter or unpleasant to deer, which can help deter them from eating your garden.

  3. Electronic repellents: These devices emit ultrasonic or sonic waves that are designed to deter deer from approaching your property.

  4. Visual repellents: Visual repellents, such as flags or streamers, can be used to create a visual barrier that can help deter deer.

When using deer repellents, it's important to read and follow the instructions carefully, as overuse or improper use of these products can harm plants or other wildlife. Additionally, deer may become habituated to the repellent over time, so it's important to rotate the types of repellents you use to keep them effective.

3 - Scare tactics

Scare tactics are a non-lethal way to get rid of deer and can effectively deter them from your property. Here are some common scare tactics that can be used to deter deer:

  1. Motion-activated sprinklers: These devices are designed to detect movement and spray water at the deer, which can startle and deter them from entering your property.

  2. Noise makers: Loud noise makers such as air horns, bells, or sirens can effectively deter deer. Some garden centers sell motion-activated devices that emit loud, high-pitched sounds to scare deer away.

  3. Lights: Bright lights or flashing lights can be used to scare deer away, particularly at night. Some people use motion-activated floodlights to startle deer that may be lurking in the shadows.

  4. Scarecrows or decoys: Scarecrows or decoys of predators, such as owls or coyotes, can help deter deer from entering your property.

It's important to note that scare tactics may not be effective in all situations, particularly if the deer population in your area is large or accustomed to human activity.

4 - Plant selection

While there is no surefire way to get rid of deer with plants, there are certain plants that are known to be less appealing to deer and may help prevent damage to your garden. 

Plants can be unpalatable to deer because of their poisonous compounds

  1. Daffodils: They contain toxic compounds that are harmful to them if ingested.

  2. Foxglove: Foxglove contains a toxic compound called digitalis that can harm humans and animals if ingested.

  3. Milkweeds: Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), common milkweed (A. syriaca), and swamp milkweed (A. incarnata) have a sticky, milky sap that often deters deer

  4. Hellebores: Hellebore contains toxic compounds that can cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested.

Plants can be unpalatable to deer because of their fuzzy or aromatic leaves

  1. Lamb's ear: The fuzzy leaves of lamb's ear can be unappealing to deer.

  2. Mulleins: The fuzzy texture of the foliage helps protect the plant from predators, such as deer.

  3. Russian sage: The fuzzy leaves and strong scent of Russian sage can help deter deer.

Plants can be unpalatable to deer because of their tough, spiny, or bristly textures

  1. Barberry: The spiny texture of barberry can be uncomfortable for deer to navigate around.

  2. Holly: The spiny leaves and tough texture of holly can make it less appealing to deer.

Plants can be unpalatable to deer because of their strong scent

Plant these around your garden: their scent will mask the appealing aroma of your nearby plants.

  1. Lavender: Deer tend to dislike the strong fragrance of lavender and will often avoid it.

  2. Rosemary: Like lavender, the strong scent of rosemary can help deter deer.

  3. Thyme: The pungent aroma of thyme can make it less attractive to deer.

  4. Sage: The strong scent and flavor of sage can make it less appealing to deer.

  5. Oregano: The strong scent of oregano can help mask the scent of other plants that deer may find attractive.

  6. Catmint: The minty fragrance of catmint can help mask the scent of other plants that deer may find attractive.

  7. Alliums: Plants in the allium family, such as onions and garlic, have a strong odor that is unappealing to deer

  8. Marigolds: Marigolds have a strong, pungent odor that is unpleasant to many pests, including deer. Planting marigolds near your plants and garden can help deter these garden pests from feeding on them.

  9. Mint: Mint is also a deterrent. Mint plants, such as peppermint and spearmint, can be planted near your plants and garden to help deter deer.

Find the detailed list of deer-resistant plants for your area

It's important to note that while these plants may be less attractive to deer, they may still be eaten if the deer in your area are particularly hungry or desperate. Additionally, some plants may be toxic to other animals or humans, so it's important to research any plant before adding it to your garden.

5 - Keep your garden clean

Keeping your garden clean and debris-free can help deter deer from entering your property. Here are some tips for keeping your garden clean and reducing the chances of deer damage:

  1. Remove fallen fruit: Fallen fruit can attract deer to your property and provide them with an easy food source. Make sure to clean up any fallen fruit from your trees or bushes promptly.

  2. Keep your garden tidy: Trim your bushes and hedges regularly to reduce hiding places for deer. Remove dead branches and other debris from your garden.

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 Wako Megumi, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

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