Deer Beware: 12 Unwanted Plant Protectors

To keep deer away from your garden, consider planting lavender, sage, and rosemary for their natural deer-repelling scents and aesthetic appeal. Opt for Pacific wax myrtle, fragrant sumac, and sea holly for year-round beauty with minimal upkeep. Holly plants with their prickly leaves can act as a physical barrier, while the textures of lamb's ear and barberry deter deer. For added protection, toxic plants like foxglove and daffodils can help safeguard your garden. These plant options offer practical solutions for maintaining a beautiful landscape free from deer. For more tips on creating a thriving garden, explore additional plant choices and detailed growing advice.


Originally from Europe and the Mediterranean region, lavender (Lavandula spp.) is well-known for its pleasant scent and its ability to naturally repel deer. Apart from its deer-deterring qualities, lavender is highly valued for its essential oils, which find use in aromatherapy, skincare, and cleaning products. To grow lavender successfully, plant it in well-drained, dry soil and ensure it gets plenty of sunlight. This resilient plant thrives in challenging conditions, making it a great choice for gardens. In addition to keeping deer at bay, lavender emits a calming fragrance that enhances outdoor environments. With its versatile uses and easy cultivation requirements, lavender proves to be a valuable asset for gardeners looking to add both beauty and functionality to their outdoor spaces.


Sage, also known as Salvia officinalis, is a herb originating from the Mediterranean region. It is well-known for its fragrant leaves and its effectiveness in deterring deer. This plant thrives in sunny areas with well-draining soil, making it a versatile addition to various types of gardens. Sage offers a range of benefits:

  1. Culinary Uses: Its leaves are popular for adding flavor to dishes such as meats, soups, and stews, imparting a rich and earthy taste.
  2. Medicinal Benefits: Sage has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, believed to aid in digestion and memory improvement.
  3. Deer Deterrent and Pollinator Attraction: The fuzzy trichomes on sage leaves make them unappealing to deer, while its flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.


herb with fragrant leaves

Known for its fragrant, needle-like leaves, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a tough herb that thrives in sunny areas with well-drained soil. Originating from the Mediterranean and Asia, it's both resilient to drought and resistant to pests, making it an ideal choice for gardens at risk of deer damage. Beyond its durability, rosemary's strong scent acts as a natural deterrent for deer. This versatile herb is not only a great addition to gardens but also a popular ingredient in various culinary dishes, enhancing the taste of meats, veggies, and bread. Easily grown from cuttings, rosemary can be a lasting feature in your garden, offering both beauty and practicality. With its hardy nature and usefulness, rosemary is a valuable asset in safeguarding plants in any outdoor space.

Pacific Wax Myrtle

The Pacific wax myrtle, also known as Myrica californica, is a sturdy shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall. It is recognized for its shiny green leaves that emit a delightful spicy fragrance. This plant is a great choice for gardens as it naturally repels deer and requires minimal upkeep. To cultivate the Pacific wax myrtle successfully, consider the following tips:

  1. Pruning Guidelines: Regular pruning is beneficial to promote dense growth and maintain the desired shape. It is best to prune during late winter or early spring before new growth begins.
  2. Propagation Techniques: You can propagate Pacific wax myrtle using seeds or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in the summer, ensuring a high success rate.
  3. Optimal Growing Conditions: This shrub thrives in full sun with well-draining soil. It can withstand coastal conditions and wind, making it suitable for various landscapes.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the Pacific wax myrtle offers practical advantages in the garden.

Fragrant Sumac

delicate red leaf clusters

Fragrant sumac, native to North America, is a tough plant with leaves that give off a citrus scent, effectively keeping deer at bay. This shrub is a great choice for gardens that often face deer intrusion, as its natural fragrance acts as a deterrent. With yellow flowers in spring and colorful fall foliage, fragrant sumac provides year-round beauty. It is also disease-resistant and thrives in well-drained soil with minimal upkeep required. Its resilience ensures it remains a valuable addition to any landscape, offering both visual appeal and practical advantages. For those looking for a reliable and low-maintenance plant, fragrant sumac is an excellent option to consider.

Purpletop Vervain

Originating from South America, Purpletop vervain is a visually striking plant characterized by its rough, fuzzy stems that act as a natural deterrent to deer. Thriving in sunny locations with well-draining soil, this plant is a magnet for pollinators like butterflies and bees, making it a delightful addition to any garden. Its low-maintenance nature and wildlife-attracting properties make Purpletop vervain a practical and aesthetically pleasing choice for gardeners looking to enhance their outdoor space. Perfect for creating informal hedges and adding a touch of natural beauty to landscaping, this plant is a valuable asset for sustainable gardening practices.

Lamb's Ear

soft fuzzy green leaves

Lamb's Ear is a tough plant originating from Turkey, Armenia, and Iran, known for its soft leaves that deer tend to avoid. This plant is popular in landscaping for its deer-resistant qualities, making it ideal for ground cover or garden borders. Its velvety foliage offers a unique texture in gardens, and it requires minimal upkeep due to its ability to withstand drought and pests. Thriving in various light conditions, from full sun to partial shade, Lamb's Ear is versatile and easy to care for. Its dense growth also helps in weed control, making it a practical choice for gardens. For gardeners looking to protect their plants from deer while adding beauty to their outdoor spaces, Lamb's Ear is a valuable option.


Barberry, known for its sharp thorns and vibrant foliage, acts as a natural deterrent for deer while adding beauty to gardens. This tough shrub not only keeps deer at bay but also offers a range of colors throughout the year, from deep reds to bright yellows, attracting birds and supporting biodiversity.

In landscaping, barberry can be used to create easy-to-maintain hedges, borders, or accent plants that bring texture and color to garden layouts. To keep barberry looking its best, regular pruning is key to shaping it and promoting dense growth. This resilient shrub thrives in various soil types and needs minimal watering once established.

Sea Holly

ocean flower with spiky leaves

Sea holly, known for its striking blue-gray spiky foliage, not only adds a unique visual appeal to gardens but also effectively deters deer. Originating from Europe and North America, this resilient plant thrives in poor soil and drought conditions, making it a great choice for various landscapes. The spiky foliage serves a dual purpose by deterring deer and attracting important pollinators like bees and butterflies, thus promoting ecological diversity. Additionally, sea holly provides long-lasting cut flowers that are perfect for floral arrangements. Its low-maintenance characteristics and ability to thrive in tough environments make it a valuable asset to any garden, especially for those looking to combine aesthetics with deer resistance and pollinator attraction.


Holly plants, scientifically known as Ilex, are prized in landscaping for their deer-resistant properties and aesthetic appeal. Their sharp, spiny leaves act as a natural deterrent, protecting surrounding plants from browsing deer. Additionally, holly's dense growth pattern makes it an ideal choice for creating privacy hedges and borders that stay lush and green throughout the year. While its blooms are toxic, they are small and inconspicuous, giving way to vibrant red berries that bring a pop of color to the winter landscape. Holly is a versatile and valuable addition to any garden, offering both practical benefits and visual interest.


toxic beauty in nature

Foxglove, also known by its scientific name Digitalis purpurea, is a biennial plant originating from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Its unique bell-shaped flowers come in various vibrant colors like purple, pink, and white. Apart from adding beauty to gardens, foxglove serves as a natural deer deterrent due to its toxic properties. This plant thrives in partially shaded areas with moist soil, making it adaptable to different garden settings. Foxglove has the added benefit of self-seeding, ensuring its presence in the garden for years to come. By repelling deer with its toxicity, foxglove proves to be a dual-purpose plant that combines both aesthetic appeal and functionality effectively.


Daffodils, scientifically known as Narcissus, are perennial plants originating from Europe and North Africa. They are famous for their vibrant spring blossoms and their ability to deter deer due to their toxic properties. These beautiful and functional blooms not only add charm to garden landscapes but also serve a practical purpose in keeping animals away.

The toxicity of daffodils comes from their alkaloids, making all parts of the plant poisonous. This quality not only protects them from deer but also poses a danger to pets and humans if ingested. Despite this, gardeners appreciate daffodils for their resilience, requiring minimal care and spreading easily in gardens.

Key Points about Daffodils:

  1. Toxicity: All parts are toxic, serving as a natural deterrent to animals.
  2. Ease of Care: Low maintenance and ability to naturalize effortlessly.
  3. Seasonal Beauty: Bright blooms in various hues that grace gardens in the spring.


In summary, incorporating plants with aromatic, fuzzy, prickly, or toxic properties can effectively deter deer and protect gardens. Species like lavender, sage, rosemary, and foxglove not only enhance the beauty of the garden but also act as natural deterrents for deer. By including these resilient and versatile plants, gardeners can create visually pleasing landscapes that can withstand deer presence, ensuring a thriving and undisturbed garden environment.

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