Plants deer like to eat include a variety of winter conifers and flowering perennials. The reason why they eat this is that a deer must eat up to 30 percent of its body weight every two to three weeks to survive.

Protecting Your Garden from Deer

However, some gardeners in deer-populated areas prefer growing deer-resistant gardens with plants like bee balm or dusty miller to prevent them from eating up their produce; others enjoy growing food plots that attract deer to their landscape. So, below is a list of plants that deer enjoy feeding on and how to prevent them from destroying your garden.

Types of Plants Deer Like To Eat

1. American Arborvitae

The American arborvitae is also known as the Thuja occidentalis, and it is a dense, tall-growing evergreen tree that can reach up to 60 inches when mature. This hedge is often grown for its visually attractive foliage.

It can come pyramidal or globular with scale-like, dark-green leaves that stay green all year round. In spring, it produces small oblong-shaped cones that persist through summer and turn yellow when mature. This tree is hardy in USDA zones three to eight.

– Characteristics

Deer prefer to eat American arborvitae because its bark has a sweet taste. They feed on the tree’s leaves because they are rich in nutrients that protect them from diseases.

American Arborvitae Close Up Look

The arborvitae tree also provides protection from predators. Also, since they are often planted near fences, the trees are always easy to access and attract deer.

– Prevention Methods

To stop deer from feasting on your precious American arborvitae trees, you can use deer-repellant on your plants every one or two months and after snow or rainfall. You can plant deer-resistant arborvitae species such as steeplechase, spring grove, or green giant, as deer don’t fancy these species.

Try using mesh or burlap materials to create a barrier for your trees. But this should be done mostly during winter and removed during spring, so your trees can grow properly.

2. Roses

Roses are typically called the Rosa hybrids, are woody, sweet-smelling perennial shrubs with stems always covered with thorns. Its oval or sphere-shaped leaves are smooth and dark green on the surface but rough and light green underneath.

– Characteristics

These beautiful flowers are often cultivated for their ornamental value, the petals of this flower are soft and come in colors ranging from white, red, maroon, orange, crimson, blue, yellow, or pink, with an appealing fragrance.

Roses often reach a height of five to seven feet when they mature and live for a long time. Furthermore, in order to thrive ideally, this plant must be cultivated in hardy of zones three, all the way through 11.

Gorgeous Roses in a Garden

What is keen about their characteristic is that often, deer are attracted to roses’ lovely fragrances just like humans. But they primarily would approach the newly grown ones. This is because they are still very soft and tender; even the thorns are soft enough to be consumed. Deer will eat everything from the buds, blooms, leaves, and stems and bite the rose.

– Prevention Methods

One of the ways you can get deer to stop eating your rose bushes is to sprinkle deer-repellent granules around your plants because they smell like dead deer, which deer hate, as a result of the latter, they won’t want to come into your garden.

In addition, you can also use motion-activated sprinklers or solar lights to scare them away, whether in the evening or during night time. Finally, you can try growing deer-resistant plants like lavender or peonies around your rose bushes to deter them, so they wouldn’t be able to reach the rose through the odor of the repellent plants.

3. Hostas

Hostas are known as Hosta spp scientifically, in addition to also being known as plantain lilies, are hardy, long-lived perennials widely cultivated for their clump-forming, decorative foliage.

– Characteristics

These plants are easy to grow and thrive very well in the shade. Round, oval, or heart-shaped leaves grow in clusters around the bottom of the plant and can come in blue, green, yellow, or variegated colors with yellow or cream lines running down the center or edges.

These greens would bloom in spring or early fall with attractive, tube-shaped, blue, lavender, or white, scented flowers. They are hardy in hardiness zones three to nine.

Hostas in Summer Garden

Deer love hostas and they would approach them because of their dense foliage; however, they do prefer to feed on younger ones because their leaves are tender and soft, so they forego the thicker leaves. The plants are also easy to weed out, and as a result deer would also eat weeds and then feed on their flowers, twigs, and leaves.

– Prevention Methods

To keep deer away from eating your hostas, you can sprinkle the leaves with crushed cayenne pepper or the urine of deer predators like dogs and wolves. In addition, you can plant deer-resistant plants like mint or daffodils around the plants, which means that the hostas will be more challenging to reach. These pungent smells will cause any deer to turn away from the plants.

In addition, note that the deer hate the smell of eggs, so you can mix eggs and water in a spray bottle and spray over your hostas frequently. Moreover, another option would be to collect pieces of human hair and drop them around the plants to deter deer.

4. Rhododendron

Rhododendron or Rhododendron spp, is a genus containing more than 1000 species of garden shrubs with flowers that bloom in spring and spectacular evergreen or deciduous foliage.

– Characteristics

They thrive in plant hardiness zones four to nine and bloom mid-spring with funnel or bell-shaped, clustered flowers called trusses. Trusses have a fragrant smell when in bloom and can come in yellow, lavender, white, crimson, pink, red, or orange colors.

The flowers of rhododendrons attract hummingbirds and other pollinators too. Their leaves are usually smooth, thick, large, and have a leathery feel.

What attracts deer is the fact that they enjoy the tangy taste of rhododendrons. They are also easy to digest and contain vitamins and minerals necessary for deer growth.

Closer Look at its Carnivorous Habitat

The fragrant smell of the rhododendron’s bloom is also very appealing to deer, not just that but also, planting azaleas are one of the species of rhododendrons particularly loved by deer.

– Prevention Methods

One of the best ways to keep deer out of your rhododendron garden is to plant deer resistant rhododendron varieties. Such varieties include Carolina rhododendron, Gibraltar azalea, etc.

Nonetheless, you could also spray them with some deer-deterrent chemicals or create your mix using smells that deer hate, like lavender, garlic, mint, or peppers. In addition, another option that would be effective is the deer netting and deterring them from rhododendrons, in this case, you should make sure that you remove them before your plants start to bloom.

5. Daylilies

Daylilies or Hemerocallis spp, are tolerant, low-maintenance, long-lived perennials. They can bloom from late spring to autumn with striking flowers in yellow, orange, red, purple, white, or pink colors and can come in many shapes and sizes.

– Characteristics

Some can be full and round; some can have a spidered shape with narrow petals, and others can be trumpet-shaped, star-shaped, or wide with rumpled edges. These flowers bloom for just one day, but a mature clump of daylilies can bloom for up to 40 days. These plants are also hardy in zones three to zone nine.

Daylilies are a good source of protein for young or pregnant deer, which is why they would come and eat them. The plants that have a sweet taste similar to cucumbers to deer, also help their digestive organs function correctly.

Detail of a Flowerbed of Daylilies

Furthermore, the deer eat these plants due to the fact that they are also a good source of vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like potassium for deer.

– Prevention Methods

The best way to keep your daylilies away from deer is by fencing. You can use an electric fence or deer netting to create an eight-feet high border around your garden. You may even try to use motion-activated sprinklers or have dogs patrol areas around your garden to scare deer away.

Lastly, another way that you would stop the damage would be to hang bars of soap on top of your daylilies or put hair all around them to repel deer.

6. Yews

Yews or the Taxus spp, are long-lived but slow-growing evergreen trees or shrubs native to Europe. These plants are grown for their ornamental value and are hardy in zones two to ten, to see them grow to their utmost potential.

– Characteristics

Yews have soft, rich, dark-green foliage with flat but needle-like leaves with two yellow or gray colored bands on the underside. They are conifers that produce conical seeds instead of flowers.

Remember that these seeds are encased in a large, soft, red, edible, cup-like fruit called the aril. Previously considered to be a deer-resistant shrub, all the parts of yews, except the fleshy part of the fruit, are toxic to pets and humans, but deer happily munch on them without being affected.

The Berried Beauty of Yews

Deer would come and feed on these yews mainly during the winter when they are in search for food. As in the warmer weather, they feed on everything else, but when winter comes, and they’ve exhausted all other food sources, they turn to yews to prevent starvation. They also enjoy the sweet and fleshy covering of the seeds.

– Prevention Methods

Deer get scared quickly, so you can use electric wires or windchimes to spook them due to their noises. To keep deer out of your yew gardens, you can use reflective surfaces such as aluminum pie pans or floodlights to scare them away, and they would hear this noise and avoid coming back. Furthermore, you may also create high fences or use barbed wires around your plants.

7. Indian Hawthorn

The Indian Hawthorne is scientifically called the Raphiolepis, and this plant is one that is a dense, low-growing evergreen shrub native to different parts of Asia.

– Characteristics

This drought-resistant is hardy in hardiness zones eight to ten with alternate, round or oblong, leathery leaves. These leaves have a rusty brown to bronze color when they first appear but turn a dark green as they mature.

Indian Hawthorn Flowers in the Park

It blooms in spring with pink or white star-shaped flowers that open in clusters and have a fragrant smell. It also produces small dark purple berries that appear after the flowers.

The shrub’s berries are sweet and juicy, and deer enjoy feasting on them. The leaves are also tender and have a sweet taste to deer, but they can also eat the branches and twigs.

– Prevention Methods

Planting deer-resistant perennials such as foxglove, Russian sage, or bleeding heart around your Indian Hawthornes can help deter deer from your plants. You can also hang bar soap on top of your plants or create a fence around them.

8. English Ivy

English Ivy is often called the Hedera helix, and it is a woody evergreen perennial vine that can climb and attach itself to anything. For this reason, it is commonly planted for shade or as covers for brick walls.

– Characteristics

These vines attach themselves to walls, trees, or other surfaces through small root-like discs that grow along the stems and secrete a sticky sap-like substance that allows the vine to adhere to any surface.

The leaves of the English ivy are often feathery and dark green with five lobes. The leaves can come in various shapes ranging from round, heart-shaped, etc. Although variations exist, some leaves can have cream or white lines at their edges.

The Versatile English Ivy

Deer enjoy munching on English ivy because they usually have high water content and are fertilized, making them nutrient-rich, especially during the night when they spot these, they would approach and eat them. The leaves are also sugary and lush and have a sweet smell enticing to deer.

– Prevention Methods

Mix eggs, fragrant soap, and chili pepper with water to create a liquid repellent to spray on your English ivy plants. Ensure you switch up the recipe once in a while because deer can become accustomed to the bad taste of the repellent on the leaves and continue feeding. Since deer hate the smell of blood meal, it works as a good deterrent.

This means that you can sprinkle some around your plants and replace them after rain or snowfall. If you want to opt for something that will scare off the deer, you can put electric devices around your ivy plant that will send mild electric charges through the deer when they touch it or place motion-activated LED lights around your garden, and they would run away.

9. Pansies

Pansies or viola tricolor, are hardy herbaceous evergreen perennials in zones six to ten. This plant only grows to about 11 inches with dark-green leaves that are small-sized, hairless, and elliptical or oval-shaped.

– Characteristics

The overlapping, heart-shaped flowers can come in bicolors, tricolors, or single colors such as red, blue, white, orange, purple, etc. These flowers have five petals, with the lower petal often coming in yellow, the two middle petals coming in white, and the two on top coming in purple.

The deer would love to eat pansies because they are usually well watered, well fertilized, and have a soft texture, it wouldn’t damage their palate.

Beautiful Color Flowers Garden Pansies

Furthermore, they also contain proteins and carbohydrates, making them a good source of beneficial nutrients, as they also have a high sugar content which is tasty for them.

– Prevention Methods

Creating a physical barrier around your pansies is the best way to prevent deer from destroying your pansies. You can place floating row covers or mesh over the plants and remove them during their planting season.

Moreover, you may also build a strong fence about eight feet high around your plants. Commercially-made deer repellent spray is also an excellent way to repel these animals from your gardens eating these flowers.


If you live in a deer-populated area, it is almost impossible not to have your plants attacked by one or two deer, especially if you have any of the plants mentioned above growing in your garden. However, it would help if you took note of these points;

  • If you have some or all of these plants in your garden, you should invest in a few deer-resistant plants to help keep them away from your garden.
  • Some deer-resistant perennials you can grow are; Russian sage, dusty miller, petunia, chive, bleeding heart, and bee balm.
  • They each have their plant preference, but generally, deer hate plants with strong smells, fuzzy foliage, or plants that have their flavor affected by the soil’s nutrients.

You now have a reliable list of plants deer love to eat and how to stop them. So you don’t have to worry about deer destroying your garden anymore.


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