How to Keep Deer From Eating Your Plants

Deer eating plants

After spending the time and money to make your landscape beautiful, looking out the back window and seeing deer munching on your annuals, perennials, garden veggies, and shrubs is frustrating. Thankfully, there are plenty of different ways to keep deer from eating your plants (without hurting the deer), from choosing plants they don’t like to using scented deterrents to keep them away.

1. Choose deer-resistant outdoor plants

macro focus of bee balm
Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

First and foremost, the best way to deer-proof your plants is to choose plants for your landscape that the local deer population doesn’t want to snack on. It’s like putting them on a restricted food plan, encouraging them to find a tasty buffet elsewhere.  

There’s already a great article on plants that repel deer in your yard, so we’ll just skim over some of the basics here. 

Plants with strong scents, such as marigolds, chives, and Russian sage, are great for planting around the borders of your yard or the perimeter of a garden bed. Think about all the places deer would enter your property or gravitate towards and plant smelly specimens they don’t like in those spots. They’ll naturally stay away.

But don’t think you’re doomed to only planting daffodils and bleeding hearts in your yard. You can mix these low-risk plants with higher-risk plants, protecting the plants more susceptible to deer damage. Just plant the ones the deer don’t like where they’d encounter them first. Since they don’t see anything decent, they’ll leave and hopefully not stumble upon the plants they typically feed on.

Plants that deter deer

  • Chives
  • Daffodils
  • Lamb’s ear
  • Bleeding heart
  • Marigolds
  • Russian sage
  • Bee balm
  • Oregano
  • Iris
  • Barrenwort

Trees deer tend to avoid

  • Black locust
  • Cedar
  • False cypress
  • Ginkgo
  • Hackberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Japanese maple
  • Magnolia
  • Oak
  • Palm trees

Deer-resistant shrubs

  • Abelia
  • Golden bamboo
  • Heavenly bamboo
  • Barberry (usually)
  • Boxwood
  • Burning bush (some varieties)
  • Butterfly bush
  • Cotoneaster
  • Currant
  • Daphne
  • Flowering quince
  • Heath
  • Holly
  • Lilac
  • Mahonia
  • Mountain laurel
  • Pieris
  • Potentilla
  • Smoke tree
  • Spirea
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Sumac
  • Tamarisk tree
  • Viburnum
  • Yucca

2. Scatter human hair around outdoor plants

Human scent is a natural deer repellent, but you don’t have to necessarily be in the garden for your scent to scare the deer away.

If you’ve had a recent haircut or have given your kids or partner one, take the hair clippings and spread them around the edges of your garden or flower beds. The deer will catch a whiff of the scent and equate it with humans, thinking people are in the area.

When they think people are present, they’ll make themselves scarce, leaving your plants alone.

3. Place bar soap near desirable plants

Handmade soap bars
Photo Credit: theresaharris10 from Pixabay | Canva Pro | License

A great way to keep deer from eating your flowers and garden plants is to use their keen sense of smell to your advantage. Many heavily scented products in our homes make excellent deer deterrents.

One of the most popular is deodorant soaps. These soaps pull double duty. They function as both a soap and a deodorant, using ingredients to cleanse the skin and mask and prevent body odor. Their fragrance is strong.

You can use them to keep deer away from your plants in two ways. In both cases, the deer will smell the soap and stay clear of the area.

2 ways to use soap to repel deer: 

  • Take several bars of soap (Irish Spring, Coast, Zest, or Dial) and punch a hole through the center of each bar using a screwdriver or drill. Run twine through the hole and use it to hang the bars around your yard and garden. 
  • Use a cheese grater (or another type of grater) and shave the soap bars into slivers, scattering the pieces on the ground around the base of your plants or the perimeter of a flowerbed.

4. Add a motion sensor near plants

Motion sensor units are also fairly popular with gardeners trying to frighten deer away from their prized plants. 

Look for solar-powered devices to save on electricity, choosing from ones that emit lights, repetitive sounds, or even motion-activated sprinklers. 

However, a deer herd may quickly get used to specific lights and repetitive sounds, realizing they pose no real threat. Move these scare tactics from place to place to keep the critters from knowing their location, helping to minimize acclimation.

If you decide to try motion sensors, here are a few affordable options with stellar reviews: 

5. Apply a deer-repellent spray to outdoor plants

Spraying on outdoor plants
Photo Credit: Mubasil Z A | Canva Pro | License

Another way to use scents as a repellent is to spray deterrents on and around the plants deer tend to snack on. If you spray them regularly, these repellents can help stop the grazing.

There are dozens of commercially made products available. Most of them use a horribly foul scent to keep the deer out. But the problem is this bad scent is also repugnant to humans. Many of these products smell like rotten eggs, so they aren’t overly popular.  

Some products like coyote urine keep a deer problem at bay, especially in early spring, because female deer are highly protective of their fawns. The scent of a predator will have them running the other way. 

If you want, you can try your hand at one of the many DIY spray recipes. Gardeners have reported successfully blending many kitchen ingredients, including hot sauce, eggs, garlic, or clove oil. 

Remember that the overall effectiveness of commercial or homemade products depends on how long it takes the deer to get accustomed to the smells. It’s not unusual for these sprays to be temporarily effective, so you might have better luck if you switch scents every few days. 

Regardless of whether you’re using a natural or commercial spray, check the label if you intend to spray it on or around edible plantings. You can unintentionally make your apples or lettuce taste like rotten eggs.

6. Physically protect your garden plants

Physical barriers like deer fencing and electric fences are another effective method for keeping deer out of your yard or garden and stopping them from eating plants. 

Remember, though, that deer are incredibly agile and are known for their ability to jump relatively high. You’re going to need more than the standard six-foot-high privacy fence.

The trick to stop deer is installing a fence at least 7 to 8 feet tall. Even then, you may want to add obstructions (thorny shrubs, long hanging tree branches) that prevent a clear place for take-off and landing. While high-tailing it across an open field, I’ve seen whitetails clear barbed wire strung 8’ off the ground.

Instead of installing a single tall fence, try having two four- or five-foot barriers with about 3 feet between them. The deer can’t jump far enough to clear both simultaneously, yet this narrow spacing prevents them from landing in between and bounding over a second fence. 

But installing a fence isn’t always an easy or budget-friendly option. 

You can also use floating row covers or plastic netting to protect your plants if your HOA prohibits fencing or you need a lower-cost option. Or you can run a circle of chicken wire or snow fencing around individual plants or fruit trees. 

Just make sure these barriers are tall enough and far away from the plant so the deer can’t crane their necks over the barrier and nibble to their heart’s content.

7. Regularly walk around your yard & garden

Happy young friends walking in summer garden
Photo Credit: Gary Barnes from Pexels | Canva Pro | License

Deer are (usually) quite afraid of humans, as they have become accustomed to being hunted as prey. They are known to startle at movements or sounds, darting away to a safe place when they feel threatened. Or, they will at least move to a safe distance and keep a watchful eye on you.

So, another valuable way to keep deer from snacking on your plants is to stroll around your property or garden every day or so during the growing season. Regular presence outside will keep deer away from your house in a spot with less or inconsistent human movement. 

An early morning or sunset walk can also startle unsuspecting animals that are new to the area and may keep them from returning if you catch them grazing.

8. Let your dog roam often

Dog in the garden
Photo Credit: Ali Peterson | Canva Pro | License

A pet—especially one that wanders around the yard and garden—is a highly effective way of keeping deer off your property. 

If you have a dog in the yard, let your faithful companion roam with you when you’re out working in the yard, and give them plenty of time to run around without you. Dogs will quickly bark at any deer they see, startling them, so they move on. 

Plus, they will naturally spread their scent around the property, creating a natural deterrent that keeps deer from grazing.

9. Combine different methods

Chances are, even if you implement any of the above methods by itself, you’ll still have some problems with deer. These beautiful creatures are highly adaptable, resourceful, and relentless. Especially when food sources are low elsewhere. They may quickly adapt or acclimate to a single method when starving and needing a meal.

One of the best things you can do to keep them from eating your plants is to change methods constantly and combine some of the above methods. Maybe you should try planting flowers they don’t like, scatter human hair around the flower bed, and put up a fence.

Combining more than one method—perhaps even more than a couple—will give you the best chance of keeping Bambi and his friends from munching on your plants.

FAQ about deer-resistant landscaping

What plants attract deer?

Common plants that attract deer include the following decorative landscape plants and edibles. 


  • Azaleas
  • Daylily
  • English ivy
  • Hosta
  • Jewelweed
  • Roses
  • Snowberry
  • Tulip


  • Apple trees
  • Beans
  • Chives
  • Crabapple trees
  • Cherry trees
  • Clover
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley

What smells do deer hate the most?

Deer are susceptible to smells and will stay away from things they don’t like. The top ten smells they hate the most include mint, bloodmeal, garlic, human hair, Irish Spring soap, hot pepper, eucalyptus, lavender, predator urine, and fennel. 

Need help with deer-resistant landscaping?

Whether the deer have come in and made a mess of your landscape, or you’re looking to fill in some bare spots with deer-resistant plants, we’ve got you covered! Check out our guide to deer-resistant landscaping for DIY options, or you can reach out to a local landscaping or gardening service for assistance. 

Lawn Love can connect you with the best pros in your area in just a few minutes. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful yard or garden that the deer won’t want to munch on!

Main Photo Credit: satori13 | Canva Pro | License

Amanda Shiffler

Most comfortable with soil under her fingernails, Amanda has an enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and all things plant-related. With a master's degree in agriculture and more than a decade of experience gardening and tending to her lawn, she combines her plant knowledge and knack for writing to share what she knows and loves.