Most of us find out the hard way that hungry deer and rabbits will eat almost any vegetation within their reach. However, you can make your garden a little less inviting by including plants they dislike and avoiding those they prefer.
In general, deer avoid plants with a sticky, rough or fuzzy texture (like Euphorbia, Pulmonaria, Dusty Miller or Lamb’s Ears ) and plants with spiny protection (like Barberry). Not surprisingly, deer stay away from poisonous plants! Daffodils, foxgloves, and poppies are common flowers that have a toxicity that deer avoid.
Deer also turn their noses up at fragrant plants with strong scents. Deer use their sense of smell to detect predators. Strongly-scented plants may “confuse” deer’s sense of smell, which makes them uneasy. Herbs such as sages, ornamental salvias, lavenders, thyme or peonies and bearded irises are just “stinky” to deer.
Plants not browsed for years can become edible if the deer are desperate. Deer will “remember” these plants and may start browsing them regularly in future years. Some gardeners have successfully planted a perimeter garden of “deer fodder” to provide food so the garden plants are left alone.
Deer will often rub the felt off their antlers on your most tender tree trunk; potential for damage is high. To protect trees, wrap trunks loosely with chicken wire up to several feet off the ground (beyond height deer can reach).
There are a number of commercial products which are used as repellents for deer.
People also use their own recipes for home made sprays. Gardeners should be advised to use caution when trying home remedies, similar to cautions about using home remedies for pest management. These remedies are not necessarily “tried and true” and may not be safe for use on all plants.
Often a plant’s mature foliage is resistant and usually deer eat new growth of the plant or nibble or bite off flower heads/buds.
Fawns will try just about anything and they expand their menu on very dry years.