13 Garden Plants Deer Will Utterly Destroy

June 12, 2016 | By | Comments (18)

Oh, man! Nothing like a fresh hosta! Photo: mirror.co.uk

I’m gonna save you some money. I’m gonna save you some time. I’m gonna save you a LOT of heartache, anger, acid reflux, and embarrassing eye twitches. Because if you live where deer cruise the neighborhood at night, there are certain plants you should NEVER stick in the ground lest you find them the next morning on a pleasant little journey down Bambi’s digestive tract. Let’s start with the Big Three.

The Big Three
Hostas, daylilies, and roses. To a deer, these are fresh-caught Maine lobster served with melted Irish butter. They will scarf down every one they see, even when not offered a suitable wine pairing. You might think thorny roses would be undesirable, but you don’t know Bambi. To him, a little physical pain is more than worth the emotional trauma he’s going to cause you. Don’t even think of planting these three plants in deer country unless your garden is surrounded by an electric fence the size of the one in “Jurassic Park.” Hope there’s not a power outage.

10 More Dinnertime Favorites
Rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron sp.). What’s up with this? Are deer determined to remove all of America’s favorite plants from the landscape? Yeah, pretty much.

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica). Around the Southern coast and in places with alkaline soil, this broadleaf evergreen is enjoyed as a substitute for acid-loving azaleas. Deer feel the same way. Yum.

Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira). It grows in many of the same places in the South as Indian hawthorn does. Until deer find it, of course, and then your garden looks so much more open and uncrowded than before. Fist bump!

Pansies and violas (Viola sp.). This one is a no-brainer. If people can put pansy and viola flowers on salads and eat them, deer surely can. FYI, their favorite dressings are Ranch and Thousand Island.

Euonymus (Euonymus sp.). Grumpy ain’t gonna shed any tears over this one. He hates most species of euonymus, particularly the gruesomely garish golden euonymus (E. japonica ‘Aureomarginatus’). If the deer don’t get them, scales and mildew will. Good riddance.

Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica). This is one of the better broadleaf evergreen shrubs for shade, especially the popular gold dust plant (A. japonica ‘Variegata’) with bright yellow spots on deep green leaves. Once a deer spots it, though, it’s “sayonara.”

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). Did you know that blueberries are among the most potent sources of health-giving antioxidants? Deer certainly do, which is why they will gobble down every one, along with the foliage too. How kind of you to plant them.

Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). Among the most common evergreen shrubs for foundation planting and hedges in cold-winter areas, Japanese yew bears soft, red fruits that people find quite toxic. Deer, of course, do not. They relish the leaves as well. Here’s looking at yew, kid.

Tulips (Tulipa sp.). OK, since I just told you to forget about planting pansies and violas for spring color, you think you’ll plant sweeps of tulips instead. Wait until the herd sweeps through your yard! Plant daffodils instead. Deer won’t touch them.

American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). Rows of these pyramidal, needleleaf evergreens are often planted in the burbs to screen out ugly neighbors. Deer, however, think all humans should be friends and that can’t happen with arborvitaes in the way. Good dining makes good neighbors!

Deer-Resistant Plants
Now that you know what not to plant, you undoubtedly yearn for information on which plants Bambi won’t eat. And you shall find it on the next Grumpy Gardener appearing Wednesday, June 15. Toodles.


  1. Terry

    Mai Ellen…what is the amounts of the water, raw egg, garlic and hot sauce that you use to repel deer. I am very pissed off. I love my deer. I feed them corn on the wood line of my back yard. This year, out of NOWHERE, they have decided to DESTROY and ELIMINATE my Stargazers. My husband, who has passed on, planted these bulbs and we enjoyed the hummingbird moths that come at night to drink the nectar these outrageously fragrant flowers produce. These Stargazers are priceless to me, my husband is gone, but his flowers remain. I want to use something natural to deter them. I do not give a crap if they eat all my hosta, which they have, but they can’t touch my Stargazers, it’s sentimental and I won’t allow it to continue.
    Could you please give me the amounts of each ingredient so I can make the concoction and deter the deer from eating my gorgeous Stargazers please. Thanks so much!

    June 13, 2017 at 5:07 pm
  2. jackie thomas

    Will they eat fuschias

    April 26, 2017 at 7:46 pm
  3. Diana Sopczynski

    And….they wiped out allll of my Hydrangeas. ALL. Stinky deer deterrent spray of Garlic, Blood and eggs worked wonders on all the deer cuisine! Whew!

    August 26, 2016 at 9:54 am
  4. Terrie

    There is a new product called “I MUST GARDEN”. And it is wounderful! My irresponsible neighbor feeds the deer and they have a path thru my yard. Since I have used this they have not touch anything! Not even my hosta. I am a happy gardner now!😅

    June 25, 2016 at 7:59 pm
  5. Ramsay

    Hi everyone! We have come up with an effective, elegant solution to deer control! Please see http://www.deercage.com Hope this helps.

    June 24, 2016 at 12:54 pm
  6. Dianne

    I’ve had hostas in my front yard for 6 years, never touched by an animal except my dog. This year my dog passed away and I have a doe that has made a smorgasbord of my yard, stargazer lilies, hostas about 4-5 varieties, and the pansy plants I have had since the fall. Hopefully the perennials will return next year and then I can protect them. This doe has decimated 9-10 plants that are as big as a large truck tire in less than a week.

    June 23, 2016 at 4:39 pm
  7. Mai Ellen

    I make a spray with water, raw egg, garlic and hot sauce. Deer avoid anything it is on.

    June 14, 2016 at 8:33 pm
  8. Sue Orwig

    I planted a ring of Lantanas around my flower and shrub bed two years ago and the deer have not touched it.

    June 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm
  9. Kathleen

    Love the photo. Thanks!

    June 13, 2016 at 3:31 pm
  10. Hazel Bachman

    I spray Liquid Fence around my plants, this has worked for me so far.

    June 13, 2016 at 10:24 am


    June 13, 2016 at 10:21 am
  12. Jean Fulghum

    An animal is eating the roots of my hostas. What can I do???

    June 13, 2016 at 10:07 am
  13. marcia drennan

    I have about 30 deer that come everyday. I planted rows of rosemary and pots of mint. They have not touched it. they sniff it and then leave it alone. I have even dropped fruit peels into the rosemary and they pick it out, leaving the rosemary alone.

    June 13, 2016 at 8:14 am
  14. Becs

    Hibiscus too!

    June 12, 2016 at 9:03 pm
  15. Lori

    Yep to the hostas and a deer ate everyone of my oak leaf hydrangeas blooms. Darn.

    June 12, 2016 at 8:31 pm
  16. Sandra J Picard

    Add Phlox to the list along with Hydrangeas – I could not believe they tucked into these two and left the Hostas right next them alone. But I did apply a spray the hostas – and, hopefully, after spraying the Hydrangea, will at least get some blooms. The phlox don’t bloom intil late summer so they may recover. Never touched the rhododendrums or the azeala’s. And I have 6 or 76 going through the yard every night.

    June 12, 2016 at 8:15 pm
  17. Teresa

    I just bought 10 well developed hostas! Can I plant the things they hate among them to discourage the deer? They have devoured the pansies and impatiens I had out by the mailbox….I didn’t know about them loving hostas! They are lilytrope. Does that make any difference?

    June 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm
  18. Donna

    I have hostas all over my front yard, and I have found Deer Fence applied as directed works, at least for the last two years. We have a herd of deers that use our yard as an interstate to go from their water source to their “sleep” area, Deer Fence can be found at Lowes, and I am sure it can be found in a lot of plant stores.

    June 12, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s