By Marc Soares

If deer roam through your garden, keep in mind this garden proverb: You can fool all of the deer some of the time, but you can’t fool some of the deer all the time.

OK, I just made that up, but it fits.

Deer can be such dears to endear outside your window until they defoliate your favorite young plants.

Following are some ideas and ways to maintain a nice landscape visited by deer and  still keep your peace of mind.

Those graceful, soulful-eyed deer prefer flower heads, tender leaves and new shoots. So grow plants with thick, leathery and untasty leaves that deer detest.

In our area, deer tend to damage gardeners’ plants more during late summer and fall when their natural habitat dries up. It makes sense then to grow plants that flower earlier, and step up the following deer-terrent measures from July to frost:

  • Hang heavily scented soaps (a couple slices per susceptible plant) and/or human hair from plant limbs.
  • Apply blood meal on some of the leaves every couple of weeks.
  • Put your dog in the susceptible spots at twilight time through early morning when deer are more likely to browse.
  • Grow patches of fragrant herbs such as lavender and wormwood next to susceptible plants.
  • Place chicken wire cages around young susceptible plants, keeping in mind that deer can leap a 7-foot-high fence.
  • Avoid the plants that deer love, such as crape myrtle, roses and cherry trees.
  • Grow a ground cover of white clover. Deer are apt to browse it over other plants.
  • Catch a cougar and make him urinate frequently in your yard.
  • Play an endless tape of Rush Limbaugh.

OK, the last two are questionable and the others are merely partial solutions. The best deer protection method is to grow plants from the following list (disclaimer: there are few sure-fire deerproof plants and deer tastes and moods vary).

  • Trees. Pine trees, deodar cedar, acacia, eucalyptus, silk tree, magnolia, Japanese maple, strawberry tree.
  • Native trees. Incense cedar, redwood, gray pine and ponderosa pine.
  • Shrubs. Barberry, bottlebrush, boxwood, butterfly bush, cotoneaster, eleagnus, euonymus, grevillea, holly, Italian buckthorn, juniper, myrtus, nandina, oleander, prunus caroliniana, rockrose, rosemary, sage, santolina, spiraea and smoke tree.
  • Coyote brush, Oregon grape, manzanita, redbud, snowberry, toyon and sugar bush.
  • Ground covers. Hypericum. Clematis, ivy, vinca, star jasmine and bearberry manzanita.
  • Perennials. Agapanthus, ajuga, artichoke, bamboo, black-eyed Susan, cactus, coreopsis, daffodil, daylily, gaillardia, germander, hosta, iris, lavender, mint, red hot poker and wormwood.
  • Native perennials. California poppy, blue-eyed grass, columbine, ginger, Matileja poppy, penstemon, yarrow and zauschneria.
  • Annuals. Impatiens, squash, sunflower and zinnia.

Marc Soares lives in Redding. He is a landscape consultant for already existing gardens. He’s also the leader of Indigo Brew, a jazz band. Upcoming dates include Feb. 22 and 23 at the Post Office Saloon, and March 2 at Redding’s Old City Hall. He is the director of the West Valley High School Band, and swim coach for the Anderson Aquagators and West Valley High School.

Soares is author of “100 Hikes In Yosemite National Park,” and “Snowshoe Routes of Northern California – The Mountaineers.” He can be reached at

is a Redding landscape consultant for existing gardens. He's also the leader of Indigo Brew, a jazz band. He is the director of the West Valley High School Band and swim coach for the Anderson Aquagators and West Valley High School. Soares is author of "100 Hikes In Yosemite National Park," and "Snowshoe Routes of Northern California - The Mountaineers." He can be reached at
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar Doug Mudford says:


    Thanks for the information. I have a few grape vines in an unfenced area. I don't mind sharing with the deer but last year nearly all the young growth went to their dining enjoyment. Will strips of Lavender planted between the rows keep the deer away or do I have to combine with some of your other suggestions? What combinations might work best?


  2. Avatar David Kerr says:

    Will deer leave jalapeño alone? I plan on growing them down the hill, where my soil is great, along with tomato which the deer don't like. I will grow sweet peppers up the hill, close to the house, where the dog will deter deer. I know not to grow both kinds of peppers in the same area, because they cross pollinate and you get funny tasting crosses. I would add tomato to your list above. In my Red Bluff garden, years ago, the deer defoliated the sweet peppers and never touched the tomato.

  3. Avatar Tammy D says:

    Hi Mark,

    The deer loved it when we planted the Japanese Maple and they chowed down on the daylily's as well. They even ate our first artichoke plants but they have finally left the iris alone. I think it might be helpful to protect tender young plants with either fencing or that nasty smelling "liquid fence" which does work. Also, they never touched the Mexican Sage plants that thrived from spring through the fall. (I had one bush in a protected area and it had blossoms all winter that the birds loved.) Thanks for sharing the info as it gives me more things to try out in the open. We have decided if we want the deer to stay away, we have to fence our plants in.


  4. Avatar Josh A. says:

    Will deer eat my marijuana and other illegal substances. Someone told me you might know. Oh and are these rumors true about you having a twelve incher write me back big boy. I'll enjoy watching you play at CR Gibbs this Friday July 15 2008. I hope you enjoy watching me blow on that long black clarinet. Its like eating a banana. By the way rehearsals went great the other day. My dad wants to join in on a little three way action next time.