Welcome! This article contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

Do deer eat marigolds? This question might plague you if you are a gardener or a marigold lover who frequently encounters deer on your property. Luckily, deer tend to find the strong smell and finely textured foliage of marigolds unappetizing and will leave them alone most of the time.

In this article, we will discuss the most deer resistant varieties of marigolds, how to protect your marigolds from deer, and how to use marigolds to repel deer successfully.

Will Deer Eat Marigolds?

African Marigold "Deep Orange"

Deer do not particularly like the taste of marigolds and tend to avoid them because of their strong scent. For this reason, marigolds are considered a deer resistant plant. Marigolds can be helpful as a deer repellent in your garden to protect other, more vulnerable plants.

However, hungry deer occasionally eat marigolds, so they are never 100% safe. There aren’t any true deer resistant plants out there!

Why Are Marigolds Deer Resistant?

Humans might like the look of marigolds, but even people can agree with the deer that their smell is unpleasant. Since deer do not care for the aesthetic beauty of marigolds and only look at them as a potential food source, smell and taste are the most essential factors for flowers.

We have already mentioned that deer do not eat marigolds because of their bitter taste. While marigolds are not toxic or poisonous to deer, they contain irritating substances that can affect the stomach’s membrane. Deer also do not like the texture of the leaves and petals of marigolds, they prefer plants with a smoother texture to consume.

Deer Resistant Marigold Varieties

There are over 50 different species of marigolds in the world, so you have many options. Not all marigolds smell the same or even have the same smell intensity. Since strong smells deter deer, try to find the strongest-smelling varieties if you’re using marigolds to deter deer. Here are our top five picks when it comes to the most deer resistant marigold varieties.

1. African Marigold (Tagetes erecta)

Tagetes erecta african marigold

African marigolds are one of the strongest-smelling varieties. They have massive yellow flowers, and their segmented leaves do not appeal to deer. African marigold blooms from early summer until frost and prefers a position in full sun. You’ll love it in your garden because it is low maintenance, robust, and easy to grow.

Depending on the climate and soil, it can grow up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, making it an excellent natural deer barrier. It is drought tolerant and adapts to most soils, but it prefers well-drained loam, clay, or sandy soil with a neutral pH.

2. French Marigold (Tagetes patula)

Tagetes patula french marigold

French marigold is one of the most popular marigold varieties. You’ll love its big, bright orange flowers! They also have attributes that deer dislike, such as an aromatic fragrance and thin leaves – not a deer’s favorite. Like the African marigold, it loves a full sun position and flowers from early summer till frost.

The French marigold is a small variety. It only grows to around 1 foot tall and wide. This makes it an excellent option to mix with other small plants that require more protection from deer.

Regarding soil requirements, French marigolds prefer well-draining soil that is either loam, clay, or sand-based. While less adaptable than the African variety, this marigold is drought tolerant and doesn’t mind heavy clay.

Mayan Marigold

A slightly more exotic option, it might be harder to find than some of the more common garden varieties. But the bright and sunny yellow blooms make it well worth the effort of looking.

As the name suggests, Mayan marigolds naturally grow in the pastures of Mesoamerica. Their lacey, pinnate leaves have proved themselves against deer, and goats too, who are hardly ever picky with food.

These subtropical beauties bloom from summer until fall and enjoy blooming under direct sunlight. They should be planted in well-drained loam, clay, or sand-based soil. They can grow up to 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

Mexican Marigold

Unlike previous varieties we’ve mentioned, Mexican marigolds are massive, sprawling plants. Their stems can grow 4 to 6 feet tall, and their dark green foliage can spread to cover 6 to 10 feet wide.

On close contact, the textured leaves share an equally intense, musky aroma as the flowers that keep deer away. For this reason, some people like to use Mexican marigolds like garden hedges or to cover large areas with a carpet of green dotted with yellow marigolds.

Mexican marigolds bloom nearly all year long in spring, fall, and even winter. They are drought resistant and prefer partial shade. You should plant them in any well-drained loam or sand-based soil.

Sweet Scented Marigold

Also known as Mexican mint marigold or sweet mace, ironically, deer do not appreciate this anise-scented flower.

This small, yellow flowering plant with its smooth and glossy bright green leaves is often found in medicinal herb gardens since it’s traditionally used to brew tea that treats the common cold. Even if you have no use for its medicinal properties, it adds a natural wildness to any garden setting.

The sweet-scented marigold can grow 18 to 30 inches tall and up to 18 inches wide. It is drought tolerant and doesn’t mind direct sun or partial shade.

How to Protect Your Marigolds From Deer

1. Choose the Right Marigolds

We only mentioned five possible marigold varieties you can plant in your garden. While all are great deer repellent options, many more types exist. New varieties and hybrids are developed all the time.

Research which type of marigold best suits your garden’s needs and aesthetic. One good way is to visit your local plant nursery and find the strongest-smelling types in person.

2. Eliminate Other Attractive Plants

Even though deer dislike the smell of marigolds, if they are planted amongst other plants that deer enjoy eating, they might be tempted to take a nibble. Removing other plants from your garden that might attract deer can help increase your marigolds’ likelihood of survival.

Some particular favorites of deer include fruits and vegetables, arborvitae, azaleas, daylilies, English ivy, hostas, pansies, roses, and tulips. If any of these are essential for your garden, keep them closer to your home, where deer are less likely to come near.

3. Get Rid of Hiding Spots

Deer are naturally shy creatures who prefer to shelter from any potential predators among thick trees and bushes. Landscaping your garden with open spaces will deter deer from hanging around in an exposed area.

Keep your larger trees and bushes well pruned, and avoid planting them together in dense clumps that make good deer hiding spots. Opt for short plants in broad, flat garden beds to deter deer from entering.

This will eliminate potential hiding spots and give you a better visual over your garden and any potential animal visitors.

4. Use Deer Deterrents and Barriers

To keep your marigolds safe, try to prevent deer from entering your garden in the first place. A great way to accomplish this is with barriers. Deer are known to jump up to 8 feet high, so consider this when selecting a barrier.

An 8-foot-tall fence would present an obstacle to a deer, as would an equally tall hedge. Hedges require care and maintenance and are a long-term investment that will take time to grow if you choose to go that route.

If you are unwilling or unable to install a fence-like barrier, other deer deterrents are available. If you have pets, often having them run through the yard making noise and leaving their scent is enough to keep deer away.

Other options include hanging wind chimes or installing motion-activated sprinklers throughout your yard.

Finally, add other deer repelling plants to your garden to emphasize to the deer that they will not find a tasty lunch here. Select plants with a pungent smell or undesirable texture. Plants that deer commonly avoid include autumn crocus, chives, French tarragon, garlic, juniper, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

How to Use Marigolds In Your Garden to Repel Deer

Here’s how if you want to use marigolds to go on the offensive and help protect your other less deer-resistant plants.

Since deer dislike marigolds’ strong fragrance, planting them like a natural barrier around “tasty” smelling plants will confuse the deer’s sense of smell. You will need to plant many marigolds, not just one or two, to strengthen the scent enough to act as a deterrent.

To increase the chance of success, use a mixture of marigolds and other strong-smelling plants listed above.

Keep reading!

Similar Posts