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Growing a range of aromatic herbs that repel deer will bring a multitude of benefits to your garden. Not only will herbs help to keep deer at bay, but they will also bring all-year-round vibrant color to your yard. Plus herbs are a great way to attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, and taste great on your food too! 

What Will Deter Deer From Eating My Plants? 

Eastern white tailed deer fawn eating garden plants
Eastern white-tailed deer fawn

Deer are renowned for their varied eating habits – it sometimes seems there is no limit to what these voracious herbivores will eat! And while they should hopefully be able to find enough food in the wild, deer do tend to seek out the tastiest gardens to snack on. 

Luckily, with some clever planning, you can utilize plants that repel deer so they are less tempted to browse in your garden. Deer do not like plants with fuzzy or hairy foliage, and they will not eat thick, leathery leaves or those with spiny or prickly stems. 

What Smell Keeps Deer Away From Plants? 

Deer have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, which helps them to seek out plants that are both tasty and safe to eat. 

We can use this to our advantage, by confusing any deer visitors to our yards with strong, overpowering smells

And while there are many commercial deer repellents available, you can keep things simple by using strongly-scented herbs that repel deer. 

This doesn’t mean you need to fill your yard with horrible-smelling plants, as many of the scents we enjoy are those that also happen to repel deer. 

Will Herbs Keep Deer Away? 

Parsley and Chives in vegetable garden
Deer will generally leave your chives alone. Parsley, however, is not so lucky!

Most herbs have a strong aroma and flavor, and deer will not tend to eat them. They can help to repel deer by releasing their strong scent when brushed against or trampled on, which will confuse the deer’s sensitive sense of smell. 

However, there are some herbs that deer enjoy eating, and these will attract rather than repel deer! They tend to favor herbs with a milder scent and flavor, such as parsley, dill, and coriander

These plants have a rightful place in any herb garden, but if deer are a problem you may need to grow them in a deer-proof area. Alternatively, you could plant stronger-scented herbs around them to confuse and repel any deer who are tempted to visit your yard. 

What Herbs Do Deer Stay Away From? 

Herbs that repel deer tend to be mainly woody perennial herbs, as these have a strong aroma that is released when they are lightly crushed. Not only do these herbs taste unpleasant to deer, but the strong smell also confuses them and makes it harder for them to seek out palatable food. 

11 Aromatic Herbs That Repel Deer 

If you’re planning a herb garden, there is a huge range of herbs that repel deer to choose from! 

The good news is that not only are all these herbs useful for either culinary or medicinal purposes, but they also enhance the ecosystem of your garden by attracting beneficial insects too. The scent of aromatic herbs can help to deter biting insects such as mosquitos, midges, and horse flies. 

Oh, and they also look great, and smell amazing too! 

All of the plants on our list today have been listed as ‘rarely damaged’ in the deer resistance list produced by Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. 

1. Mint (Mentha sp.)

Mint is a herb that repels deer
Mint is a herb that repels deer

Will mint keep deer away? Mint is an incredibly versatile deer repellent plant as it can be grown in most situations. Mint will thrive in cool, damp conditions, but it can also be established in full sun as long as sufficient water is provided. 

Deer dislike the strong aroma produced by mint when it is crushed, and this plant will also withstand being trampled on. Some varieties of mint can be slightly invasive, so take care not to let it spread too far. 

While there are many different varieties of mint, some have a stronger minty smell than others. Peppermint is a particularly strong-smelling mint, as it contains a high proportion of menthol. This makes it a good choice if you are looking for herbs that repel deer. 

2. Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

Lavender is a deer repelling herb

Does lavender keep deer away? Deer will steer clear of lavender, as the strong scent and spiked leaves do not appeal to them.

Many people plant a lavender hedge around the edge of a herb garden to keep deer away. It makes a beautiful edging plant and will provide you with an abundance of scented flowers from spring through until fall. 

3. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Lemon thyme herb that repels deer
Lemon thyme herb

Thyme is a Mediterranean herb, and like most herbs from this hot, dry region, is adapted to withstand the onslaught of grazing animals. It is woody and low-growing and survives even if trodden on by deer or humans.

Deer are unlikely to snack on the tiny foliage of this scented plant, and it is a good choice to grow in gaps around the edges of your paths and borders. 

4. Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage herb
Sage herb

This is one of the best herbs you can grow to repel deer. Sage has a tall, bushy growth habit and produces soft, fuzzy leaves with a scent that confuses and deters deer. You can use sage to protect more vulnerable herbs such as parsley and dill from the attention of any deer that visit your yard.  

5. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

Rosemary herb
Rosemary herb

When it comes to rosemary, there is absolutely nothing about this herb that appeals to deer! This Mediterranean herb has short, spiked leaves with a leathery texture and pungent aroma. It can be grown as an individual bush or used to create a low hedge-like border. 

6. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil is a great deer repellent herb

The lush green leaves may look palatable, but deer find their strong smell very off-putting. Basil is one of the few annual herbs that repel deer!

7. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Anise hyssop - Agastache foeniculum
Anise hyssop – Agastache foeniculum

Agastache foeniculum, Anise hyssop, is a member of the mint family, commonly grown as a medicinal herb. As the name suggests, when crushed the leaves smell of anise, which deer do not find appealing. 

8: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Another member of the mint family, lemon balm is a medicinal herb grown for its stress-relieving properties. The lemon fragrance will deter deer and also work as an effective insect repellent. Take care when bringing lemon balm into your garden, as it tends to self-seed everywhere! 

9. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) flowers in a garden
Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) flowers

Feverfew is a flowering herb in the daisy family and looks very similar to chamomile in appearance. It is a very useful medicinal herb, used to prevent headaches and migraines. Feverfew has a strong aroma that repels deer, and they also dislike the serrated, fern-like leaves. 

10. Germander (Teucrium sp.)

Common germander pink flowers - Teucrium chamaedrys
Common germander pink flowers – Teucrium chamaedrys

Germanders are evergreen perennial herbs, with delicate flowers that are loved by bees and other beneficial insects. They will provide you with year-round foliage, and come in many different variations to add interest to your herb garden. 

11. Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Artemisia dracunculus - Tarragon herb
Artemisia dracunculus – Tarragon herb

With its highly aromatic licorice-like aroma, tarragon is a useful culinary herb that can also be grown to repel deer. It will grow well in a sunny spot as long as it is sheltered from cold winds. 

We hope you’re feeling inspired by our list of the best aromatic herbs that repel deer! These plants can be used to create a beautiful floral display with an aroma that will not only repel deer but also keep your yard free from biting insects too. 

And to top it all off, once established your deer resistant herb garden will require very little upkeep, providing you with many years of beauty for minimal effort. 

Keep reading!

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