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As the natural habitat for these herbivores is reduced by urban sprawl, hunger has driven deer to our backyards. But there are harmless ways to keep these beautiful creatures from munching on your garden.

In the early morning, deer can be seen strolling down many suburban streets, stopping to devour a tulip or lily in spring, a prized hosta or hollyhock in summer, and fruit in the fall. Lushly planted yards are simply too irresistible.

With traditional deer deterrents,
the cure is often worse than the ill, and inhumane to boot. Bags of human hair or bars of soap hanging in the trees, for instance. Or how about the aroma of rotting eggs, garlic, fox urine, or bags of sewage? Then there's hot pepper spray, made from stewed jalapenos. You can forget about stopping to smell those roses.


For starters, try the fence option. Unfortunately, the pretty picket variety won't do. To be effective, it needs to be 4 to 7 feet high and set at a 45 degree angle from the ground. The electrified variety is an option, but they're not considered humane.

Polypropylene mesh deer fencing is durable, yet nearly invisible from a distance. It's strong enough to keep out deer without harming them -- or your pets or small children.

GuardenerThe Guardener deer repellent device. Photo: Guardener

Then there's this clever Guardener solar-powered deer-deterring device that works in two ways: first with ultrasonic waves that are audible (and annoying) to deer but not people, and then with short blasts of water. (The base of the unit holds 3.5 gallons of water, enough for 30 or 40 cycles, so no piping is necessary.) The unit is triggered by a motion sensor, so be sure to place it where passersby or wind will not be a problem. It works on other animals pests too.

Several other chemical-free products combine motion sensing, a light source, and an FM radio. When a deer approaches within 25 feet of your garden. The light and radio come on. You can set the duration with most units. I recommend the Deer Chaser.

Perhaps the simplest and least obtrusive of all are repellers that work like motion-activated water sprinklers. The measure only 15 inches off the ground, and the range is quite a bit greater than other products I've looked at. One, called the Havahart Spray Away can be adjusted to release a burst of water when an animal approaches to within 35 feet. You do have to devote a hose to it, and a 9-volt battery, but that's about it. You don't have to position it in a sunny spot or replace scent tubes regularly as you do with other repellers.

You can also plant flowers, herbs, and shrubs that deer don't fancy -- although they'll eat it if they get hungry enough. Check with your local cooperative extension agent for what works in your area as deer habits differ. That said, the list below contains commonly recommended species of deer-proof plants you can incorporate into your garden for extra peace of mind.

chrysathemumsOrange chrysathemums. Photo: MCT

Flowers and Groundcovers

Bleeding Heart
Gloriosa daisy
Grape hyacinth
Jacob's ladder
Lamb's ear
Liliy of the valley
Morning Glory

basilBasil plant. Photo: Getty Images

Veggies and Herbs

Bay Leaf
Bee balm

Wisteria plant. Photo: AP

Shrubs and Trees

Butterfly Bush
Flowering Quince
Japanese Maple
Mountain Laurel
Rosa Rugosa

  • High Climber

    A .30-06 is a humane way to eliminate deer. Good eating too!

  • leon

    I agree, venison stew is one of my favorites too.

  • patrice

    got that right.they are one big pain in the ass

  • Robyn

    I have forsythia and the deer still come around!

  • Frustrated gardener

    The author hasn't seen our deer. They can jump fences up to 8 ft. They would snicker at a 4 ft. fence. They also become accustomed to the devices that make noise or turn on lights. They aren't even shy of people. The stinky stuff works best. The things are pests and destroy hundreds of thousands of dollars of crops each year. Those people who think of them as "Bambi" should get up close and see how tick infested they are. {They drop some of those ticks in your yard when they go through it]. The herds need to be thinned but the "animal crazies" just want to pet them.

  • GraceNotes

    Sprinkling your own urine around plants your and garden is truly eco-friendly, and the best way to keep deer out. Try it! You'll also save on your water bill but not flushing the toilet so often. You can buy sprinkling cans at most hardware stores.

  • Brenda

    I like Http:// the tips in this article better than a gun.

  • j w

    deer in city limits are pests just like rats and mice and moles. people who think its beautiful to have deer in their neighborhood need to think again.

  • munchkin

    Several years ago an oldtimer here in KY listened to my tale of woe about the deer eating my garden. He said to stake each corner and run one line of nylon fishing line around the perimeter about 3-4 feet off the ground. It has worked for me, isn't expensive and unnoticible. It has something to do with high pitched sound waves created by the line that humans can't hear.

  • amazingazzitgets

    LMAO!!! trying to find deer resistant plants? Tea - foxglove - if they eat it you will have to move the carcass.

  • Mike

    I'm not sure about the list of deterent plants. I see Pumpkin, deer LOVE pumpkin. When I lived in Michigan people planted pumpkin and put out pumpkin to attract deer for hunting, it works better than Corn.

  • Brenda

    Last Halloween the deer were eating the pumpkins within 10mins of putting them on the steps. Ok, so what? They were all lit with at least 2 candles! I put them in the enclosed front porch and an 8 pointer who had tarted in on them opened the door to get to them again!!!!! They've eaten mint, bleeding hearts, tomato plants, marigolds, forsythia and even daffodil flowers. They seem to leave my forget-me-nots and lily of the valley alone, as well as a heritage bell flower that has been blooming in the middle of the yard for at least the past 60 years.............

  • Tess

    Some great ideas here - Http://

  • John F.C. Taylor

    Sometimes movies can teach you things. The mention of human hair reminded me of the baseball movie The Rookie. Dennis Quaid had the deer problem as coach of local high school baseball team. Team went elsewhere for practice while human hair was placed around the team's baseball diamond. Result? A green infield where there had been only scrub and dust.

  • D

    I loved that movie!

  • Sherry

    My mom and I were just talking about keeping the deer from eating different bushes, flowers, etc.
    Shavings from Irish Sping soap and dog hair. Put that around the plants to keep the deer away. It worked for her.

  • what ever

    Why do you let people post ads that have nothing to do with the subject, then ignore comments from those wo actually have something to say about it??

  • john

    Good (sounding) suggestions. But I'm tired of the dumb sub-text "without chemicals" - water is made of chemicals- flowers are made of chemicals and often they give off chemicals. If you mean harmful chemicals, I think we're all old enough to be spoken to as adults.

  • dbell

    We use black twine as a fence. The deer can't see it at night and stay away after the first encounter.

    My yard has one 4 ft. fence and 3 fences of black twine. We added one black twine line above the 4 ft. fence and 3 twine lines on the other 3 corners. This covers a 3/4 acre outer perimeter and we added a secondary fence of 35 ft. by 70 ft. to protect the garden area.

    This is the cheapest way out as we have spent hundreds on other options

  • mommacat

    I don't have a deer problem, but I do have a skunk and raccoon problem. I have tried coyote urine, fox urine, mountain lion urine and human urine, none worked. I tried bleach, amonia and pretty much everything else I could think of or had been told about, nothing worked for very long. I have fairly good results using old perfume to keep the skunks away and some luck using a radio to keep the raccoons away, but none of it is a sure thing. Does any one know of a repelant that works? I don't live where I could get away with shooting them.


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