Richters InfoSheet D9000 


Deer Tolerant Herbs

Deer will eat just about anything in bad winters, but most of the time they seem to avoid many herbs. They seem most likely to turn their noses up at strong smelling plants, which, fortunately, include many herbs. Members of the mint family, for example, such as peppermint, lavender, sage and rosemary, are usually not bothered by deer.

Below is a list of herbs that are known to be tolerant or resistant to grazing by deer. It is compiled from a variety of sources, but as deer are not much of a problem at Richters we cannot vouch for the herbs on this list from experience. We would be grateful to hear from gardeners who have grown herbs in deer country – please tell us what deer like and dislike, and we’ll update this list accordingly.

Aconite (Aconitum napellus)
Alkanet (Anchusa officinalis)
Agastache (Agastache spp.) [5]
Anise-Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) [5]
Balm, Lemon (Melissa officinalis) [6]
Basil (Ocimum spp.) [2]
Borage (Borago officinalis) [1]
Bugloss, Viper’s (Echium vulgare)
Bugle (Ajuga reptans) [1]
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) [6]
Candytuft (Iberis amara) [1]
Catnip (Nepeta spp.)
Chives (Allium ssp.)
Clove-pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) [6]
Cohosh, Black (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Comfrey (Symphytum spp.)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
Dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica) [5]
Dusty Miller (Senecia cineraria)
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) [6]
] Foxglove (Digitalis spp.) [4][6]
Garlic (Allium spp.)
Geranium, Scented (Pelargonium spp.)
Germander (Teucrium spp.)
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
Hellebore (Helleborus niger) [6]
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) [5]
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla spp.)
Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) [6]
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) [1]
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Marguerite, Golden (Anthemis tinctoria)
Marigold (Tagetes spp.) [2]
Mints (Mentha spp.)
Mint, Korean (Agastache rugosa) [5]
Molepant (Euphorbia lathyris)
Mugwort (Artemisia spp.)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp.)
Onion, Welsh (Allium spp.)
Oregano, Greek (Origanum vulgare hirtum) [5]
Oregano, Zorba Red (Origanum vulgare) [5]
Parsley (Petroselinum spp.) [6]
Pepper, Chile (Capsicum spp.)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) [1]
Periwinkle, Madagascar (Catharanthus roseus)
Poppy (Papaver spp.)
Poppy, California (Eschscholzia californica) [6]
Rhubarb (Rheum spp.)
Rocket, Sweet (Hesperis matronalis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.) [6]
Sage (Salvia spp.) [6]
Sage, Russian (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Santolina (Santolina spp.)
Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)
Sumac, Sweet (Rhus aromatica) [1]
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) [3][4][5]
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Thyme (Thymus spp.) [6]
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Wormwood (Artemisia spp.)
Yarrow (Achillea spp.) [6]

[1] Marty Galganski of Missouri reports that deer will graze on these herbs. They graze on borage, bugle and candytuft through the year; and on lungwort, periwinkle and sweet sumac in the winter months.

[2] Linda Samson in Canada reports that deer ate or pulled up basil, patchouli, mexican marigold and parsley (Aug. 2006). She feels that "it is best to fence and cage all the plants if [growers] don’t want any surprises in the future."

[3] Karen Wiggins of Wisconsin says "White-tail deer here in Wisconsin love sunflowers! They’ll strip the heads off the plants leaving only the stalks."

[4] Bonnie Morrell-Wade of Quispamsis, New Brunswick says (March 2008), "Two herbs on your list that deer in my area will eat in summer are: foxglove (Digitalis spp) -- I originally thought this was poison to them; I heard that heart medicine was extracted from this plant; [and] sunflower (Helianthus annuus) -- these are a buffet to the deer here; they love the leaves & the heads of plants... I would not have any garden both of plants or vegetables if my husband didn’t put up an electric fence on part of our property. We are strongly considering extending the electric fence to cover all of our property."

[5] Paula Dubeski of Alberta writes: "I grow in the country in central Alberta, deer infest my garden in the spring and fall especially and overwinter on it. They do not touch: dracocephalum, hyssop, agastaches, Zorba Red oregano, or other herbs mentioned in your list like sage, Greek oregano. As for sunflowers, I haven’t seen any grazing on it, but noticed that the ends of dead sunflower branches are eaten off in the winter, and any heads that are within their reach (which birds would already have eaten the seeds from)."

[6] Zoe Sandell of Victoria, British Columbia writes (Aug. 2016): "...[T]his year the deer have eaten my calendula, ferns astilbe, flowering red currant and camelia. They left my echinacea, yarrow, rosemary, sage and lavender." In a more detailed follow up message, Zoe writes: "We have an extremely high density of deer where I live- so the situation of what they eat is also more extreme. Unfenced and seemingly safe: foxglove, daffodils, sword fern, echinacea, yarrow, lemon balm, parsley, lavender, california poppies, thyme, hellabore, carnations [=clove-pink], sword fern, fuschia, shasta daisies. Unusual but witnessed them eating: calendula (before flower), snapdragon shoots (before flower), astilbe (they ate flowers and leaves), flowering red currant (ate leaves, not in flower), Kingsley fern, young camelia bushes (they ate leaves, not in flower). They also ate: purple lilies, any fruit tree leaf that stuck out of fencing (fig, peach, apple, cherry and even black elderberry)."

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