Deer Resistant Vegetables and Herbs
A Gardener's Guide

by nw farms and food  -  Permalink
August 8, 2011


A deer bypasses a tomato plant to look for more palatable fare.

If you want to minimize deer damage in an open garden, its best to start with plants that deer don’t like. Deer will “browse” on most anything when wild food sources are low. Some garden edibles, however, are less attractive to these voracious munchers than others.

Certain plants, such as rhubarb, are toxic to deer. Deer usually also avoid root vegetables (which require digging) and prickly vegetables such as cucumbers and squashes with hairy leaves. Sharply-odored cultivars like onions, garlic and fennel are not palatable to deer. Similarly, strongly-scented marigolds and herbs can direct deer away from favored munching plants.

Please regard the following list of deer-resistant garden plants as a general guide. Hungry deer are unpredictable and at times may eat even the most “deer-resistant” fare!

Deer-Resistant Garden Plants

Except in areas of high deer pressure, deer will usually bypass these garden vegetables and herbs.



Globe Artichokes



Lemon Balm







Moderately Deer-Resistant

These plants are moderately safe, however, deer may turn to this group of veggies and herbs when favorites are not available. Take care to protect the young shoots, which are always tender and delicious!


Rainbow chard with deer damage. Chard is most vulnerable to browsing deer in the fall and spring when other food is not available.

Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Chard (safest in summer when the deer have other food choices)
Potatoes (reports of deer eating “toxic” potato leaves are becoming common)
Summer Squash
Winter Squash



Deer Favorites

Deer love to munch on peas and beans. The also enjoy tree fruit and most berries. If you’re looking to attract deer to your garden, try planting some of these:

pea plant

Pea shoots are a favorite meal for deer.

Berries (most kinds)
Lettuce & Leafy Greens (although red lettuces appear to be less palatable to deer)

If planting resistant vegetables does not deter deer from your garden, you may need to consider more serious deer defenses such as barriers and fencing. Whatever you plant or whatever measures you take, one thing is certain, the struggle between determined gardeners and determined browsing deer will continue!


More articles:
Deer Defenses: Low-Cost Ways to Deer Proof Your Garden
Get to Know the Good Bugs: Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden
What Weeds Can Tell Us About the Soil

41 Responses leave one →
  1. 2015 May 19
    jess permalink

    Deer have eaten my broccoli leaves. .. should I start new or will they regrow?

  2. 2015 May 7
    Amber permalink

    Never had much problem with dear until our neighbor started feeding them. She pours a 10 lb bag of corn out every morning and every night. Everyone has seen her but she denies it to the cops, aspca, humane society and our homeowners association. Ugh…
    Since she has attracted the herd of 20-30 dear in an area about the size of 2 football fields, everything gets eaten with a few rare exceptions and only if proper measures are taken. In my yard I’ve been succesful with Spider flowers, Hibiscus, daffodils, hyacinths. I used to grow everything including a huge garden of oriental lilies which I was obsessed with. Everything gone. Grrrrrrrrrr
    Only prope measures movement and anything really smelly works in my neighborhood. Again, grrrrrrr

  3. 2015 May 2
    Joe permalink

    Deer WILL eat all! I live in Pennsylvania, and have tried just about everything except a high fence. I had one pregnant female that thought my toxic leaves on my Katahdin potatoes added a little special kick to the flavor. She browsed every night until one day she wasn’t around. I thought maybe she had finally ate too much and got sick, or maybe got hit by a car. Fortunately potatoes grow so fast they recovered well, until one evening I looked at my potato patch and there she was…browsing… with two little fawn’s nearby. It just goes to show that pregnant females will eat just about anything too!

  4. 2015 April 23
    Lois Martin permalink

    I have whitetail deer and mule deer and have found that plants shunned by whitetails sometimes become dessert for mule deer. It seems that the mule deer will try almost anything (my junipers are one of their prime targets). The only plants I have found to be completely deer resistant are Russian sage, daffodils, salvia, iris and a broad assortment of herbs, everything else is fair game. I’ve given up the fight. They now have free range over my yard. If only I could train them to prune properly. My vegetable gardens are fenced which so far has deterred them even though I know they could jump the fence if they chose to.

  5. 2015 April 22
    Lynn permalink

    We are in a neighborhood in Little Rock, but near some woods. And the deer discreetly come into our yards at night. They devour hostas, asiatic lilies, tulips, and sometimes daylilies. They have also eaten whole tops of tomato plants, so I can’t plant them in the front yard where there’s no fence.

    I hope this is helpful: in my yard they don’t touch purple coneflowers, woodland phlox, jonquils/daffodils, jalapeno and anaheim pepper plants, asters, cannas, blackeyed susans, coleus, dianthus, salvia or mums. Caladiums are pretty safe – they tasted them once or twice and them left them alone.

    Good luck.

  6. 2015 April 20
    Matt permalink

    Carrots and Beets are absolute deer favorites ! If I wanted to attract deer I would plant carrots and beets. They also love tomato plants.

  7. 2015 April 15
    Susan permalink

    Although I have a love-hate relationship with the deer here in my garden, I am distressed to hear the comments about harming the deer, especially the one comment about wounding them.
    Here in my Northern California garden the deer seem to eat all vegetables, but leave the herbs alone. I have grown lavender, thyme, chives, garlic chives, mint, and sweet woodruff with no problems. They also seem to leave any poisonous plants alone including oleander and digitalis. They don’t touch certain bulbs including daffodils, irises, and hyacinth. Other perennials that I have had success with are Shasta Daisy, Echinacea, and Columbine. Hope this is helpful!

  8. 2015 March 2
    Fiona permalink

    Last year I planted Lantana in my front garden and Deer did not come anywhere near them. I also had Vinca in the back and they did not touch that either. We have a very large deer population. They have previously stayed away from my Gardenias in front but I think last year they got to them since they did bloom as well.

  9. 2014 October 18
    sandra permalink

    Well, it looks like from reading everyone’s different experiences that deer are kind of like people. some like it, some don’t. My sister loves cilantro. I think it is one of the most filthy disgusting green things growing. I can’t stand the taste or the smell. That is probably like deer. Some do, some don’t.

    One year I had 65 pepper plants growing on the south side of my house. One morning I went out to water. There were 65 one inch stubs sticking out of the ground. They were there the night before! So, while my husband was at work, I spent the whole day removing the sod directly in front of our front porch. I then put up a picket fence we had pulled out of my in-laws yard. I went to the dollar tree and bought about 20 bars of Irish Spring soap, cut the tops off the boxes and placed them around the fencing. I also bought moth balls at the dollar tree and sprinkled them around the garden. (gross smell) I bought some glow in the dark stars and nailed them all over the pickets. I guess they looked like eyes, I don’t know. That worked for that year.

    I also that year planted chives and lavender all around on the inside of the fence for the following year. It has been about 15 years now and my lavender and chives have filled out all the way around my garden. the chives reseeding over and over so now they are about a foot wide all the way around. Our huge deer population has never again eaten one pepper plant, tomato, squash, rhubarb, basil, green beans and other things. But the Grasshoppers have eaten the leaves of so many things. My garden is about 20′ by 12′ and I am going to knock on wood right now. Good luck everyone. I still have about maybe a week left for my garden to grow my tomatoes and peppers and basil. We are having a very mild warm fall this year. Halloween is almost here and I am still growing vegetables and wearing shorts! I am going to knock on wood now! Spokane, WA

    • 2014 October 27
      Pamela permalink

      Just FYI – moth balls contain the chemical para-dichlorobenzene which is a known carcinogen.

  10. 2014 July 24
    Jenn permalink

    Deer devoured my tomato and have done so to other farmers I’ve talked to about deer. They love tomatoes, even in low-pressure areas. they also devoured a large basil plant.

    I had a large drop of squash, beets, and broccoli and they bypassed it to eat all that.

    They also eat leaves off of peppers to keep the plant from fruiting nasty peppers.

  11. 2014 July 8
    Cathy Milling permalink

    They love okra too

  12. 2014 June 6
    Matt permalink

    Deer here in Greensboro, NC ate my azelias, hollies, rose bushes, tomatoe plants, green beens, sweet potatos, hosta, and many other plants.
    So I built a fence around most of my garden. That works. Also sticking a bar of lemony soap near the plant works. Deer does not like soap smell. Good.

  13. 2014 June 5
    Mim permalink

    I live in Iowa. Way overpopulated with deer. We put up a fence around the garden for rabbits, chipmunks, possum, raccoons, birds (especially black birds) and deer. I make a natural deer/rabbit/chipmunk repellent and seems to work. Egg, yogurt, cayenne, garlic, vinegar, cloves, dish soap, oil, water. I have had tulips for the first time in years. They managed to eat a few buds before I sprayed. The past few winters they ate anything they could find – shrubs, roses, bark and tips of trees so I have taken up putting bird net on things I want to come back in spring. Last year the sow bugs ate anything I planted almost overnight until I figured out what was doing all the damage. They ate an entire of balloon flower perennials in one day. Diatoms took care of them but have to put down when bees are not feeding. No roundup or other chemicals are allowed on the property. Only natural pest control. I am mixing up neem oil for crawling pests.

    • 2014 June 22
      Deb permalink

      Hello Mim, I would be very interested in learning your repellent recipe if you are willing to share it. I would like to try it in our garden here in ct.

      • 2015 April 25
        Phil permalink

        Ive watched youtube videos. Grow a hot pepper plant. Harvest peppers . Make pepper spay and spray your plant. Im growing 75 habanero peppers. Also have 4 caralina reapers.

  14. 2014 May 22
    Elzi permalink

    Here in SE Pa, 25 miles from Philly, the deer mow down all our tomato plants, despite barricades intended to keep them out. Also, the chipmunks love cherry toms., leaving behind a little pile of peels and seeds!

  15. 2014 April 23
    DOLORES permalink






  16. 2014 April 22
    Marty permalink

    We have herds of deer, no surprise, living in a woods. I have grown caladium and hastes but the deer of course love to dine on both along with the resident bunnies. I have found the hastes close to the dryer vent seem to survive with out being attacked by forest creatures. So I have been sticking un-used dryer sheets (Bounce) in the middle of the plants. It seems to do the trick and they survive very well.

    Not sure what bounce will do for the veggies but I will find out next year when I start to build my garden in the new house.

    good luck

  17. 2014 April 1
    Linda permalink

    My cousin said his deer (not urban, rural KY) jumped his garden fence and took a bite out of each tomato. I also live rural in Colorado. I had an entire squash plant disappear over night. No sign it had ever been there. I had seen a skunk late that night but don’t know if it hauled it off without a sign or if it was deer. We also had jackrabbits at the time but they seem to have moved on.

    • 2015 May 2
      Betti permalink

      Groundhogs are noted for taking one bite out of tomatoes and scattering the rest of the tomato around the yard. The also very much LOVE squash like zuchinni flowers. You may find you have a groundhog problem.

  18. 2014 March 30
    Joe permalink

    There’s only one sure-fire deer repellent: LEAD.
    I wish we could all just concurrently figure out that they have no place in suburbia and encourage their extermination.

    • 2014 June 27
      Becca permalink

      I totally agree!
      But our neighbors keep feeding them!

  19. 2014 March 19
    Ashley permalink

    I laugh every time I read that deer won’t touch rhubarb because we had two babies deer born last year that lived around our property. Our rhubarb was doing great and by that evening when we got home, it was eaten down to the dirt. Momma deer never touched it but those babies sure had quite the snack and they lived and are still doing well today. We figured leaving it outside of our fenced garden would be fine since everyone said they won’t eat it.

  20. 2014 March 9
    Karen permalink

    Last year I had a wonderful crop of potatoes going with beautiful flowered tops. One day they were there, the next day they all disappeared all the way to the straw they were planted in. The results were no potatoes whatsoever. We have a herd of mule deer living just across the road from us in a field. I tried a water scarecrow but our water is so hard here that it destroyed the scarecrow in one year and it was always going off because of the wind which is almost constant. Guess I will try fencing next or just planting onions and garlic in my raised beds. It’s the only thing they haven’t touched.

  21. 2014 January 21

    Here in North Texas, deer have eaten almost everything I’ve grown, including tomatoes, peppers, squash and jalapenos. As far as can tell, they’ve never touched the asparagus I’ve had growing for seven years. They also don’t eat my rosemary or wild onion grass.

  22. 2013 October 27

    I have just started to experiment with herbs in the front. The deer have had plenty of time to notice my mint and oregano but have not touched it they are growing very well.
    They are, however nibbling on my bayberry thorns and all.
    Oh roses do not stand a chance in the wake of deer.

  23. 2013 July 30
    Becky Berger permalink

    The deer around here in Montana ate my tomatos, Jalepeno peppers etc. so I bet they will asparagus too. They even ate my rose bushes.

  24. 2013 April 30
    Judy permalink

    I only planted potatoes last year but have a number of other plants that were consistently devoured and I finally resorted to a natural, but FOUL smelling spray which works. The potatoes did not pick up the smell. The plants grew like crazy but the deer only ate the flowers off the top. The problem with the spray in the Northwest is that it is supposed to be applied when the plants are DRY and will remain so for at least a day or so, which is rare, except for during the summer.

  25. 2013 April 21
    byWilson permalink

    I don’t think the Founding Fathers tolerated deer and other varmints in their gardens.
    I wonder what they did to them?
    Oh yeah, now I remember-
    They shot and ate them!

    • 2013 April 22
      Jenny permalink

      This comment made me smile! We live smack dab in the city in Northern Ohio and for the first time ever, we now have deer. I sought out this article to see what others have done successfully. Time will tell. I have tried unsuccessfully to have my neighbor and brother set up their deer blinds in my driveway – so close to home and I could provide them coffee while they wait.

    • 2014 March 7
      TheyCallMeWitch permalink

      hahahahahahaha. Yes they ate them, long before the dang cows were here wasting space ,food and water, we ate deer! and the cute little bunnies eating our gardens as well! In fact squirrel, woodchucks, possum and the like were all eaten. I have been growing a food forest (permaculture gardening look it up) and found that the more I stick up the less the deer roam my garden.

    • 2014 June 27
      Becca permalink

      GREAT IDEA, but we live in the city (Kalamazoo) and cannot shoot them!!!
      Thinking about getting a pellet gun and wounding them!

      Somebody told me to go to the zoo and get Lion and Tiger poo and place it around the area you want to protect!


  26. 2013 April 17
    Bill H permalink

    I have been fairly lucky with deer in Illinois. They are over populated, but usually they only bother my herbs and beans. I have a nasty woodchuck that likes to destroy my strawberries, melons, peppers, tomatoes, and just about anything else he can get his paws on though. For me, deer and woodchucks have been more problematic in my rain garden. It has perennial flowers that are “deer and woodchuck resistant”, but I don’t think they are aware of that. On multiple occasions I will go to bed only to find out the next day that these furry critters had a gourmet buffet on my flower tops and vegetables. Definitely annoying, but I am going all out to try deterring them this summer.

  27. 2013 April 10
    Mary Fay permalink

    Here in rural Piedmont NC deer do not eat my peppers, mustard, kale, broccoli rape, onions, garlic, most herbs. They may nibble but don’t eat it after finding it not to their taste. They ate tomatoes, squash, okra, cucumbers…well, something ate it but it could have been bunnies!

  28. 2013 February 1
    Tom Von Bokern permalink

    Here in southwestern ohio, deer like to eat beans and tomatoes (plants and tomatoes). They have not bothered asparagus.

  29. 2012 August 21
    Carole permalink

    Our deer don’t read these lists either (I live in the mid Willamette Valley). As a gardener of many years, I can tell you that our deer eat cucumbers, squash, and tomato plants without fail. We’ve had to build 2×4 wood and wire cages around every one of our raised beds (and we have used motion activated ‘deer sprinklers’ in the yard as well). They will also eat many of the ‘deer resistant’ varieties of flowers, including daylilies.

    Although planting resistant varieties may help to some extent, sooner or later deer will eat whatever they want to eat.

  30. 2012 June 3
    brett permalink

    Where I live, Eugene, the South Hills deer have a reputation for not reading these kinds of lists. They seem willing to try everything. Fencing is the way to go down here. With that said, my neighborhood deer avoid the lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme. They also go after figs. That’s very strange. I hadn’t considered putting squash out. I may have to give that a try.

  31. 2012 April 29
    Laura permalink

    I find this article interesting but not particularly useful, or in my experience, accurate. Last year I had more beans than I knew how to use, but no tomatoes because the deer ate everything but the stems of the tomato plants and left the beans, of which I had planted extra in anticipation of losing some to the critters, untouched.

    • 2013 April 21
      Stephanie permalink

      Although I don’t plant beans, I have a small garden with tomatoes. The deer were knocking down my “deer fence” to get at my plants. I now have an electric fence around my 5×8 garden! If the plants grow above the fence, and deer are able to get at the tomatoes they will indulge!

      • 2015 January 15
        Hanna permalink

        Hi Stephanie,

        How tall is your electric fence and is it still protecting your veggies from the deer?
        Also, wondering if you have the same deer as me (Pacific Northwest) and how many strands of wire you have.


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