24 Best Plants That Repel Deer and Rabbits: 2024 Guide

Last Updated on April 7, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Got rabbits or deer turning your garden into their personal buffet? It’s a real headache, right? These critters don’t just nibble on your plants; they can wreak havoc, leaving your hard work in ruins. But before you throw in the trowel, here’s a bright idea: plants that repel deer and rabbits. Yeah, you heard it right. Nature’s got its own pest control, and it’s about time we used it to our advantage.

Why go down this green path, you ask? For starters, it’s kind to Mother Earth. We’re talking about a way to keep the animals at bay without harsh chemicals or unsightly fences.

And let’s be real, who doesn’t want their garden to be both stunning and sustainable? Plus, when you choose the right green warriors, you’re not just protecting your petunias; you’re setting up a garden that’s less inviting to Bambi and Bugs Bunny’s cousins.

So, let’s dig into how picking the right plants can save your greens and keep your garden looking sharp.

plants that repel deer rabbits

Understanding Deer and Rabbit Habits

You’ve seen it, right? Just when your garden starts looking like something out of a magazine, deer and rabbits decide it’s their turn to feast. Let’s dive into what makes these critters tick and why they can’t seem to resist our gardens.

Quick Facts About Deer and Rabbit Feeding Habits

Deer and rabbits, while cute, can be a gardener’s nightmare. These animals are not picky eaters and will chomp on just about anything green if they’re hungry enough.

However, their menu preferences do vary, leading to some plants being more at risk than others.

AnimalFeeding TimeFavorite Snacks
DeerDusk & DawnHostas, Roses
RabbitsNight & Early MorningLettuce, Carrots

Why Certain Plants Repel Them

So, why do some plants give deer and rabbits the cold shoulder? It’s all about the senses. Plants that are bold in smell or taste, or have a furry or tough texture, tend to make deer and rabbits turn up their noses.

They’re like picky eaters at a buffet – if it doesn’t tickle their fancy, they’ll move on.

The Difference Between Deer-Resistant and Rabbit-Resistant Plants

Now, here’s the kicker: not all plants that say “no thanks” to deer will do the same for rabbits, and vice versa. Deer might snub a plant that rabbits find irresistible. Here’s a quick rundown:

Plant TypeDeer-ResistantRabbit-Resistant
Aromatic HerbsYesOften
Thorny BushesYesSometimes
Fuzzy LeavesOftenYes

Understanding the dining preferences of deer and rabbits can save you a lot of headaches. By choosing the right plants, your garden can go from a wildlife diner to a look-don’t-touch exhibit.

Remember, it’s all about making your green space less appealing to these uninvited guests. With a bit of know-how and the right plant choices, you can keep your garden thriving and animal-free.

Key Characteristics of Repellent Plants

Ever wonder why some plants in your garden never see the wrath of deer or rabbits, while others look like they’ve been through a salad spinner? Turns out, it’s all about the vibes – or more scientifically, the smell, taste, and texture of these plants.

Let’s break down why these characteristics send pests packing and how mixing up your garden with these plants can be your silent guard against unwanted diners.

Overview of Common Characteristics

Plants have their own defense mechanisms to keep the munchers at bay. Here’s the scoop on what makes some plants about as appealing to deer and rabbits as a cold pizza:

CharacteristicWhy It WorksExamples
Bold SmellOverpowers the critters’ senses, making it hard for them to sniff out their favorite treats.Lavender, Rosemary
Bitter TasteLike eating that one dish your aunt makes every Thanksgiving—no thanks.Marigolds, Daffodils
Fuzzy TextureImagine trying to eat a sweater. Not comfy, not fun.Lamb’s Ear, Dusty Miller

Why Incorporating a Variety of These Plants Can Be Beneficial

Throwing in a mix of these green warriors can make your garden a fortress. You see, deer and rabbits are like us when we open a fridge; they look for what’s tasty.

If they keep running into the garden equivalent of last week’s leftovers, they’ll start looking for a meal elsewhere. Here’s why diversity in your plant choices is key:

  • Sensory Overload: Too many smells and textures can confuse pests, making your garden less of a target.
  • Seasonal Protection: Different plants bloom at different times, providing year-round coverage.
  • Aesthetic Pleasure: Let’s be honest, a garden with a variety of plants looks pretty snazzy.

Top Plants That Repel Deer and Rabbits

When it comes to keeping your garden safe from deer and rabbits, not all plants are created equal. Some are like kryptonite to these critters.

Here’s a closer look at a few garden heroes who might not win a beauty contest in the animal kingdom but definitely deserve a spot in your garden for keeping Bambi and Thumper at bay.

1. Ageratum


Ageratum, with its fuzzy blue flowers, is not just a pretty face. It’s got a secret weapon against garden invaders: a scent that deer and rabbits find about as appealing as last week’s leftovers.

This plant thrives in the sun but doesn’t mind a bit of shade, making it a flexible option for various garden spots. Plus, its low-growth habit makes it perfect for border defense.

2. Alyssum

2 plants repel deer Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum might lure us in with its honey scent and carpet of white, purple, or pink flowers, but to deer and rabbits, it’s the garden equivalent of a cold shower.

Hardy and drought-resistant, alyssum can fill in the gaps in your garden, creating a fragrant barrier that says, “Keep walking, folks.”

3. Anemone

3 plants repel deer Anemone

Anemone, or windflower, brings a bit of whimsy to the garden with its delicate blooms. But don’t let its looks fool you; this plant is tough on pests.

Deer and rabbits typically bypass anemone, possibly because its charm is lost on them or maybe because it doesn’t taste as good as it looks. Whatever the reason, anemones are great for adding a splash of color without inviting the local wildlife to feast.

4. Astilbe

4 plants repel deer Astilbe

If your garden is a bit on the shady side, Astilbe is your ally. Its feathery plumes come in various colors, from white to pink to red, and its fern-like foliage is pretty all season. But to deer and rabbits, astilbe might as well be a cactus.

It’s a great choice for adding texture and color to darker corners of your garden without rolling out the welcome mat for hungry visitors.

5. Barrenwort

5 plants repel deer Barrenwort

Last but not least, Barrenwort (Epimedium) is a tough groundcover that deer and rabbits typically ignore. Its heart-shaped leaves and delicate flowers add a touch of elegance to shady spots.

Plus, it’s drought-tolerant once established, making it a low-maintenance option for busy gardeners or those of us who are a bit forgetful with the watering can.

6. Beebalms

6 plants repel deer Beebalms

Beebalms are the life of the garden party, not just for their vibrant flowers that come in hot shades of pink, red, and purple but also for their ability to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. However, deer and rabbits tend to give them a pass.

Maybe it’s the strong scent or the taste, but this plant is often left untouched in favor of tastier treats. Plant Beebalms in sunny spots and watch them spread their joy without the worry of them being nibbled away.

7. Bleeding Heart

7 plants repel deer Bleeding Heart

The Bleeding Heart plant is like a living valentine in your garden, with its heart-shaped flowers dangling from arching stems. This shade-loving perennial is not only a visual stunner but also seems to have a “Do Not Eat” sign for deer and rabbits.

Perhaps its toxic properties make it a no-go for these critters. It’s perfect for adding a touch of romance to those dimmer garden spots where few other flowers dare to venture.

8. Boxwood

8 plants repel deer

Boxwood is the sturdy backbone of many gardens, known for its dense evergreen foliage that shapes beautifully for hedges and borders. While it might be a gardener’s dream for creating structure, deer, and rabbits usually turn up their noses at it.

Its bitter taste and thick leaves are likely deterrents, making Boxwood an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add formality and protection to their landscapes.

9. Butterfly Bush

9 plants repel deer Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush earns its name for being an irresistible beacon to butterflies and a range of other pollinators. Yet, it’s remarkably resistant to deer and rabbit damage.

This fast-growing shrub can add instant color and life to any garden spot, with its large, conical clusters of flowers that come in shades of purple, pink, white, and yellow.

The fact that it’s not a favorite snack for garden pests is just the cherry on top.

10. Catmint

10 plants repel deer Catmint

Catmint is a real trooper in the garden, known for its soft, lavender-blue flowers and aromatic foliage that can keep deer and rabbits thinking twice before taking a nibble.

This hardy perennial is drought-tolerant once established and can bloom from late spring into early fall, offering a long season of visual delight and aromatic pleasure.

It’s perfect for borders, herb gardens, or any sunny spot where you want to add a splash of carefree color.

11. Coneflower

11 plants repel deer Coneflower

Coneflower, or Echinacea, is a powerhouse of resilience and beauty. With its bold, daisy-like flowers in hues of pink, purple, white, and yellow, it stands tall not only against the backdrop of green foliage but also in the face of deer and rabbit invasions.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Coneflower is a magnet for butterflies and bees, making it a valuable contributor to the garden’s ecosystem.

12. Daffodil

12 plants repel deer Daffodil

Spring gardens shine bright with the cheerful blooms of Daffodils. These early risers are not only a herald of warmer days to come but also possess an innate resistance to deer and rabbit appetites.

Thanks to their toxic alkaloids, Daffodils are usually left untouched, allowing them to multiply and return year after year. They’re ideal for naturalizing in lawns, under trees, or in formal flower beds.

13. Dusty Miller

13 plants repel deer Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller, with its striking silver-gray foliage, offers a unique texture and color contrast in the garden that’s as effective as it is beautiful. This plant is not favored by deer or rabbits, likely due to its fuzzy leaves and somewhat bitter taste.

Dusty Miller can serve as a stunning backdrop for more colorful annuals and perennials or be used to create visually engaging borders and edgings.

14. Euphorbia

14 plants repel deer Euphorbia

Euphorbia, with its fascinating shapes and textures, is a plant that truly breaks the mold. Often known for its milky sap, which can be irritating to the skin and toxic if ingested, it’s no wonder deer and rabbits give it a wide berth.

This diverse genus includes varieties that can suit just about any garden design, from perennial borders to rock gardens. With its resilience and striking appearance, Euphorbia adds a bold statement to the garden without inviting unwanted wildlife dining.

15. Foxglove

15 plants repel deer

The towering spires of Foxglove are a sight to behold, dotted with bell-shaped flowers that range from purples and pinks to whites and yellows.

Beyond its fairy-tale charm, Foxglove is known for its toxic properties, which naturally deter deer and rabbits.

It thrives in partial shade, making it a perfect candidate for woodland gardens or shaded borders. While it’s a biennial, planting Foxglove at intervals can ensure year-after-year blooms.

16. Iris

16 plants repel deer Iris

Iris stands out with its striking blooms and elegant foliage, offering a variety of colors and forms that can complement any garden.

This hardy genus is generally avoided by deer and rabbits, possibly due to its somewhat bitter taste and thick, fibrous leaves.

Irises are not just about looks; they’re also known for their durability and can thrive in a range of conditions, from sunny borders to water gardens.

17. Lavender

17 plants repel deer Lavender

The soothing scent of Lavender is beloved by many but not so much by deer and rabbits, who tend to leave this aromatic herb alone. Lavender’s fragrance, derived from its essential oils, is a deterrent to many garden pests, making it an excellent companion plant.

Beyond its pest-resistant qualities, Lavender offers beautiful purple blooms and silver-green foliage that can elevate the sensory appeal of any garden space.

18. Marigolds

18 plants repel deer Marigolds

Marigolds are like the sun’s emissaries, brightening gardens with their bold orange, yellow, and red blooms.

These annuals are more than just pretty faces; their strong scent is a natural deterrent to deer and rabbits, making them excellent companions for more vulnerable plants.

Marigolds are easy to grow and can thrive in full sun, offering a cheerful barrier against unwelcome garden grazers.

19. Peony

The lush, opulent blooms of Peonies are a sight to behold, ranging from soft pinks to deep reds and pure whites.

Beyond their beauty, peonies are surprisingly unattractive to deer and rabbits, possibly due to their thick foliage and the ants that are often attracted to their buds.

Planting peonies can add a touch of elegance to your garden while keeping it safe from nibbling pests.

20. Rosemary

20 plants repel deer Rosemary

Rosemary is not only a culinary treasure but also a robust garden ally, thanks to its aromatic oils that many garden pests find off-putting. This perennial herb can grow into a dense, woody shrub that provides year-round greenery and protection for your garden.

Its resilience to drought and love for the sun make rosemary a low-maintenance choice for gardeners looking to add both flavor and fortification to their garden spaces.

21. Russian Sage

21 plants repel deer Russian Sage

With its airy spikes of lavender-blue flowers and silvery foliage, Russian Sage is a beacon of beauty that stands tall against deer and rabbit invasions.

This hardy perennial is drought-tolerant and thrives in full sun, making it a perfect backdrop for perennial borders or a dynamic addition to xeriscaped areas.

22. Salvia

Salvia offers a dazzling array of colors, from deep purples to fiery reds, and attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies to the garden.

Its aromatic foliage is a natural deterrent to deer and rabbits, making salvia a dual-purpose plant that beautifies while it protects.

Thriving in full sun, salvia can elevate garden beds, borders, and containers with its vivid blooms and resilient nature.

23. Snapdragon

23 plants repel deer Snapdragon

Snapdragons bring a playful charm to the garden with their tall spikes of brightly colored flowers, which can open and close like mouths when squeezed.

Fortunately, their appeal to children and adults alike doesn’t extend to deer and rabbits, who typically avoid these annuals. Snapdragons prefer cooler weather, making them an excellent choice for spring and fall gardens.

24. Yarrow

24 plants repel deer Yarrow

Yarrow is known for its flat-topped clusters of small, vibrant flowers and fern-like foliage, making it a versatile addition to any garden setting.

This perennial is not only drought-resistant but also unappealing to deer and rabbits, thanks to its aromatic leaves. Yarrow can serve as an excellent ground cover or a colorful accent in borders and wildflower gardens.

Considerations for Choosing Repellent Plants

When it comes to fortifying your garden against deer and rabbits, not every plant is up for the task.

But don’t fret; with a bit of know-how and strategic planning, you can select repellent plants that not only keep the nibblers at bay but also thrive in your garden’s unique conditions.

Let’s break down the key considerations to keep in mind: zone and climate compatibility, continuous protection, and aesthetic harmony.

Zone and Climate Compatibility

First off, let’s talk about zone and climate compatibility. It’s no good choosing a plant that deer hate if it’s going to wither at the first sign of frost or wilt under your hot summer sun.

To ensure your garden’s defenders are up to the task, you’ll want to check their USDA Hardiness Zone rating against your own local conditions.

PlantUSDA ZoneClimate Preference
Lavender5-9Full sun, dry conditions
Marigolds2-11Full sun, well-drained soil
Rosemary7-10Full sun, dry to medium moisture

Planting for Continuous Protection Throughout the Seasons

Next up is planting for continuous protection. Just like you wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked even for a moment, you don’t want to give deer and rabbits a window of opportunity.

By choosing plants that bloom or remain robust across different seasons, you can ensure there’s always something standing between your garden and hungry visitors.

SpringDaffodilEarly, toxic blooms deter pests
SummerLavenderAromatic, drought-resistant
FallMarigoldsBright blooms and pest-repellent scent
WinterBoxwoodEvergreen, provides year-round structure

Aesthetic Considerations for Your Garden Design

Lastly, let’s not forget about aesthetic considerations. Your garden is your sanctuary, so while it’s keeping critters out, it should also bring you joy and peace.

Selecting a variety of plants not only aids in pest control but can also enhance the visual appeal of your space.

Think about colors, heights, and textures that complement each other and your existing garden design.

Plant TypeVisual AppealBenefit
AnnualsBright, seasonal colorFlexible, can be changed yearly
PerennialsLong-lasting investmentReturns yearly, offers consistent structure
ShrubsAdds height and texturePermanent fixtures that shape the garden

Choosing the right plants for pest control goes beyond just picking what deer and rabbits dislike. It’s about integrating these choices into a garden that thrives in your local climate, offers protection through the seasons, and aligns with your aesthetic vision.

With these considerations in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a garden that’s as beautiful as it is fortified.

Implementing a Plant-Based Deterrent Strategy

Crafting a garden that’s beautiful yet uninviting to deer and rabbits requires a bit more than just planting a few deterrent plants. It’s about designing a space that’s strategically unappealing to these critters while still fulfilling your vision for a green sanctuary.

Here’s how you can implement a plant-based deterrent strategy effectively, taking into account design tips, observation and adaptation, and the importance of diversity.

Design Tips for Creating an Unappealing Environment for Deer and Rabbits

Creating a garden that’s less attractive to deer and rabbits doesn’t mean sacrificing beauty. It means being strategic with your plant choices and garden layout. Here are some design tips:

  • Use Repellent Plants as Borders: Surround your garden with plants known to be unattractive to deer and rabbits, like lavender and marigolds, to create a natural barrier.
  • Layer Your Plantings: Integrate repellent plants throughout your garden in layers, from ground covers to shrubs, to make your garden less navigable and appealing to foragers.
  • Incorporate Hardscaping: Use physical elements like rocks, gravel paths, or decorative fencing to break up the landscape, making it harder for animals to access your prized plants.

How to Observe and Adapt Based on Effectiveness

Monitoring your garden’s success against deer and rabbits is crucial. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Track Plant Health: Keep an eye on the plants you’ve chosen as deterrents. If they’re thriving without signs of nibbling, they’re working. If not, it may be time to try different plants.
  • Watch Animal Behavior: Notice if and where deer or rabbits are entering your garden. This can help you pinpoint weak spots in your garden’s defense.
  • Be Flexible: If certain plants or strategies aren’t working, be ready to adapt. Sometimes, adding more of a particular repellent plant or rearranging your garden layout can make all the difference.

The Importance of Diversity in Planting to Ensure Year-Round Protection

Diversity in your garden planting is key to ensuring that it remains protected throughout the year. Here’s why:

  • Seasonal Coverage: By choosing a variety of plants that bloom or remain hardy across different seasons, you ensure there’s always something in your garden that’s unappealing to pests.
  • Visual Interest: A diverse garden is a visually interesting one. Mixing colors, textures, and heights not only deters pests but also creates a more dynamic and beautiful space.
  • Ecosystem Support: A variety of plants supports a healthier ecosystem, attracting beneficial insects and birds that can also help control pest populations.
SeasonPlantReason for Choice
SpringDaffodilsToxic to deer and rabbits, providing early-season protection.
SummerLavenderAromatic, deterring pests during peak growing season.
FallMarigoldsContinues to repel deer and rabbits with its scent as it blooms.
WinterBoxwoodEvergreen, providing structure and deterrence year-round.

Complementary Strategies for Enhanced Garden Protection

While a garden filled with deer and rabbit repellent plants is a strong first line of defense, sometimes our furry friends need a bit more persuasion to keep off the greens.

That’s where complementary strategies come into play, meshing seamlessly with your green efforts to create a more fortified garden.

Let’s delve into some non-plant-based methods like fencing and repellent sprays, and explore how they can integrate with your plant-based strategies for an all-encompassing defense system.

Non-Plant-Based Deterrent Methods

Beyond the natural repelling power of certain plants, there are additional strategies to consider that can help protect your garden:

MethodDescriptionIntegration with Plants
FencingPhysical barriers that prevent animals from entering.Can protect more vulnerable plants without hindering the aesthetic appeal of repellent plant borders.
Repellent SpraysChemical or natural sprays that deter deer and rabbits.Can be used as an extra layer of protection, especially during the growing season for newly planted or particularly vulnerable species.

Design Tips for Integrating Complementary Strategies

Integrating these methods with your planting strategy requires a bit of thought to ensure effectiveness without compromising the beauty or health of your garden. Here are some tips:

  • Aesthetically Pleasing Fencing: Opt for fencing that complements your garden design. Green mesh or wooden fences can blend with the landscape, providing protection without the fortress look.
  • Strategic Spray Application: Use repellent sprays judiciously, focusing on new growth and plants that are known to be favorites of deer and rabbits. Natural and organic sprays can offer protection without harming the plants or local wildlife.

Observing and Adapting for Effectiveness

The key to a successful garden defense strategy is not just in its implementation but in its ongoing adaptation:

  • Monitor and Adjust: Keep an eye on the effectiveness of your deterrent methods. If deer or rabbits breach your defenses, it might be time to strengthen your fencing or reapply repellent sprays more frequently.
  • Seasonal Considerations: Be mindful of the seasons. Some deterrent methods may need to be adjusted or reinforced as plant growth cycles change and as deer and rabbit feeding patterns shift.

The Importance of a Multi-Faceted Approach

A diversified approach to garden protection ensures your green sanctuary remains vibrant and thriving, undisturbed by unwelcome visitors. It’s about creating a balance—allowing wildlife to coexist with your garden without letting them take over.

By combining plant-based strategies with physical barriers and repellent measures, you’re setting up a dynamic defense system that adapts to both the needs of your garden and the patterns of local wildlife.


best plants repel deer rabbits

Wrapping up, the journey of using plants to keep deer and rabbits out of your garden is both a practical and a creative venture. We’ve seen how certain plants can send these critters packing, not with harsh methods, but with the gentle power of nature.

It’s clear that integrating plants with repellent qualities isn’t just about safeguarding your garden; it’s about working in harmony with the environment to create a space that’s welcoming for you, yet discouraging for unwanted guests.

Experimentation is key in this green endeavor. Each garden is as unique as its gardener, and finding the perfect mix of repellent plants might take a bit of trial and error. Remember, what deters in one zone might invite in another, so keep an eye on your garden’s specific visitors and adjust accordingly. It’s this personal touch that transforms gardening from a hobby into an art.

Beyond individual success, adopting such wildlife-friendly gardening practices speaks to a larger ethos of coexistence and respect for nature. By choosing plants that naturally deter deer and rabbits, we’re not only protecting our blooms and edibles but also promoting a balance with the local wildlife ecosystem. This approach reflects a deeper understanding and appreciation for the intricate web of life in our backyards.

So, here’s to the gardeners, the stewards of land small and large, who see their plots not just as spaces to cultivate plants, but as realms where humans and wildlife can cohabit peacefully. Here’s to creating gardens that flourish and inspire, grounded in the wisdom of nature and nurtured by the spirit of kindness and exploration. Let your garden be a testament to the beauty of balance and the power of plants.

Resources for Further Exploration

Embarking on a garden project, especially one that aims to harmoniously deter wildlife like deer and rabbits, is an adventure that often requires a wealth of knowledge and sometimes a bit of guidance.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking for new strategies or a beginner eager to start on the right foot, there are numerous resources available to deepen your understanding and refine your approach.

Here are some suggestions for readings, websites, and local resources to enhance your gardening journey.

Suggested Readings and Websites