20 Best Deer Resistant Herbs 🌿 (The Ultimate Guide)

If you live in an area with a deer population, you know how frustrating it can be to have your garden ravaged by these hungry herbivores. Deer can destroy a garden in no time, munching away at vegetables, flowers, and herbs. While no plant is 100% deer-proof, there are many deer resistant herbs that deer tend to avoid. Growing deer-resistant herbs is one of the best ways to protect your garden from deer damage.

Avoid deer damage by growing strong-smelling, bitter, fuzzy, or spiky herbs like rosemary, lavender, catnip, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, and many more. Use these deer resistant herbs to create mixed borders, companion plantings, or aromatic hedges around vegetables and flowers.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore why deer avoid certain herbs, the top deer resistant herbs to grow, and how to design and care for a deer-resistant garden.

The Best Deer Resistant Herbs

Here are some of the top herb varieties known to deter deer. Consider incorporating these into your garden design.

1. Lavender

deer resistant herbs - lavender

With its ultra-potent fragrance and flavonoids like linalool, lavender is one of the best deer-resistant herbs. The aromatic oils in the leaves and flowers deter deer year-round. Grow lavender on the borders, walkways, or near vegetables. It also attracts pollinators!

2. Rosemary

Another pungent Mediterranean herb, rosemary‘s pine-like scent repels deer and rabbits. The stiff, needle-like foliage is also unappealing. An added benefit – deer hate brushing against its prickly branches! Use upright rosemary varieties as aromatic hedges.

3. Sage

Sage’s camphor fragrance and fuzzy, felt-like leaves make it very deer resistant. An evergreen perennial, the sage keeps its aroma and texture even in winter when deer are hungry. Plus, the flowers are edible!

4. Oregano

Oregano has a zesty, potent flavor thanks to thymol and carvacrol. This warm-season herb can be grown as an annual or perennial depending on your climate. The pungent scent drives deer away. Use sprawling oregano as a fragrant groundcover.

5. Thyme

Another aromatic, low-growing mint relative, thyme’s scent and flavor keep deer at bay. There are many ornamental thymes beyond garden thyme. Include thyme in rock gardens, walkways, herb spirals, or along stone walls as deer deterrents.

6. Mint

With over 20 known species, the mint family offers many choices like peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint, catmint, and more. Mint’s recognizable aroma masks other plants from deer. Just beware of mint’s spreading growth habit.

7. Chives

These onion relatives emit a strong scent when crushed or cut back. The vertical grass-like leaves also provide an unfavorable texture. Use chives as an edging plant around flower and vegetable beds. The purple blooms are a bonus.

8. Catnip

While cats love catnip, deer hate it! The essential oil nepetalactone gives catnip its odor. Plant catmint as a groundcover or border plant to repel deer. You’ll also attract pollinators to its flowers.

9. Yarrow

A medicinal herb and flower, as stated by the University of Florida, yarrow contains chemical compounds that deter deer like Achilleine. Fern-like foliage gives it an unappetizing texture for deer too. Yarrow is also drought tolerant once established.

10. Bee Balm

With its minty aroma, bee balm (Monarda) helps mask other plants from deer. The shaggy leaves and prickly flower heads also discourage nibbling. Grow bee balm to attract pollinators too!

11. Borage

Also known as starflower, borage is an annual herb with prickly foliage that deters deer. The cucumber-flavored leaves and beautiful blue flowers are edible and attract pollinators. Borage thrives in poor, dry soil.

12. German Chamomile

The daisy-like flowers and strong scent of German chamomile help repel deer. Chamomile tea offers many medicinal benefits for humans, while the pretty white flowers attract beneficial insects.

13. Sweet Woodruff

A perennial groundcover, sweet woodruff has an aroma reminiscent of freshly mown hay. The whorls of small white flowers flourish in shade. Crush some Sweet Woodruff leaves to release the deterring scent.

14. Wormwood

With its intense herbal fragrance and silvery foliage, wormwood keeps most herbivores away. Artemisinin derived from wormwood has medicinal uses. Grow this drought-tolerant perennial in poor, well-drained soil.

15. Germander

Also called wall germander, this semi-evergreen subshrub has thick, hairy leaves that deer dislike. It thrives in poor chalky soil. Use hedge germander for aromatic hedges or low borders.

16. Anise Hyssop

With its licorice-scented leaves and purple flower spikes, anise hyssop is avoided by deer. It attracts bees and hummingbirds. Grow this herbaceous perennial in full sun and well-drained soil.

17. Fennel

The anise-flavored fennel herb and its edible bulbs are left alone by deer. Dill-like yellow flowers attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects. Fennel spreads readily in sunny sites with fertile soil.

18. Rue

An aromatic, deer resistant perennial, rue has blue-green foliage and small yellow flowers. It thrives in hot, sunny areas with average to poor drainage. Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling, as rue can cause skin irritation.

19. Southernwood

Also called lad’s love, this perennial woody herb has fragrant, lacey gray-green leaves. Tiny yellow button flowers bloom in summer. Southernwood prefers full sun and dry, well-drained soil.

20. Tansy

The pungent aroma and toxicity of tansy make it deer resistant. This hardy perennial has fern-like leaves and round yellow button flowers. Use tansy sparingly in borders due to its spreading habit.

Why Do Deer Avoid Certain Herbs?

Deer have a very strong sense of smell, with millions of olfactory receptors: much more than a human. Many herbs contain potent essential oils, antioxidants, and terpenes that produce strong aromas unpleasant to deer. Herbs in the mint, sage, onion, and rosemary families are especially aromatic.

Deer also dislike the texture of plants with fuzzy, hairy, prickly, or leathery leaves. Mint, sage, stinging nettle, and lamb’s ear have textures deer find unpleasant.

Finally, deer tend to avoid bitter, spicy, or toxic plants like yarrow, foxglove, and horseradish.

Other Factors That Influence Deer Resistant Herbs

While deer generally avoid pungent, fuzzy herbs, other factors influence their behavior including:

  • Population density – High densities mean more competition for food
  • Weather/season – Drought and winter lead to scarce food sources
  • Habitat quality – Deer in poor habitats will eat more plants
  • Individual tastes – Some deer are pickier than others

There are no absolute guarantees when it comes to deer-resistant plants. However, by understanding deer behavior and preferences, we can tilt the odds in our favor.

Designing With Deer Resistant Herbs

When designing your garden layout, use these techniques with deer resistant herbs:

Perimeter Plantings

Create mixed borders and hedges with herbs like lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme around the outer edges of your yard or garden. This masks the scent of plants inside and blocks physical access.


Interplant low growing herbs like thyme, oregano, and chives in and around vegetable rows and flower beds. The herbs break up open space and mask the scent of other plants.

Entryway Plantings

Use potted herbs or garden beds near gates or entry points deer use. This distracts them from venturing in further. Try creating a sensory explosion with lavender, sage, mint, and more.

Containers & Raised Beds

Plant herbs in pots or raised beds near plants susceptible to deer damage. Elevated beds also protect herbs from being trampled by deer.

Caring for Your Deer Resistant Herbs

Here are some top tips for growing healthy deer resistant herbs:

  • Provide full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Cut back herbs by 1/3 throughout the season to encourage new growth.
  • Grow herbs from seed, cuttings, divisions, or transplants.
  • Water herbs consistently until established, then reduce watering.
  • Apply slow-release organic fertilizer at the start of spring.
  • Harvest often! Regular pruning encourages growth and oil production.
  • Mulch herbs in cold winter climates for added insulation.
  • Replace short-lived perennials like lavender, yarrow, and bee balm as needed.


Growing the best deer resistant herbs is one of the best ways to protect your garden from hungry herbivores. Herbs in the mint, onion, rosemary, and sage families contain strong scents, flavors, and textures that deter deer. Incorporate lavender, catnip, oregano, rosemary, thyme and other herbs throughout your garden.

Perimeter plantings, interplanting with vegetables and flowers, entryway gardens, and containers planted with these herbs create a sensory deterrent. With smart design choices and proper care focused on full sun and drainage, a flourishing deer-resistant herb garden is easy to achieve.

I hope that you enjoyed this comprehensive guide about the most deer resistant herbs for your yard. Happy gardening!