Steer Deer Clear of Your Landscape

You can make your landscape look a little less inviting to deer with plants that offend their sensibilities. Deer sneer at plants that are aromatic, prickly or hairy, and plants with milky sap.

Grab a giant glass of iced tea before you head outside — San Antonio’s blazing hot summer is here! With the recent hot, dry weather, our lush gardens are looking more tempting than ever to our deer neighbors. Imagine your yard from their point of view — it may offer quite the spread!

You can make your landscape look a little less inviting to deer with plants that offend their sensibilities. Choose beautiful but aromatic, prickly or hairy plants. Deer will probably also take a hard pass on plants with milky sap.

Are all your “deer-resistant” plants still getting nibbled on? Keep in mind there are no plants that are 100 percent deer-proof and a hard summer may make them willing to eat something they’d otherwise avoid. Or, there may be a parade of deer just sampling your plants before deciding they’re gross.

Either way, here are a few plants deer will most likely turn their noses up at.

Rosemary: Plant this fragrant herb to eat yourself! Deer avoid it and it needs very little water once it’s established.
Gray santolina: Sometimes called lavender cotton, this lovely evergreen is aromatic and drought-tolerant.
Salvia: Autumn sage, mealy blue sage, cedar sage… lots of options for a colorful garden deer will avoid.
Damianita: Attract butterflies instead of deer with this fragrant, low water-use groundcover.

Get deer to step away from the garden with these select plants:

Agarita: Deer tend to leave this prickly native shrub alone. However, look for pollinators drawn to its fragrant yellow flowers in spring, followed later by songbirds eating its red berries.
Green sotol: Carefully choose a sunny spot for this sharp-edged sotol in your (hopefully) deer-free garden. Remember to consider its full size!
Cenizo: Drought-hardy, heat-tolerant, deer-resistant and gorgeous purple flowers, Cenizo is a San Antonio favorite for many reasons. Its hairy, silvery leaves are evergreen.
Milkweed: A popular choice for pollinator gardens, milkweeds attract butterflies, beetles, bees and many other pollinators. Milkweeds are poisonous and the milky sap can cause skin irritation.

These are just a few of the more than 200 deer-resistant plant options we recommend. Pay attention to which plants disappear quickly this summer, then when fall planting season rolls around, give these a try!

Picture of Sasha Kodet
Sasha Kodet
Sasha Kodet is a conservation planner whose large garden attracts a myriad of wildlife and curious neighbors with minimal water. At SAWS, Kodet develops outdoor programs to help people create their own beautiful, water-saving landscapes. She draws on her two decades of experience as a naturalist, botanical garden educator and event planner. Kodet enjoys (really) long walks in the woods and has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail.
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