Do Deer Eat Lavender? Does it Attract or Repel Deer?

Thinking of planting some lavender but aren't sure if it will attract or repel deer from your garden this season? In this article, gardening expert and former lavender farmer Logan Hailey examines if Lavender keeps deer away, or if you will be providing them another food source in your garden.

do deer eat lavender

Anyone living in a forested or rural area may fear losing their garden crops to hungry wildlife. Deer can destroy a vegetable garden or flower patch in an incredibly short amount of time. But what about lavender? Is this garden plant known to repel or attract deer? Will deer eat lavender if it’s in your garden?

Certain plants repel herbivores with natural compounds in their leaves or flowers. If you’re looking for deer-resistant plants, lavender could be your new favorite garden herb. Not only is beautiful and low-maintenance, but it has a show-stopping fragrance that has been used for thousands of years to keep pests away.

So, do deer eat lavender? The short answer is no, but let’s dig into why deer won’t eat lavender and how to use it to deter animals from your garden. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!

The Short Answer

All kinds of lavender (Lavandula spp.) are deer resistant. Deer tend to steer clear because it has a strong taste and fragrance that repel them from the area. The fuzzy leaves and aromatic flowers naturally deter other wild animals and pests as well. For this reason, lavender is often planted on the borders of gardens to help ward off hungry predators from your more sensitive plants.

The Long Answer

Deer do not typically eat or damage lavender shrubs due to the high essential oil content of the plant. While they may take an occasional nibble on the herb, it is very rare and unlikely to cause any damage.

It’s often used as a protective guardian to repel deer from eating other more susceptible plants like flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Let’s dig in and take a deeper look at the reasons why it’s so effective.

Why Deer Don’t Like Lavender

Purple flowering bushes bloom on field
This hardy perennial has a strong scent that repels deer.

The main reason why deer avoid lavender is because of the fragrance in the flowers and foliage. A terpene compound called linalool contributes to the strong scent of the plant, making it naturally pest-repellant and deer-deterrent (yet attractive to humans).

You can also find linalool in oregano, thyme, and basil. This key constituent in lavender’s distinctive essential oil is widely used as a fragrance in perfumes, household cleaners, and other products.

Does it Keep Deer Away?

deer walking in the flower field
This scented perennial creates a fragrant barrier to keep deer away from your garden.

Cottage gardeners and old-time farmers have historically used fragrant perennials like lavender to screen deer out of their gardens or fields. This can be a cheaper and more beautiful alternative to fencing.

Because deer are sensitive to the smell, they tend to keep their distance. Even when it’s not flowering, its foliage has a naturally musky, camphor smell that makes them turn their nose (literally!)

You can also interplant with more desirable landscape plants like hostas that deer tend to eat. Daylilies and Arborvitae are also other companion plant options. Interplanted lavender will help confuse deer and keep them away.

The Native Plant Society of Texas cleverly calls this method “Camouflage Gardening” because it creates a “scent barrier” that hides your edible plants within the fragrance of lavender.

While this method isn’t as dependable as creating a “lavender wall” along the garden border, it can still be effective for making your landscape more deer-resistant.

Planting as a Protective Barrier

Shrubs growing in a garden as a border
You can plant shrubs close together as a border.

The easiest way to utilize lavender as a protector in the garden is to simply plant the shrubs at a dense spacing like a border around your garden. This is especially useful in un-fenced areas that border a large field or forest.

This barrier will not only be a dazzling floral display, but it will act as a companion plant by repelling bugs, deer, rabbits, raccoons, and other pests from your crops.

Because it is a low-maintence perennial, it will continue doing its job for years to come, only requiring seasonal pruning and (if desired) a floral harvest.

How to Create a Deer Repelling Hedge

  1. Notice where deer are entering your garden.
  2. Prioritize high-access areas like outer edges and entrances.
  3. Choose large varieties (avoid dwarfs).
  4. You want the maximum collective fragrance and size.
  5. We love ‘Provence’, ‘Grosso’, and ‘Hidcote Giant’.
  6. Learn more about the best varieties for your region.
  7. If desired, incorporate other deer-resistant herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  8. Form a botanical “fence line” by planting adjacent to each other.
  9. You want to plant in a bulk installation of 5 or more shrubs.
  10. Don’t forget to properly prepare the well-drained soil conditions that lavender loves.
  11. Maintain at least 2 feet between each plant.
  12. This way they can grow to their fullest potential while merging for a hedge.
  13. In the first year, begin pruning in the shape of a hedge.
  14. Use this guide on How to Prune Lavender if you aren’t sure how to.
  15. Passively maintain the hedge for years to come.

Deer-Resistant Companions

Yellow yarrow grows in a lavender field
Yarrow is a great companion plant, as it can also repel deer.

If you want to create a larger “camouflage garden” or landscaped border of deer-resistant plants, there are several perennials that will gladly grow alongside lavender for the ultimate deer-repelling garden installation.

Some of these plants are actually poisonous to deer, while others simply have a strong odor or essential oil that causes a similar reaction.

Try planting these deer-repelling plants with lavender:

  • Foxgloves
  • Cenutry plants
  • Larkspur
  • Narcissuss and daffodils
  • Lupine
  • Datura
  • Night-blooming jasmine
  • Two-leaved senna
  • Comfrey
  • Texas bluebonnet
  • Nicotiana
  • Yarrow

The key to interplanting is ensuring proper spacing for each plant to grow into its full glory. These companion flowers not only diversify your garden’s protection from deer but add a seriously beautiful splash of color and texture.

Protecting Lavender From Deer Trampling

deer in flower field
To prevent deer from trampling young shrubs, use temporary metal fabrics or plastic fencing.

Although deer won’t eat your lavender, they can still damage young shrubs by trampling over them in search of more edible plants. If deer are a serious issue in your garden, you may want to protect young plants with a temporary barrier of hardware cloth or plastic fencing wrapped in a cylinder-shape around the plant (similar to a tree protector).

You can also use animal repellants like coyote urine or blood meal sprinkled around the border of a new planting. Once the shrubs are robust and established, it’s far less likely that deer will go through the trouble of trampling over them. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lavender poisonous to deer?

Lavender is not technically poisonous to deer the way that foxgloves or datura are. However, we know that the pungent odor of the herb is repulsive to them and they are very unlikely to eat it. Though they may try a nibble in times of food scarcity, deer quickly learn that the plant is not edible.

What kind of lavender keeps deer away?

All varieties of lavender (Lavandula spp.) are deer-resistant. Cultivars with the highest essential oil content are likely the most effective deer-repellant because their flowers have the strongest odor. English lavender and Lavandin hybrids are known for their perfumey blooms. However, even French and Spanish lavenders can keep deer at bay with their sage-like foliage and camphor smell.

Are certain varieties better than others as repellents?

As mentioned prior, different varieties are scented a bit differently. The varieties with the most noticeable smell are Lavindin, which are hybrids. English Lavender is a close second. If you stick with any of these varieties, you should get the deer repellent properties you are looking for.

Final Thoughts

Now that you you know deer aren’t big fans of lavender, you can get to planting some in your garden this season! Remember that not all varieties are suited for every climate. You’ll want to pick the right type for your geographic location and climate. Cold friendly varieties won’t survive as well as areas with intense heat or drought.

Once you’ve decided which variety to plant, this low maintenance perennial can help keep the deer away for many growing seasons to come!

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