Do Deer Eat Peonies?

Pinterest Hidden Image

It can be hard to keep hungry deer out of your garden, and for the most part, it’s easier to plant deer-resistant plants than to try to keep deer away. 

Mostly, deer do not like to eat plants with a strong, sharp odor or intense flavor, so it’s smart to choose strongly scented, deer-resistant plants, such as peonies, to avoid giving deer too much temptation. 

Peonies and DeerPin

Even so, if a deer is hungry, it will eat peonies and other less favored plants. 

In this article, we will discuss the plants deer like and dislike and provide good tips to help you choose deer-resistant plants for your yard and garden. Read on to learn more. 

What Plants Will Deer Eat?

A deer must eat between five and ten pounds of vegetation daily, and they aren’t especially picky about it. 

Deer enjoy all sorts of vegetation and fibrous plant matter, including: 

  • Vegetables
  • Flowers
  • Lichens
  • Acorns
  • Berries
  • Leaves
  • Fruits
  • Fungi
  • Grass
  • Bark
  • Nuts

They prefer food sources that are not close to human habitation, so one way to keep them out of your flowerbeds is to dispose of yard and garden trimmings in brush piles at the edges of your property so that they can nibble in peace and get their fill. 

What Plants Do Deer Prefer? 

Deer tend to prefer herbaceous perennials and shrubs, and planting these in your yard will attract them. Their favorites include: 

  • Rhododendrons
  • Hostas
  • Apples
  • Roses
  • Yews

If you do have some of these deer favorites in your yard, you can counter their effect by bordering them with some plants that deer dislike.

What Plants Do Deer Dislike? 

In addition to peonies, deer also dislike many other plants and herbs with strong scents. Bordering your property and flower and veggie beds with intensely scented plants may help keep deer out. 

Examples include:

  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Bearded Iris
  • Barrenwort
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Marigolds
  • Rosemary
  • Boxwood
  • Santolina
  • Fritillaries
  • Bee Balm
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Barberry
  • Peonies
  • Chives
  • Allium
  • Salvia 
  • Sage

…to name a few. Most strong-smelling plants are unattractive to deer, but as noted, if they are hungry, they will eat them anyway. 

This is all the more reason to leave yard and garden trimmings in out-of -the way brush piles that deer can consume in peace. 

Do Deer Always Eat The Same Things?

Deer have extremely variable palates. They are opportunists and will eat what they can get. Therefore, their favorite foods change with the seasons, locations, and availability. 

For example, if deer are hungry in winter, they will eat whatever presents itself. If they move from one area to another, they will eat what they find along the way. If they have lost a food source they have counted upon, they will replace it with whatever they can find. 

This is why some gardeners can successfully keep deer away from valuable plantings by providing deer with lawn and garden trimmings, as mentioned. 

Some even plant a “junk” garden consisting of yard and garden outcasts so that deer can forage. There are also easy-to-grow deer forage seed mixes that can be planted in an out-of-the-way corner. 

If deer can satisfy themselves without getting into your yard and close to your house, they will. 

How Can You Be Sure Your Peonies Won’t Be Eaten By Deer?

If you are just considering planting peonies, you may want to consult with your neighbors to see if they have had good luck keeping them safe from deer. 

If you find deer have a history of eating peonies in your neighborhood, but you still want to plant them, try putting them near your house (especially near your door) so that deer will not feel quite so safe eating them. 

Surround your peonies (and other plants you wish to protect) with smelly, thorny plants, such as those on our “dislike” list above. 

Provide an acceptable forage source for deer far away from your peonies. 

Will A Fence Keep Deer Out? 

Deer can jump very high, so for the most part, a fence will not keep very hungry deer out. A fence that contains a dog is another matter. A good watchdog will keep deer out of your yard.

Interestingly, fencing laid on its side to form a barrier around areas where you wish to keep deer out may be more effective than installed fencing. 

This is because deer don’t like walking on fencing lying on the ground, and they cannot see where the fencing ends, so they are less likely to jump over it. 

Are There Repellents To Keep Deer Away? 

Many commercial repellents are intended to keep deer away. These are usually concocted using the urine of common deer predators, such as coyotes or bobcats. Incidentally, human urine is also quite repellent to deer. 

Strong-smelling soap (e.g., Irish Spring) is also said to be deer repellent. Some gardeners hang half bars of strongly scented soap in net bags in the bushes to keep deer away. 

If You Live In A Woodland Area, Deer Will Come

Deer are present in most suburban and rural areas, and if you live in a wooded area, deer are part of the woodland experience. So you can be quite sure they will visit your yard. 

If you stand against them, you will stand against them forever. You will never entirely prevent them from visiting your yard and nibbling on your plants.

In this writer’s personal experience, adding an acceptable source of forage is the most successful way to prevent deer from eating landscape and garden plants. 

By planning your yard and garden carefully, using peonies and other plants less attractive to deer, and adding a forage source, you can prevent deer from doing a lot of damage. 

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.