Rosemary: Can You Use It to Repel Deer? Here’s How


Alert white-tailed buck feeding in the grasslands of Cade's Cove, Tennessee

No one wants to head outside in the morning to their garden or yard and find that their hard work has been seriously damaged by deer overnight.  Deer can cause damage to trees, shrubs, newly planted seeds, and seedlings. While there is no one definite way to deter deer, there are a few methods that have a good track record of deterring them. 

Deer have a strong sense of smell, which they use to find accessible food sources. While there isn’t scientific evidence that rosemary deters deer, the strong herbal scent and taste of rosemary doesn’t appeal to a deer. Rosemary can help mask other food sources on your property to repel deer.

Using herbs and plants is one of the most popular and effective ways to repel deer. One of the plants that repel deer? Rosemary.

In This Article

In this article, we will talk about why rosemary makes a great deer repellent, how you can use rosemary to repel deer in your yard, and some different options for implementing these herbal deer repellant techniques. We’ll also share some additional, non-plant options for repelling deer on your property!

What Smells Do Deer Hate The Most?

Deer hate the strong smell of many herbs that we often use in our cooking.  Many of the herbs that we like to cook with are too strong for a deers senses and can be planted as deer repellant.

While we may really enjoy the flavor and aromas of herbs like oregano, rosemary, sage, and peppermint, these herbs are too strong-smelling for deer.

Rosemary is one of the most pungent herbs available, and these plants emit a lot of aromatic oil that overwhelms a deer’s sense of smell.

When using herbs and plants for their smell, remember to place plants in areas where you have noticed deer walking, gathering, grazing, or rubbing their antlers. If deer happen to step on or disturb rosemary plants, the rosemary plant will release it’s oils and discourage deer from wanting to visit that area of your property.

If you’re interested, we wrote a guide on how to use the scents that deer hate here.

Why Does Rosemary Repel Deer? 

Deer use their sense of smell to detect anything in their environment that might be dangerous. Since they have poor eyesight, a deer’s sense of smell is heightened.

Because they rely so heavily on their sense of smell for protection, when you add a strong-smelling herb or plant such as rosemary to your property edges and entrances, deer will be more likely to avoid these spots because of the way the strong aroma disrupts their sense of smell.

When it comes to using smells to repel deer, there are two ways you can do this. One way is to introduce smells that are similar to a predator of a deer. Adding in urine from deer predators, such as coyotes, can repel deer. The second way is to bring in smells that interfere with a deer’s sense of smell, such as strong herbs and plants, like rosemary.

When you use rosemary around your yard, deer generally stay away because the strong smell rosemary can give off. This is why deer usually will shy away from areas that have strong aromas. Deer are unlikely to graze in an area where they cannot use their sense of smell properly as they need that defense mechanism on high alert while they are eating.

White-tailed deer buck standing in a meadow

Sometimes, you may need to keep deer away from your trees as males can rub their antlers on tree bark and ruin the tree. You can read our tips and tricks for keeping deer away from your trees here.

Does Rosemary Keep Deer Away?

To add a bit of efficacy here, in a piece published by Oregon State University, rosemary is listed as one of the scents that deer stay away from.

Thus, rosemary can be effective at keeping deer out of your yard or garden. The strong smell disturbs their sense of smell. Deer tend to avoid plants and areas that emit smells that either smell like predators or mask their sense of smell leaving them vulnerable to attacks.

Now, herbs can only be so effective. If you have one rosemary plant, it’s not likely to do much. If you have a full plant bed of rosemary, it can definitely have an affect but the results ALWAYS vary on a plethora of factors.

Do Deer Eat Rosemary?

No, deer to not typically eat rosemary which makes them a wonderful plant to have around if you are looking to repel deer. It is important to remember that planting rosemary is not a fool-proof method of repelling deer. For example, in a situation where a deer is starving, they will eat just about anything, including a plant that they would usually avoid.

How to Use Rosemary to Repel Deer

Now that you have chosen to use rosemary alone or along with other deer-resistant plants to repel deer, you will want to take a few steps to place them most effectively around your property.

Deer tend to repeat the same patterns when visiting a property, so check out the areas that seem to enter your yard. This is where you will want to start placing rosemary plants to repel deer.

Having potted rosemary is convenient because you can move these pots depending on the patterns you observe with the deer that are visiting your yard. You can tuck pots of rosemary in among other bushes or hedges to add an extra repellent smell.

Using potted rosemary to repel deer is a good method that works well with a deer’s behavior patterns. Deer tend to stay away from new things but can adapt to new patterns. So if you place rosemary at the most obvious entrance spots to your yard this may work for a time, but then the deer may eventually find a new way to enter.

Having the rosemary in pots allows you to easily rotate where the rosemary plants live in and around your borders so you can stay one step ahead of deer.

How to Use Rosemary Oil to Repel Deer  

One of the main benefits of using rosemary oil to repel deer over actual plants is that you can utilize a more concentrated scent and thus, increase your chance for success.

There are two popular ways to use rosemary oil to repel deer in your yard. You may want to introduce both methods into your yard or try one at a time to see if you can notice which one is more effective for your specific property and environment.

The first method is to create a natural deer repellant using essential oils in a spray form. Simply combine 10 drops of rosemary oil into a 16-ounce bottle of vinegar. Shake well and spray where you need to keep deer out. You can also split the oil amount between two oils, like half mint and half rosemary. Both of these essential oils are very strong and commonly used to repel deer.

A DIY spray recipe works double duty as it combines the strong smell of rosemary with a vinegar base, which is another odor that deer do not like. Even when dry, vinegar gives off a smell that is very unpleasant to many animals, including deer.

Spraying areas in your yard with strong scented essential oils like peppermint can an effective method of repelling deer. This method does require some maintenance as the areas will need to be treated repeatedly especially after rain as the oil will get washed away.

The second method of using essential oils to repel deer is to soak cotton balls in rosemary oil and place them around your property where you notice deer are hanging around. You can tuck these oil-soaked cotton balls in potted plants and at the root of bushes so that they emit a smell in that area. Just like with spraying oils, you will need to swap out old cotton balls with newly soaked ones especially after periods of rain.

Additionally, you can also use peppermint oil to repel deer too.

Other Natural Ways to Repel Deer

In addition to planting rosemary or using rosemary oil to repel deer, there are a few other things you can do to help keep deer at bay on your property. Because no two properties are alike, it’s best to keep trying different methods until you find the one that works best for you.

White-tailed deer buck standing in a meadow

If you’re looking for more in-depth ways to repel deer, check out our guide on the best natural deer repellents here.

Build a Deer Repellent Fence

Building a deer fence a popular option to help keep deer out of your property, but it can get pricey depending on the size of land you want to enclose. Depending on how you want to tackle the issue, you can buy deer fencing kits, or you can call a professional to install deer fencing on your property. When deciding on whether to DIY or hire someone, compare upfront pricing as well as the time it will take to do the project yourself.

Using Wireless or Electric Deer Fencing

Using wireless or electric fencing another option you can consider if plant deterrents are not working for you or you want to try another added layer of protection. There are a few different options if you are considering deer fencing for your property.

A popular option is to install temporary or semi-permanent electric fencing that is similar to heavy-duty netting. This is a good option (if allowed in your local town) that can be moved around depending on the habits of the deer who are around your property.

Use Multi-Level Landscaping

using multi-level landscaping is another method of deterring deer. Some people find that planting and landscaping their yards on different levels is effective at keeping deer away. Deer like flat, even ground to graze and run in and are deterred by multi-level areas and will not likely choose to try and eat from this type of landscape.

That’s a Wrap!

Let’s look back at a few important things to remember when it comes to using rosemary to keep deer at bay. 

First, if you use plants, try and put them in areas where you know deer have been hanging around. While the deer walk around the rosemary plants, they will disturb the leaves and release the strong-smelling oils from the plant.

If you use a DIY spray of rosemary oil and vinegar or a store-bought deer repellant spray, you will want to spray it in all of the areas where deer linger or try to enter your property. Also remember to spray on the regular, especially after it rains so that the scent remains strong and effective. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is to mix things up a bit when you are using plants and oils to keep deer out of your yard. While deer are creatures of habit, they will change and adapt once they recognize a pattern of repellant you have set up.

Here is a a list from Penn State Cooperative Extension of Monroe that contains all of the deer-resistant plants that you can use to further ensure that deer will avoid your property.

Keep this list as a reference when you are planting your garden for the season so you can incorporate these plants into your garden and yard plans to help you repel deer. Damage from deer is very specific to each property so the more options you have in your back pocket to work with, the more likely you are to effectively repel deer away from your property.

As with most things, no two gardens, yards, or climates are exactly alike so your best bet for minimizing damage to your plants and property from deer is to keep trying these different methods until you find one or more that work for you. 

References

Ober, Holly K., Cheryl L. Mackowiak, and Ann R. Soffes Blount. “Temporary Food Plot Deterrents for Deer: Do They Work?.” EDIS 2016.3 (2020): 4-4.

Gegner, Lance E. Deer control options. ATTRA, 2000.

Roper, R. Blake, and Edward P. Hill. “An evaluation of visual and auditory electronic devices to repel deer.” (1985).

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