The short answer is yes, catmint will help deter deer from your garden if planted out as a border or along edges of flower beds where they might like to munch.
Some people report mixed results with catmint because deer have a big appetite but are actually not very bright when it comes to plants.
Some plants are deer resistant because they don’t taste good to the animals. Others, like catmint or yarrow, simply have physical features that make them difficult for hungry deer to eat.
That’s why many gardeners use these plants; plus a few simple tricks; as their primary weapon against deer damage in the landscape.
Why Do Catmints Deter Deer?
When hypersensitive Deer come in contact with catmint, there’s a chance of skin irritation.
Here’s why: Catmint is popularly known to contain essential oils which may affect the Deer if consumed in high quantities. If the Deer has existing bowel or liver disease, they can develop complications after consuming catmint.
Do all Perennials deter Deer?
Catmint is a deer-resistant perennial that can grow to be 2 feet tall, depending on the variety. It has gray-green leaves and small blue flowers that appear throughout summer. The leaves are typically quite fragrant as well as the blooms of the plant.
Many people consider it an invasive weed due to its fast growth and wide reach of the area covered by its leaves, but few plants protect themselves better against deer than this one does.
Grow catmint for many other uses than just making your feline curl up on it: cut back new shoots and plant them in your garden, or dry out the plant and use the leaves to make tea.
Deer can be selective eaters and many plants contain chemicals or other ingredients that deter them from eating the leaves, flowers, and stems of certain plants.
If you have noticed less deer damage on your catmint this year than last year, then that would indicate that your catmint has developed such deterrents.
The downside to this is that sometimes deer will not eat plants with deterrents. This is because they don’t know what causes their flavor change (similarly to how humans often don’t like bitter foods).
So even though the plant doesn’t taste bad, the deer won’t eat it and the plant won’t receive pollinator attention like it otherwise would if deer were eating it.
Catmint (nepeta) and other plants in the mint family aren’t as good at creating these deterrents, so they tend to be more susceptible to deer damage.
Does catmint contain compounds that naturally repel deer?
What about yarrow (Achillea millefolium)?
The plant has been specifically identified as a deer-resistant perennial. However, it can become invasive. It can spread rapidly on its own through underground runners or self-seeding.
They may not be your first choice for planting along borders where you want an attractive but low- to the no-maintenance landscape.
Another possible deer deterrent with catmint is the fact that the plant has a strong aroma that humans may find unpleasant.
Yarrow has a ferny, lacy appearance and also emits an unpleasant odor to deter hungry deer from eating it as well as chewing other plants in your border to oblivion.
How to Grow Catmint Plant
Choose lower growing cultivars of either plant so they don’t reach more than about 1 foot tall.
Taller varieties can serve as a bit of a natural trellis or provide additional structure in a mixed border planting. Avoid using large cultivars which could make these low-growing perennials seem even less appetizing to deer because they will tower over their heads.
Plant deer-resistant perennials such as yarrow, catmint, and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) along the border of your yard and garden where they can serve as living fences.
When planted about 18 to 24 inches apart, these low-growing plants will create a barrier between deer and any nearby desirable plants that you wish to protect from browsing.
If you prefer an attractive solution for borders rather than screens, consider planting smaller shrubs such as potential bar (Potentilla spp.), berry (Berberis spp.), or cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) in front of taller deer-resistant perennials like yarrow and catmint.
While not every method has been tested, those outlined here have been shown to help reduce deer damage in the landscape.
Can catmint and or yarrow be planted as a border or around a garden for deer? I am not sure whether they are deer resistant or not. Thank you for your article! Reply Delete
Catmint is said to be deer resistant but it certainly does not repel them from an area where it has taken over. Yarrow also is supposed to be deer resistant but I find there are few plants that will keep the attention of hungry browsing deer.
Here are 5 ways to use your catmint plant to keep the deer away.
1). Plant Catmint at Home and Work
Deer have an incredible sense of smell, which they rely on for finding food, avoiding predators, and identifying their own territories.
They’re not only very sensitive to scents but also very directional – meaning if they smell a certain odor coming from somewhere in their surroundings it’s almost always coming from one particular direction.
That allows you to utilize this fact to protect areas around your home or workplace that are particularly susceptible to deer damage by placing dried or fresh catmint foliage there…preferably near entry spots where the deer tend to “enter” your property.
Since their sense of smell will lead them to the source of that smell, they’ll encounter it as soon as possible and most likely go around it – thus protecting your landscape from browsing damage.
2). Catmint Pouches
Another way to use catmint with deer is to make a pouch out of netting or other fabric and place dried catmint leaves inside of it, with additional dry foliage hanging from below for easy access.
These pouches can be hung from tree branches near entry spots where deer are most active at dusk and dawn…or any other time you see them visiting your landscape. The scent should drive them away or otherwise discourage their presence in those areas.
You can also scatter some of the dried foliage directly on the ground beneath the pouches, which can work especially well in large areas like lawns.
3). “Deer Away” Spray
You can also make up a spray using catmint essential oil – simply take some dried or fresh leaves and place them in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes to extract their fragrance, then allow the mixture to cool – adding more or less water as needed until you have ½ gallon total.
Strain out the leaves and store this liquid in an airtight container away from heat, preferably refrigerated since it’s not pasteurized (pasteurizing would reduce its effectiveness).
Mix this liquid with 1-quart pure soap which contains no additives other than those required for processing.
Then strain this mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any solids, and add enough water to make one gallon in total.
Spray the entire area where deer are active – flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. This “Deer Away” spray should be applied when it is overcast or during the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are low and there is no direct sunlight present.
Apply every 2 weeks until the deer stop browsing your plant life, then once per month to keep them from returning.
4). Catmint Spray Protection for Plants
You can also use catmint leaves to protect other plants you want to discourage the deer from eating…simply place dried leaves around these plants and at their base so they will be in contact with the plant’s trunk or stem.
The deer won’t like this scent and will most likely leave your plants alone – but you’ll want to refresh the leaves every couple of weeks since they tend to dry out and fade away after that time period.
5). Plant Catmint as a Landscape Addition
Plant catmint in areas throughout your landscape where you want it…but especially in corners, near entry spots, at fence lines where deer are likely to enter your property, along hedges, beneath trees, and other plants where deer hang out.
Basically anywhere you’ve experienced damage due to deer browsing. However, make sure it is planted somewhere you really want it. This is because once established it can spread very easily via underground roots that send up new shoots. This means you may need to control it in order to keep it from growing out of control.
Catmint is a member of the mint family, so it can be planted with other members of this family for their own protection. Catnip, lemon balm, motherwort, bergamot are all great plants to have in your garden because they are deer-resistant companions for catmint.
The species that is believed to provide the best defense against deer is white or blue flowering catmint (Nepeta spp.), which grows quickly and easily at any time of year. It’s native across most of North America except for California.
The flowers grow only on new growth each year, so prune back older portions after the blooming season has passed. Red or pink flowering catmint (Nepeta spp.) has also been recommended for its deer resistance.
The best time to plant catmint is in midsummer, after the last expected frost of spring but before killing frosts of fall.
Planting it in a location that gets at least 4 hours of sun each day will help with growth and reduce leaf damage from deer or other animals and insects.
Catmint can be planted alone or in groups and does well when trimmed back several times during summer months, according to the Pennsylvania State University Extension.
It can be used as a perennial groundcover, but beware: it grows quickly and not only repels deer; many gardeners consider it an invasive weed.
Catmint is a beautiful flower, but deer really don’t love its leaves. Fortunately, there are many ways you can use this plant to keep deer from damaging your landscape and the flowers they so often devour.
At least minimize their effects on those areas.
So consider using catmint as a beneficial addition to your landscape and getting more enjoyment out of it without letting the deer ruin your fun.