Simple and cheap tips for preventing deer & rabbits from eating your plants

slivers of soap
Recycle your slivers of soap. Set them around the plants in your garden to help prevent deer and rabbits from bothering your plants. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You can never have too many tips for keeping deer and rabbits away from our plants. Even if we find something that works, the animals often get used to that technique and we have to try something else.

Here are a bunch of tips. One is from me, but the rest are ones that local gardeners have shared with me.

(These tips are often shared in quick conversations, so I often don’t have the name of the person who gave me the tip. I apologize for not being able to credit each gardener, but I do appreciate their help!)


We’ve talked before about how soap can keep deer away from your plants. But you don’t have to go out and buy a bar of soap to use in your garden.

Recycle those slivers left over from bars of soap, or especially from decorative soaps.

I love those pretty little soaps, and I actually use them to wash my hands. But when the soap starts out so small, before you know it, the soap is too small to grip.

When it’s our everyday deodorant soap that gets too small to hold, my husband mashes the old sliver into a fresh bar.

I’m certainly not going to do that with a pretty decorative soap!

wire protecting clematis from rabbits in Lancaster NY
It’s hard to see the wire mesh that protects this clematis from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

But we don’t need to throw those slivers away. Save them up and set them around your plants. Especially if they have a strong scent, they should help keep critters away.

Here’s an even better tip for soap that I got from another gardener. She suggested taking those slivers and threading them on a string. You can hang them high in a shrub that a deer is chomping on or hang them above shorter plants.

Air freshener on a dowel

Another gardener suggested using solid Renuzit air freshener. She said the container has a dimple on the bottom so you can set it on top of a dowel or stick. She situates it in her garden so the air freshener is above her hostas or whatever plant the deer are bothering. When the deer bend over to browse, they encounter smell of the air freshener, which they don’t like, and will back off.

Place mint around targeted plants

This tip also uses scent to keep deer away from the plants deer love. Another gardener said she plants mint around daylilies to protect her flowers.

Wire mesh

This summer, Ron Krebs of Lancaster told us how he filled his landscape with trees and shrubs he picked out of the trash. Today he shares two tips on how he deals with rabbits.

The first tip is how Krebs uses wire mesh to protect his clematis. In the spring, the clematis would grow waist high, then the leaves and stems would be dead. When he investigated, he saw the stems had been snapped off at the bottom by rabbits. Rabbits don’t especially like clematis, but the baby rabbits don’t know what is good to eat, so they chomp on everything, he said. To protect the plant, he installed wire mesh. It’s not very noticeable.

Parrot cage

You can use barriers around a plant that you hope people won’t notice, and you can use barriers that are decorative as well. In his second tip, Krebs shows how a barrier can be attractive. Krebs had morning glories that kept getting nibbled by rabbits. He put the plant inside a old decorative parrot cage.

parrot cage protects plant from rabbits
A decorative parrot cage can be used to protect a plant from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Old cassette tapes

Use old cassette tapes, suggested another gardener. Pull out the tape and string it around your garden. It will reflect the sunlight, sending out flashes that the deer don’t like.

This is a great way to use something that might otherwise find its way into a landfill, too.

Plastic forks on sticks

Attach plastic forks to sticks or dowels, tine side up, and set them around a new plant, said another gardener. When the deer bends down to eat the plant, the tines of the fork poke the deer.

You can find more tips elsewhere on At right, under Popular Topics, click on Pests & Weeds. In addition to tips on deer and rabbits, you’ll see articles about plant diseases, harmful insects and invasive plants as well as tips on other critters such as herons, squirrels and cats.

Above the Popular Topics, you’ll see the Search box. If you’re looking for something more specific, type “deer” or “rabbits” or another search word into the search box. After typing your search word, hit enter.

Do you have a favorite tips on dealing with critters in your garden? Please leave a comment below.

















16 Comments on “Simple and cheap tips for preventing deer & rabbits from eating your plants

  1. Much appreciated tips and information to deter deer. I have recently been told by nursery sales that Barberry shrubbery is no longer available. This has been placed on the NYS DEC list of banned plant material as an invasive planting. I have used this shrubbery with great results to keep deer away from my gardens and now that I am moving to a new build wanted to replicate this type of planting. Do you have any suggestions that would be alternative plants? I used the crimson pygmy and chartreuse for both color and variation. Thank you for any suggestions.

  2. The soap of choice for the deer and rabbits in my area is Irish Spring which is very strong and is only a dollar at the dollar store.

  3. I use hot sprinkling pepper (as is used in Italian restaurants) that I purchase in bulk from the Commission Market (Willow Brook Farms) on the corner of Clinton and Bailey and/or I plant very hot peppers near the plants to be protected and when the very hot peppers are ripe, with gloves and a knife or scissors, I put slits in the sides of the peppers and distribute the peppers among the plants.

  4. Pat, I grew hot peppers one year and got more than I could actually use in cooking. I sliced the peppers into rings and actually looped them onto a plant that the rabbits were eating. That seemed to work a little better than just scattering them on the ground. Garlic is used in some sprays to keep rabbits away, but having garlic in the garden didn’t do anything for me. Last winter the rabbits made their nest in a patch of garlic plants!

  5. I have many rabbits in the garden but rarely notice any damage. Planting crocus bulbs after spraying them with hot pepper spray seemed to do the trick the one time I had a problem. However, last year we redid all the shrubbery in front and to my dismay the rabbits chewed the branches of the new service berry during the winter. Are there any winter hints different from all the great ideas mentioned here?

  6. Linda, I’m so sorry to hear that! I think the best thing you could do in winter is to cover the shrub to protect it from rabbits. You can buy covers that fit over the shrub and I’ve found them to work well. You could also try burlap or the wire mesh seen in this article. Make sure whatever you use starts at the ground and goes up at least three feet. When the snow is deep, the rabbits can sit on top of the snow and chew the upper portions of the shrub. See more here:

  7. Katrina, I don’t think that little bit of soap should be a problem, but I’ll see if I can get more details. Thanks for your question.

  8. Katrina, I contacted John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. He said, “I doubt there would be any significant effect on the soil. To minimize even further I would suggest tying small soap bars to a branch of the tree or shrub rather than leaving them in direct contact with the soil.” I hope that helps. By the way, it’s free to subscribe to You can subscribe here.

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