Do Deer Eat Hostas? How to Prevent Them From Destroying Your Plants

Hostas are big and beautiful shade-loving perennials. They love humidity, making them great plants in regions prone to humid summers. But as much as we love a Hosta garden, so do deer since they love to eat Hostas.

Nancy Trautz Awot, a horticulturist at Burpee, explains how deer will come back again and again to eat Hostas which is why they often cause the most damage compared to other pests like rabbits and groundhogs.

The good news is, despite their love of the plant, deer can be deterred from eating your summer Hostas. To help keep your Hostas thriving (and uneaten by deer), we gathered all the best expert tips for keeping the animals away, along with the best Hosta alternatives that deer won’t eat.

Meet the Expert

  • Nancy Trautz Awot is a horticulturist at Burpee.

How to Tell Deer Are Eating Your Hostas

Check for grazing damage. “Deer typically leave behind jagged or torn edges,” Awot says.

They do this as they graze along your Hostas, usually in a group. However, you will also want to think about where the damage is done. Awot explains how deer often tend to feed on Hosta leaves at a height of 18-24 inches which is mainly why Hostas’ tall flower stalks are an easy game for a group of deer. 

Also, ask yourself if multiple Hosta plants have been eaten at once. “Deer are hungry and will target multiple plants in the same area,” Awot says.

If you have extensive damage to your Hosta plantings, deer are the likely cause. It’s important to also know that other animals could be munching on your Hostas. These could include rabbits, which tend to eat leaves close to the ground.

“They tend to eat starting from the edges and work inward, and they usually don’t eat the whole plant,” Awot says.

Additionally, slugs and snails will leave holes in your Hosta leaves.

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5 Tips for Keeping Deer Away From Hostas

Physical Barriers 

One way to deter deer is to install a tall fence around your Hosta garden. You can use any type of fence material, but make sure the fence has a good height. Awot recommends the fence to be at least 8 feet tall.

This is the most effective method for keeping deer away from Hostas. In addition to fencing, you can also use physical barriers such as netting or row covers to protect your plants. The challenge with these options is making sure they are high enough to keep out the deer.


Commercial repellents made from blood meal or predator scents may also scare off deer. Awot explains how theses scents often contain strong odors or tastes that deer do not like.

Plus, they are safe for humans and animals, as they are not meant to harm the deer. However, Awot cautions that some deer may get used to the smells, so the repellents may stop working overtime.


Like the commercial repellents, there are also natural oils that may be helpful to deter deer. Some examples of strong-scented oils include peppermint, lavender, garlic, and eucalyptus.

But always be sure to test these oils before using them on your Hostas.

“Before spaying any mixture on your plants, test it on a few leaves to make sure it does not hurt the plant,” Awot advises. As they are natural oils, they are unlikely to harm the plants, but it is always best to double check, as some Hosta varieties can be more sensitive than others.

Add a few drops of oils to the water and spray the mixture on and around the Hosta garden.

Different Varieties of Hostas

Some varieties of Hostas are less appealing to deer, as they have an unwelcome texture.

“Although no Hosta is deer-proof, varieties such as Blue Mouse Ears, with a thick or textured leaf, are less likely to be eaten by deer,” Awot says.

Wind Chimes

Naturally skittish, deer tend to be afraid of new things. While this has helped them live in the wild, it can be a good resource for keeping deer away from the garden. So, introducing a new sound, like wind chimes, can scare away deer.

According to Awot, some gardeners like using movement by hanging up some aluminum foils or wind chimes to deter deer. However, this method may not work with some particular deer groups.

Hostas Plant Alternatives

  • Hellebores: Like Hostas, these are shade-loving plants. They bloom early spring, but unlike the Hostas, they remain smaller in general. Since they are also toxic, no one, including deer, bothers them, Awot says.
  • Heuchera: Colloquially known as Coral Bells, these plants also like shade. But their spikes of tiny pink to coral flowers will deter deer from eating them, as deer don’t like plants with such textures. Awot says that they come in new varieties so there are many different colorful leaves and are easy to grow.
  • Ferns: Ferns such as the Japanese Painted Fern is a shade-loving plant with striking silver foliage, Awot says. Deer won’t eat ferns because they offer little nutritional value.
  • Bergenia: These toxic plants are unlikely to attract deer. Bergenia plants have dense clusters of pink flowers atop glossy leaves and they thrive in shady areas, Awot says.


  • There are many ways to keep deer from eating your Hostas. But the best method is building a fence tall enough to keep deer out of your garden.

  • No Hosta is completely deer-proof, but some varieties such as Blue Mouse Ears with a thick or textured leaf are less likely to attract deer, Awot says.

    “Hostas are considered toxic to dogs, cats, and horses and will cause gastrointestinal upset. They are not considered highly toxic to wildlife unless ingested in large quantities.”

  • It depends on the damage. Awot explains how if it’s not too bad, the Hosta plants will usually come back. However, if they’ve been severely or repeatedly damaged, the plants may die, so it’s important to deal with damage from deer promptly.

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