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Are Primrose Deer Resistant? Tips for Protecting Your Plants

Are Primrose Deer Resistant? Tips for Protecting Your Plants

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Primrose (Primula vulgaris) is a blooming plant that originates from Europe and is highly valued for its decorative qualities. This type of perennial plant is always green and usually reaches a height of 4 to 12 inches when fully grown.

Besides the colorful flowers, they also have pretty rosettes of leaves, but should you worry about wildlife like deer eating your primrose?

One of the advantages of growing primroses is that they’re deer resistant. The leaves and stems of the plant are not appealing to hungry deer. However, if there’s no other food in the area, the deer may stoop low and feed on primrose. They damage the leaves and stems and trample the flowers.  

Even if the deer are not hungry, they might damage the low primrose with their feet. You should always find ways to protect your primroses. Read more to find out how to keep deer out of the garden.

Primrose and Deer – What To Know

Primroses are not a deer’s first choice of food, but you can never know when a hungry deer will walk into the garden and start sampling everything in sight. 

Do Deer Eat Primrose?

Deer don’t usually eat primrose, but when they’re hungry and there’s no other food in sight, primrose can become the next meal for the deer. They feed on the small leaves avoiding mature leaves and stems.

With their sharp teeth, they can tear through the whole plant in minutes. What they don’t eat, they’ll often trample with their feet. They leave a trail of primrose destruction in their wake.

When Deer May Eat Primrose

Only a very hungry deer would eat primrose, and even then, they’d keep looking around for something else to eat. If there’s no other plant to feed on, then they’ll eat your primrose.

Even if the deer can find food somewhere else, they can still damage the low primrose with their trampling feet. 

Is Primrose Toxic?

Deer avoid primrose mainly because the plant contains an unknown toxic. It’s not fatal but still would give the deer an upset stomach if consumed in large quantities. This is why the deer will regard primrose as a last-resort type of food. 

Will Deer Eat Evening Primrose?

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a different species from English primrose and can either be perennial or annual, but they’re also toxic to deer and can cause diarrhea and indigestion when ingested. Deer will often avoid evening primrose.

Will Primrose Plants Recover From Deer Damage?

If the damage to the primrose is minimal and only affects some leaves and shoots, then the plant will grow back and recover from deer damage.

It might take time, but the hardy perennial will eventually grow back. However, if the damage is in the main stem, the plant might not recover from it.

Pretty yellow primrose flowers in the garden up close.

How To Deter Deer From Eating Plants

When you have primrose and other plants in the garden, you don’t want to rely on the deer’s natural aversion to primrose. A hungry deer may not resist the mildly toxic primrose.

It’s better to take matters into your own hands and take precautions that deter deer from entering your garden or having access to your plants.

1. Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Deer, much like other wildlife, hate getting wet. Water is a natural deterrent and the animals will hide from the rain. Installing a motion-activated sprinkler in the garden is a good solution to the deer issue.

When a deer meanders into the garden, it will activate the sprinkler, which will spray the garden with water. This will cause the deer to flee, and the sprinkler will stop on its own. Eventually, the deer will stop coming to the garden.

2. Ultrasonic Animal Repeller

Some animals, including deer, can detect a wide range of sounds beyond our own capabilities. You can use this to your advantage by blasting the invading deer with ultrasonic repellers.

These sound waves are quite annoying not just to the deer but to other animals like skunks, rabbits, raccoons, and foxes. It also works against birds and bugs. 

3. Deer Fencing

Fencing is the easiest way to keep deer out of your property. Make sure the fence is sturdy and is at least 6 feet high since the deer can quite easily jump over any fence that is shorter.

Find out where the deer walk into the garden and install a fence to block them. Check the fence periodically to make sure that there’s no damage and that the posts are holding.

4. Liquid Deer Repellent

This solution works against both deer and rabbits. Spray your primrose with the liquid deer repellent once every 2 to 3 weeks. The odor of the repellent will keep the deer from eating the leaves and stems of primrose.

Don’t apply immediately before or after rainfall. The leaves and stems have to be dry to be effective.

5. Individual Plant Cages

If installing a fence to keep the deer out is not a practical option, you can use individual cages around each primrose. Use metal cages and install them about 5 inches deep.

The cages have the advantage of protecting the primrose against the trampling feet of the deer. It also allows air and sunlight into the cage along with rainwater.  

6. Soap Shavings

There’s anecdotal evidence that soap shavings are quite effective against deer. Use soap with a citrus scent, sulfur soap, or ginger soap for the best results.

Cut down the bar of soap into small cubes and hang them over the primrose plants. That way the soap will not melt and release chemicals into the soil when you water the plant.

However, watch out for rainfall that could turn into acid rain when it comes in contact with soap shavings.

7. Plant Onions Nearby

Onions have a strong odor that we tolerate since we eat the plants, but deer don’t like these strong odors. Plant a patch of onions near your primrose to keep them safe from deer and rabbits.

However, since onions are annuals, the primrose will be left defenseless after you harvest the onions.

8. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is reported to deter deer. Sprinkling the leaves and stems with cayenne pepper powder will make them too spicy for the deer to keep munching on them.

Strong wind and rainfall might carry the pepper powder away, and you will have to apply it again and again.

Primrose Pests

As a hardy plant, your primrose is usually too tough for the pests that attack it to do much harm. Occasionally, you may see holes in the leaves.

These are telltale signs that your primrose might have aphids, white flies, leafminers, mealybugs, or mites. The damage they cause to the leaves is minimal, and you can easily get rid of them with neem oil spray (this organic version is excellent).

Aphids might be harder to eliminate, so hose them off the primrose, or rub the plant with rubbing alcohol.

Related Questions:

Do Rabbits Eat Primroses?

Rabbits often don’t bother primrose, especially since the mature leaves are chewy and have little juices.

However, rabbits may sample the young shoots of the plant since they’re still tender and don’t have the strong taste of the mature leaves.

Do Squirrels Eat Primroses?

Squirrels don’t relish primroses. They’ll often seek more tender and succulent leaves and stems to munch. 


Hungry deer will fill their bellies with any green plant they come across, even the primrose. To deter them from damaging your primroses, install fences, use separate cages for each plant, or use deer repellents for best results.