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Daylillies, Deer & Ivory Soap

Starstruck Daylily
Starstruck Daylily

Last year I doubt I had any blooms on my daylilies. Those darling deer munched their way through our garden, eating everything in sight. My Knockout rose, my hydrangeas and my beautiful daylilies were all victims. It was on! This year one way or the other, I was going to save our garden. Since May, I have been outside with a bar of Ivory Soap, a knife, and determination. After each rain out, I go shaving a few slivers of the soap everywhere! So far, we have enjoyed our Knockout rose, my hydrangea is full of buds, and our daylilies have been the best!

Now my husband says it is because the deer have not been out back like in years past. He thinks it is because of some building going on nearby, so they are taking another path toward the farm and the woods. We see a few random deer here and there but not the 15 to 20 who walked by each day. I think it is my soap! Then two nights ago, one of my Stephanie Fleming Daylilies buds was eaten. THE DEER WERE BACK!! I had gotten lazy about my soap detail, so back out last night I went. I had some huge buds getting ready to open on our Starstruck, and I was not going to chance it.

I think daylilies are some of the easiest perennials to take care of. They love full sun, but we have had success with part shade also. While they do best in fertile, well-drained soil, we have had luck with them in some wetter areas. My husband loves to move and divide our perennials, so typically, it will take a year or two before the new division bursts out in color. (if those deer are not there.)

The bloom of a daylily typically only lasts one day. Every morning while cooking breakfast, I look out my window and see my husband cleaning the spent flowers. Pinching the old blooms off makes the whole plant (and garden) look so much neater, plus gives the next buds some room. This job does not take much effort, and he seems to get it all done pretty fast.

If you haven’t tried daylilies in your garden, I hope this year you do. Just keep that Ivory Soap around! (I understand other soaps work just as well too.)

Editor’s Note: Larry Hurley reminded me that the main thing on repellents is to rotate as the deer tend to get acclimated to whatever you are using and stop avoiding it. So use the soap for awhile, and then maybe try a commercial repellent, then go back to the soap.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I have to agree with your husband. I thought I was going to defend my James March Lillies by spraying and felt
    I was in control until this past Monday at 1:30 PM when a deer ate a whole bed in 20 min. When I came home and saw him, I started yelling at him. He just looked at me like I am not finished eating ! Then just walked across the street and hide behind a bush waiting for me to leave the front of my house. Deer carry ticks and now CWD so that is a good reason not to have them around the house near pets or people.

  2. I have not heard of using Ivory Soap but Irish Spring Soap works very well. You can spray the lilies, knock out roses, and sedum with a mixture of raw eggs, water and Cayenne Pepper. The smell is awful but it works to keep the deer away, as well as a few humans, including myself.

  3. Stephanie,
    Thanks for all your wonderful stories, memories and tips.

    I’ve tried vinegar spray around the yard, coffee grounds, to slow down the deer and the foxes.

    Thanks again,
    David, long time Behnke’s customer.

  4. I’ve used Irish Spring soap with some success. I agree that rotating repellents is a good idea.

    But my 30 years in deer country has taught me that only netting works. My front yard looks like giant spiders have left webs. But I have monarda, which I wouldn’t have with out netting.

  5. Do you just cut thin strips of soap and leave on the ground or in the branches ? I’d like to try it. Thanks
    Ann Marie

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