Do Deer Eat Impatiens? 

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Impatiens is a popular flowering plant with vibrant and colorful flowers. It is native to regions with tropical and subtropical climates, and widely cultivated as ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes around the world. Impatiens is not a plant you would imagine would appeal to deer, but it does. 

Impatiens are not deer-resistant plants. Deer do eat impatiens, although not because it is their food of choice. But they are herbivores and they will consume a wide variety of plants, including flowering plants like impatiens. Unfortunately, gardeners in areas with deer populations often find their impatiens, and other plants are eaten by these animals.

What are impatiens?

Impatiens is a genus of flowering plants that belong to the family Balsaminaceae. The plants are widely grown for their colorful and showy ornamental flowers in gardens worldwide.

Fairly low maintenance, impatiens will thrive in the shade, especially when it gets lots of moisture. It is, though, sensitive to cold. 

There are several different types including one species that is native to northern and eastern North America. Commonly called jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is an annual plant in the Balsaminaceae family. It is also known as the spotted-touch-me-not. 

Apart from this native species, there are two ornamental species that are native to tropical Asia and Africa. These are Impatiens Walleriana and New Guinea Impatiens, both of which are grown for their vibrantly colored flowers.

The ornamental species are also referred to as touch-me-not. The reason for this nickname is because the delicate seed pods are so sensitive, a light touch causes them to burst open. Children love them for this reason!  

The flowers of jewelweed are very different from those of the ornamental species. Similarly, the plant grows to a height of about 2-5 feet, while the other two are much smaller, reaching only 6-30 inches.  

Unfortunately, all types of deer eat all types of impatiens. But there are steps you can take to make impatiens deer resistant. 

What is eating my impatiens?

There are lots of creatures that are partial to impatiens. Exactly which one is eating your impatiens will depend on which potential culprits live in your part of the world. 

If there are deer that come onto your property, it may be deer eating them. Deer eat plants of various types, including impatiens, and can create a significant problem for gardeners. 

But rabbits also eat plants, including the impatiens deer love to munch. Rabbits are more common when food is scarce and during the growing season.

Groundhogs, which are burrowing rodents, have a hearty appetite and can cause significant damage to garden plants, including impatiens. Squirrels will also nibble impatiens, but only if other food sources are limited.

Insect pests and some caterpillars can be a huge problem, as can slugs and snails. Pests to look out for include aphids and spider mites, which, like caterpillars, may feed on impatiens’ leaves and flowers. 

Slimy slugs and snails are notorious for feeding on the leaves and tender stems of many plants, including impatiens. They are particularly active during damp and humid conditions, often coming out at night to feed. 

You will often spot the slimy trail of slugs and snails, but you may catch small insects in the act. For instance, aphids make themselves at home on plants and will gradually destroy them if you don’t get rid of them.

If you suspect an animal or rodent, look for droppings near affected impatiens plants. You might even spot squirrels or deer eating your plants.   

Are impatiens deer resistant?

No, impatiens are not considered deer-resistant plants. Deer find impatiens foliage and flowers quite appealing, and they are known to feed on them when given the opportunity. 

As herbivores, deer are attracted to tender leaves and colorful blooms of impatiens. This makes impatiens vulnerable to browsing and grazing.

The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers, has a useful resource that rates landscape plants by deer resistance. They rate Impatiens Balsamina (balsam and touch-me-not) and Impatiens Walleriana as plants that are “occasionally severely damaged” by deer. 

Rutgers states that plants that are either occasionally or frequently severely damaged by deer should only be planted with additional protection like fencing, repellents, and so on. They also warn that the “success” of any of these plants, flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. in the landscape will depend on local deer populations and weather conditions.

How to protect your impatiens against deer

As mentioned above, wherever deer are a potential problem, you should protect plants to avoid unnecessary damage. Fencing is an obvious option, although you need to ensure it is high enough to prevent them from jumping the fence. 

Another option is to plant impatiens close to your home and other outdoor structures. Generally, deer are less likely to venture into areas where humans spend time.

You can also try to stop deer from eating your impatiens by installing motion-activated sprinkler systems. These release a burst of water when they detect movement, scaring away deer.

Other motion-activated devices that can help make impatiens deer resistant include lights and those that make a noise. Shiny objects like old CDs or aluminum foil can also be effective. 

You can also buy deer repellents that have a strong smell or taste that deer don’t like. Alternatively, you can try making a homemade concoction and spray this on and around your impatiens. 

Mix together (or blend) an egg with a tablespoon each of cooking oil, hot pepper sauce, minced garlic, dish soap, and 4 cups of water. The egg and oil stick to the plants, and the garlic and spicy pepper sauce have a strong smell that may stop deer from eating your impatiens. Reapply after rain. 

What are the best flowers that deer do not eat?

While no plant is completely deer-proof, some flowers are known to be less appealing to deer due to their taste, texture, or scent. They include:

  1. Daffodils (Narcissus) contain toxins that make them unpalatable to deer.
  2. Alliums, which include plants like ornamental onions, have a strong smell that repels deer.
  3. Lavender and lavender-cotton (Santolina) both have a strong scent that tends to deter deer from browsing on impatiens.
  4. Marigolds (Tagetes) have a pungent smell that can be off-putting to deer.
  5. Salvias, specifically garden sage (Salvia officinalis), is less appealing to deer because of its strong aroma.
  6. Peonies (Paeonia sp.) contain compounds that deer find unpalatable.
  7. Foxgloves  (Digitalis) have toxins that are harmful to deer, making them less likely to be eaten.
  8. Bee Balm (Monarda) has a strong fragrance that can stop deer from feeding on impatiens.
  9. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) is generally considered less appetizing to deer due to alkaloids that can be toxic.
  10. Coneflowers (Echinacea) have tough and prickly foliage that deer may avoid. 

Of course, there are many more plants and flowers that deer won’t or are unlikely to heat. Those you choose should thrive in the area where you live for them to be effective. 

Have a look at the lengthy list of plants that are rarely damaged by deer that Rutgers features. These include many different flowers including annuals, perennials, and bulbs, as well as biennials, groundcovers, ferns, shrubs,  ornamental grasses, and trees. 


Impatiens are known to be attractive to deer, and they will sometimes cause severe damage. In fact, impatiens is often considered a delicacy for deer because of its tender foliage and colorful blooms. 

Gardeners in areas with deer populations often find that deer eat their impatiens and other plants.

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