They may be cute, fluffy, and cuddly, but rabbits can destroy your carefully-planted garden overnight. Left unchecked, they’ll quickly munch their way through flowers, shoots and leaves, using your plot as their personal pantry. So how can you save your garden and still enjoy the wildlife? Try planting some rabbit-resistant plants.
How do I Know if Rabbits are Eating My Plants?
If you’ve got rabbits on or near your property, there’s a good chance they’re snacking on your garden. Check for leaves that are gnawed from the edges or disappearing flower heads. You may also spot clusters of small, round droppings near the plants or in grassy areas. Keep an eye out at sunrise and sunset, as that’s when rabbits are most active.
What Plants do Rabbits Not Like?
You may have heard the popular advice that planting marigolds will keep the bunnies away. Unfortunately, this is not true. Rabbits will happily chew their way through your marigolds, especially the pretty petals. But there are some plants and flowers they tend to avoid, usually due to their scent or texture. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more rabbit-resistant varieties you can add to your planting plan.
Anemones flower from late summer to autumn but look great even when not in bloom. They come in shades of pink, purple, red and white and have a fragrance that deters rabbits. They’re easy to grow, doing well in zones 4 through 8. Keep the soil moist for them and remove faded flowers regularly for the best display.
These pretty blooms are not quite as flashy as their bearded iris cousins but still make a lovely addition to your beds, borders and cutting garden. Siberian iris grow best in zones 3 to 9 and are pretty tolerant to hot and dry weather as long as you keep them well-watered.
Delphiniums produce distinctive spires of blue, purple, lavender, pink or white flowers. They have strong, thick stems and leaves, which is probably why rabbits usually leave them alone. Bees and other beneficial insects love them, however, so this is a great addition to your pollinator garden. Cut flowers also look stunning in a vase or fresh bouquet. Delphiniums bloom in early summer, creating a traditional “cottage garden” feel in your plot.
Most rabbits stay away from the bright blooms of the yarrow plant. This pretty perennial remains a popular choice in the garden because it’s so easy to grow. You just need well-drained soil and a sunny location. It’s the perfect choice for butterfly and wildflower gardens and works well for cutting and drying too.
These huge silky blooms in shades of red, pink, orange and white are sure to grab attention. But not from the bunnies. Oriental poppy leaves are stiff and fuzzy, so rabbits don’t tend to snack on them. Plant oriental poppies in a sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil. They’ll grow happily in zones 4 to 9 and bring a welcome burst of color to your garden year after year.
Rabbits generally don’t like zinnias and tend to leave them undisturbed. Zinnias come in a variety of colors (red, yellow, orange, pink, and white) and are excellent butterfly attractors. Plant zinnias in your beds, borders, baskets, containers and window boxes. They’re fairly heat tolerant, but may require watering to keep them moist during dry spells.
Wax begonias are named for their waxy leaves, which rabbits don’t like to eat. They’re wonderfully adaptable and are a perfect choice for your beds and borders. With green and burgundy-red leaf forms available, you can create striking color combinations when you plant them. They do particularly well in zones 10 to 12 as long as you keep them well-watered, with a layer of summer mulch applied to retain moisture.
This ground-hugging annual has a sweet, honey-ish fragrance that deters rabbits. It’s perfect for rock gardens, and the small clusters of flowers look great peeking out of rock crevices or walls. Sweet alyssum likes light, well-drained soil, and you’ll need to trim it back occasionally to encourage the blooms to come back again.
Snapdragon flowers may be known as “bunny rabbits” in some countries, but their real-life namesakes tend to avoid these fragrant blooms. Usually grown as annuals, snapdragons flower in shades of pink, orange, white, yellow, red, and purple. Blooms appear all summer long bringing a vibrant splash of color to the garden. Keep them well-watered and allow the soil to dry thoroughly in between waterings.
Scarlet Sage, Texas Sage, Tropical Sage
Native to Brazil (where it’s grown as a perennial), scarlet sage is an excellent choice for very hot, dry locations with poor soil. The leaves have a distinctive smell, which deters most small animals, including rabbits. For best effect, plant scarlet sage in drifts or bands and sit back and enjoy the butterflies and hummingbirds these blooms attract.
Other Plants that Keep Rabbits Away
If you’ve got rabbits living nearby, you might notice patches gnawed from the lower bark of young trees or shrubs. Choose to plant holly, boxwood, hawthorn, ash or magnolia trees for the best chance of avoiding rabbit damage.
If you’re growing a kitchen garden, there are several varieties of herbs that rabbits stay away from, usually because of the strong scents. Rabbit repellant plants in your herb garden may include:
Which Plants are the Most Rabbit-proof?
The honest answer is no plant is 100% “rabbit-proof.” If they’re hungry enough, and there’s nothing else available, rabbits are likely to try munching on some of the plants and flowers we’ve mentioned here.
However, by including the more rabbit-resistant varieties in your garden, you’re at least increasing the chances they’ll move onto something else instead and leave you with some plants to enjoy.
For more tips on protecting your plants from wildlife, check out these articles on deer-resistant shrubs and some easy ways to deter deer from your garden.