Not all baby bunnies are cute, especially when they eat a new Euonymus to the ground, or wipe out those pretty pansies and tulips! Jackrabbits are born with a full coat of hair and open eyes, and only spend one day in the nest before beginning to forage. Cottontails are less precocious but may spend their entire lives living and breeding in one suburban backyard. Rabbits gravitate toward their favorite plants throughout the growing season: devouring pansies and tulips in the spring, and snacking on impatiens and oakleaf hydrangeas through summer.
Often, you are not the only one in the neighborhood with rabbit issues. Walk the houses near you and see what other gardeners have been planting. If you see rabbits leave your neighbors’ yards intact, they likely will ignore the same plants in your yard. The following are seven popular, absolutely bunny-proof plants compiled by the Watters staff. These are our “Top Choice” rabbit-repelling plants for beauty and ease of growth.
Columbine – This graceful beauty dances in the shade of the garden, holding its head high, smiling back at you. Few plants stand so bright in the cooler parts of the garden. This bloomer comes back each spring with lacy green foliage promptly followed by a fantastic two-tone ﬂower. It’s an excellent cut ﬂower that is both deer and rabbit resistant. It’s so hardy, some varieties naturally call Arizona home.
Peony – English and Itoh varieties are seldom bothered by rabbits. Tree peony can have rabbit pressure on them, so choose your specimens carefully if rabbits are a problem in your landscape. If you aren’t sure what type of peony is growing in your garden, observe the plant’s winter form: herbaceous peonies die back to the ground. Tree peonies maintain above-ground woody stems.
Butterfly Bush is a woody plant, something rabbits tend to avoid. The plant is covered in honey-scented flowers by June that attract all butterfly species in your area. Plant butterfly bushes in full sun in average soil.
Nicotiana plants include notoriously toxic plants like nightshade, jimsonweed and belladonna. The foliage also sports irritating hairs that repel rabbits. The plants are straightforward to grow from seed, among which are some that self-sow. They prefer moist, fertile soil in partial shade.
Snapdragon seems to fit the profile of a rabbit-pleasing plant, but the bitter, yucky taste turns away rabbits. They are deer resistant, too! Snapdragons are tolerant of frost. Plant snapdragons in full sun and rich soil with good drainage. Although sold alongside annuals, with a protective layer of mulch, snapdragons often come back locally.
Vinca are often bypassed in favor of the look-alike impatiens because of vincas’ leathery leaves and sturdy stems. Fortunately, vinca plants are not bothered by the disease problems that plague impatiens. Plant annual vincas in full sun to ensure vigorous plants and abundant blooms.
Russian Sage plants are noxious to rabbits, as the volatile oils in the foliage act as natural repellents. Also, Russian sage leaves have a fuzzy, tough texture that rabbits find unappealing. Russian sage plants are a go-to choice for any low-maintenance perennial border. Plant them in full sun and average soil, and expect to see wands of bee-friendly blooms from early summer through fall. Russian sage needs no deadheading to perform for many years in your landscape.
Other rabbit-proof bloomers the Watters team came up with are: agave, euphorbia, red hot poker, black-eyed Susan, pincushion flower, oriental poppy, strawflower, cranesbill.
We set up a Pinterest Board with even more rabbit-proofing suggestions; take a look: pinterest.com/WattersGardenCenter/rabbit-proof-plants/. Better yet, visit for a personal tour of the pretty plants these furry little guys definitely leave alone.
Until next week, I’ll be showing off the rabbit-proof bloomers here at Watters Garden Center. QCBN
By Ken Lain