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Rabbit Proof Plants

...and some they love.

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Rabbit Eating from the Peach Tree

Rabbits clean-up all the fallen peaches, under my tree.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Rabbits dine out all year. They will devour tender shoots in spring and gnaw through bark in the winter. You can tell when rabbits, not deer, have been chewing on your woody plants because there's a clean cut. Deer do not have teeth on the top front of their mouths and must tear off the plants they munch on, leaving ragged stems.

Rabbits have large incisors, similar to rodents, like squirrels and mice. But rabbits have 2 pairs of both upper and lower incisors, while rodents have only one. (Rabbits are not rodents. They are classified as lagomorphs.

I wish I really could tell you which plants are rabbit proof, but as with other animals, rabbits can surprise you. They do have their favorite foods and those they tend to avoid, but when food is scarce, they will eat just about anything. So use the following lists as a guide, but don't expect them to be fail safe. If you have a different experience in your garden, please send me an email. I'm sure this list will keep changing.

 

Some Favorite Plants that Rabbits will Eat

The list of plants that rabbits will eat, or at least sample, is too long to include, but here are a handful of their favorites.

Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits Bean
Beet
Broccoli
Carrot [particularly the tops]
Lettuce
Parsley
Pea [especially the leaves and tendrils]
Spinach
Swiss Chard

Most tree fruits and berries are also rabbit treats.

Annuals and Perennials Asters
Baby's Breath (Gypsophila paniculata)
Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus)
Bellflower (Campanula spp.)
Clematis
Cockscomb (Celosia argenta cristata)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea) [Just the flowers]
Crocus (Crocus hybrids)
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Gazania (Gazania rigens)
Great Masterwort (Astrantia major)
Hosta
Lilies (Lilium hybrids)
Lupine (Lupinus)
Impatiens (Mostly the flowers)
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Marguerite Daisy (Felicia amelloides
Mountain Bluet (Centaurea montana)
Pansy
Phlox
Rose Moss (Portulaca grandiflora)
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) [When they are seedlings]
Sweet Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Tulip
Violets
Wishbone Flower (Torenia)

Shrubs and Trees

Rabbits prefer tender woody plants with thin bark, so new plants and shoots are at the most risk. If you have a shrub they keep gnawing on and you can't protect it, tosses a branch or two on the ground might keep them content enough to leave the shrub alone. They will go for the easy meal. Better to sacrifice a couple of branches, than the whole plant.

Apples/Crabapples (Malus spp.)
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Barberry (Berberis)
Burning Bush (Euonymus spp.)
Chokeberry (Aronia spp.)
Deutzia (Deutzia sp)
Dogwood (Cornus spp.)
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)
Fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.)
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
Honeylocust (Gleditsia spp.)
Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
Ironwood (Carpinus spp.)
Juneberry/Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)
Linden (Tilia spp.)
Maple (Acer spp.)
Mountain Ash (Sorbus spp.)
Oak (Quercus spp.)
Poplar (Populus spp.)
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)
Spirea (Spiraea spp.)
Sumac (Rhus spp.)
Viburnum (Viburnum spp.)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

 

Rabbit Resistant Plants

It should be no surprise that plants with strong fragrance or fuzzy leaves, like lavender and black-eyed Susan, are less popular with rabbits. Unfortunately these plants won't deter them completely. Rabbits grazing in you flower beds will simply eat around the plants listed here.

Vegetables Artichokes
Asparagus
Onions
Peppers [although I have had them eat the young plants]
Potatoes
Squash
Tomatoes

Annuals and Perennials Agastache Ageratum
Allium
Blue Star Amsonia hubrichtii
Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
Angelonia
Artemisia Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Astilbe
Azalea
Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) Basil
Beard Tongue (Penstemon)
Bee Balm (Monarda)
Begonia
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Blanket Flower Gaillardia
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
Iberis (Candytuft)
Butterfly Bush Buddleia
Canna
Carex
Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
Catmint (Nepeta)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Crocosmia
Daffodils (Narcissus hybrids)
Daylily (Hemerocallis)
Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
False Indigo Baptisia australis
Geranium, Cranesbill
Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis scorpioides)
Geum
Ginger (Asarum spp.)
Ice Plant (Lampranthus)
Iris
Lamb's ear Stachys byzantina
Lantana
Larkspur Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)
Lavender (Lavendula)
Marigold Tagetes
Moss Pink (Phlox subulata)
Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia)
Mums (Chrysanthemum) (Not guaranteed)
Oregano
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Poppy (Papaver)
Petunia
Rosemary
Russian
Sage
(Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Salvia (Sage spp.) Sea Holly (Eryngium)
Sea Thrift (Armeria)
Sedum
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)
Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Speedwell (Veronica spp.)
Spider Flower (Cleome)
St. John's Wort (Hypericum)
Thyme
Tickseed Coreopsis
Verbena
Vinca
Zinnia

 

Trees and Shrubs >Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Juniper (Juniperus)
Spruce (Picea)
Fir (Abies)

If you are interested in how to deter rabbits, check out Controlling and Deterring Rabbits in the Garden.

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