by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Not all baby bunnies are cute, especially when they eat a new Euonymous to the ground, or wipe out those pretty pansies and tulips! Jackrabbits are born with a full coat of hair and opened 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 will gravitate toward their favorite flowering plants throughout the growing season: relishing pansies and tulips in the spring, and snacking on impatiens, oakleaf hydrangeas, etc 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 that rabbits leave your neighbors’ yards intact, they likely will ignore the same plants in your yard. Here is a link to the entire list of rabbit resistant plants. Here are seven popular absolutely bunny-proof plants compiled of the Watters staff’s ‘Top Choice Awards’ for beauty, ease of growth, rabbit repelling plants.
Columbine – plants, and flowers may look delicate, but rabbits avoid these hardy perennials.
Columbines thrive in the same environments that rabbits often favor for frolicking, including alpine gardens and partially shady woodland gardens. Columbine plants are short-lived perennials, but your plants will self-seed in a non-aggressive way to create a handsome colony each year.
Peony – hybrids are seldom bothered by rabbits, but tree peonies are frequently browsed by rabbits, 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 winter form of the plant: herbaceous peonies die back to the ground, while tree peonies maintain aboveground woody stems.
Butterfly Bush – is a woody plant, something rabbits tend to avoid. Butterfly bushes die back to the ground in temperate climates, but quickly send out many new vigorous shoots when the ground warms in the spring. By midsummer, the plants will bear dozens of honey-scented flower panicles 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 which repel rabbits. The plants are very easy to grow from seed, among which are some that self-sow. Plant in moist, fertile soil in partial shade.
Snapdragon – plants seem 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, and are available here at Watters Garden Center through spring and again in fall. 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 by-passed in favor for the look-alike impatiens because of vincas’ leathery leaves and tough 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 contained within the foliage act as natural repellents. In addition, Russian sages’ 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 sages need no deadheading to perform for many years in your landscape.
These are just a few of the rabbit-proof bloomers at the garden center now. Take a look at this Pinterest Board with more rabbit-proof suggestions. Better yet, visit us for a personal tour of the pretty plants these furry little guys will leave alone.
Until next week, I’ll be showing off the rabbit-proof bloomers here at Watters Garden Center.