by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
All baby bunnies are cute except when they have eaten to the ground that new Euonymous or 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 across a wide area. Cottontails are less precocious but may spend their entire lives living and breeding in one suburban backyard. During their lifetime’s rabbits will gravitate toward their favorite (and they are numerous) flowering plants throughout the growing season.
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 the rabbits leave blooms in your neighbors’ yards intact the pesky critters are likely to turn up their noses to the same plants in your yard. This link will connect you to the entire list of rabbit resistant plants. Below is a list of seven popular bunny-proof plants guaranteed to turn off rabbits. They also just happen to be the Watters staff’s ‘Top Choice Awards’ for beauty and ease of growth.
Columbine plants and their blooms may look delicate, but rabbits avoid these hardy perennials. Columbines thrive in the same environments where rabbits often frolic, including alpine gardens and partially shaded 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 seldom are bothered by rabbits, but the same is not true of tree peonies so choose your specimens carefully. 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 above- ground woody stems. Both types can live for decades, so if you already have a tree peony in your garden you are free of rabbit marauders.
Butterfly Bush is one of the woody plants that 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, like nightshades, jimsonweed, and belladonna are notoriously toxic. The foliage also sports irritating hairs, which repel rabbits. Gardeners need not come in contact with the foliage, as the plants are very easy to grow from seed, and some self-sow as well. Plant nicotiana in moist, fertile soil in partial shade.
Snapdragons at first glance seem to fit the profile of rabbit-pleasing plants but their bitter or just plain yucky taste turns rabbits away. (They are deer resistant, too.) Because snapdragons are tolerant of frost, they are available here at Watters Garden Center through spring and again in fall. Plant snapdragons with full sun in rich soil with good drainage. Although sold alongside annuals, in local gardens snapdragons may come back with a protective mulch layer.
Vinca are passed up by rabbits because of its leathery leaves and tough stems. Plant annual vinca flowers in full sun to ensure vigorous plants and abundant blooms.
Russian Sage – Rabbits avoid all types of sage plants because the volatile oils within the foliage act as natural repellents and the leaves’ fuzzy, tough texture is 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 wands of their bee-friendly blooms from early summer through fall. Russian sage needs no deadheading to perform for many years in the landscape.
These are just a few of the rabbit-proof bloomers at the garden center now. For more rabbit-proof plants take a look at this Pinterest Board . Better yet, visit us for a personal tour of the pretty plants those furry little guys will leave alone.
Until next week, I’ll be showing off the rabbit-proof bloomers here at Watters Garden Center.