Rabbit Resistant Plants
by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
This spring I potted up some gorgeous annuals which were growing very nicely in the repurposed chicken feeder I found at a farm auction. The red, white and blue color scheme I chose was going to look great for the Fourth of July holiday. One morning when I was watering the patio plants I noticed my blue flowers were gone. Just gone! Not a sign of them anywhere. The soil and bark chips they were planted in was not disturbed. They had just disappeared. Every last one of them! Upon closer inspection I found the stump of stems and knew immediately who the culprit was…oh those pesky rabbits!
Different rabbits have different favorite foods and therefore there are few plants that rabbits will tend to avoid. But when they are hungry enough, they will eat just about anything. There are some perennial plants that rabbits tend to shy away from. I have had much success with the list of plants mentioned here.
- Allium is a rather carefree and easy to grow bulb from the onion family. This plant sports a globe shaped flower head on a hollow stem with a plant height of 4 inches to three feet depending on which hybrid you grow. They bloom in late spring.
- Bee balm is often grown in herb gardens and is great for attracting butterflies and helpful bees. This plant can be rather prone to mildew problems, so look for those cultivars that advertise that they are mildew resistant. Bee balm makes a great cut flower too and will bloom mid to late summer and into fall depending on the variety.
- Catmint performs well in dry, hot weather and is one of the toughest plants you can grow in your perennial garden. The silvery foliage is topped with blue flowers, which are also fragrant and good for cutting. As the name implies, it is a favorite of cats and they may roll around in it with much joy.
- Foxglove, a cottage-garden favorite of mine, is a biennial which means that they need two years to bloom. They will die back in the fall, and if you do not deadhead them, they will reseed and after several years they will seem like perennials. They like rich, moist, well drained soil, to be kept out of the wind, will grow 1 to 5 feet tall and like to be grown in a partly sunny location.
- Yarrow is another favorite of mine. It is a very hardy, drought-resistant perennial that likes to be grown in a sunny location. The flat top blooms which rise from ferny foliage is excellent when used in a fresh or dried arrangement.
There are repellents you can sprinkle or spray on flowers and vegetables, but they will need to be reapplied after a rain. One suggestion is to sprinkle the plants with chili powder, but with my luck the rabbits would adapt and make salsa!
A few annual plant choices that are rabbit resistant include wax begonia, snapdragon, zinnia and pot marigold. The plants I have mentioned are, unfortunately, not fail safe, so good luck staying ahead of Mr. Cottontail!
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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