Baby bunnies may look cute, but consider this: jackrabbits are born with a full coat of hair and open eyes, and only spend one day in the nest before they begin foraging. Cottontails are less precocious but may spend their entire lives living (and breeding) in one suburban backyard. During their lives, rabbits will gravitate toward their favorite flowering plants throughout the growing season, relishing pansies, and tulips in the spring, snacking on impatiens, oakleaf hydrangea, and hybrid lilies in the summer, and celebrating a fall harvest of asters come September and October.
While rabbits, like deer, have adaptable appetites during periods of want, they tend to avoid plants with foliage or growth that is hairy, bitter, spicy, rough, woody, spiny, or toxic. Here are seven flowering plants that might send your rabbits searching for greener pastures.
01 of 08
Rabbits tend to avoid woody plants (while tender plants like bachelor's buttons are favored), and they usually pass on all types of Buddleia plants. 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 will attract any butterfly species in your area. Plant butterfly bushes in full sun in average soil.
02 of 08
Columbine plants and flowers may look delicate, but rabbits avoid these hardy perennial flowers. Columbines thrive in the same environments that rabbits often frolic in, 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.
03 of 08
Rabbits will tear into early blooming delicacies like crocus in early spring, so what's a flower-deprived gardener to do? Fortunately, the hellebore, or aptly named Christmas rose, is a very long-lived and very early blooming alternative that rabbits avoid. Many old-fashioned hellebores are demure in their spring flower show in that they have downward facing blooms in muddy shades of mild cream, green, or reddish brown, but newer hybrid cultivars like 'Amber Gem' sport larger blooms, ruffled petals, and vibrant pink or gold hues.
04 of 08
Nicotiana plants are members of the Solanaceae family, which contains notoriously toxic plants like nightshades, jimsonweed, and belladonna. The foliage also sports irritating hairs, which repel rabbits. Gardeners need not come into contact with this foliage, as the plants are very easy to grow from seed, and some self-sow as well. Plant in moist, fertile soil in partial shade.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
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. Both types can live for decades, so if you already have a tree peony in your garden you're trying to save, it's worth erecting an exclusion fence of chicken wire around the plant.
06 of 08
At first glance, snapdragons seem to fit the profile of a rabbit-pleasing plant, but the bitter or just plain yucky taste of Antirrhinum turns rabbits away, and the plants are deer resistant too. Snapdragons are tolerant of frost, and plants are usually available at the nursery in early spring alongside pansies and violets.
Plant snapdragons in full sun in rich soil with good drainage. Although sold alongside annuals, snapdragons may come back in zones 5 and warmer with a protective mulch.
07 of 08
Rabbits avoid all types of sage plants, as the volatile oils contained within the foliage act as natural repellents to the animals. In addition, 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 until fall. Russian sage plants need no deadheading or fertilizing to perform for many years in your landscape.
08 of 08
While rabbits love to dine on impatiens, they will pass by the lookalike vinca plant, with its leathery leaves and tough stems. What's more, vinca plants are not bothered by the disease problems that have plagued impatiens in many gardens.
Plant annual vinca flowers in full sun to ensure vigorous plants and abundant blooms. Vinca plants require no deadheading and are drought tolerant flowers, but will exhibit its best blooms with an application of slow-release fertilizer at planting time.