Rabbit-Proof Plants

rabbit nibbling in a garden

The Spruce / Micah Issitt and Adrienne Legault

Rabbits dine out all year. They are herbivores and can make a quick meal of your garden. 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 plants because rabbits make clean, 45-degree cuts in young stems and can reach only approximately 3 feet high. Deer can damage plants 6 feet high, and they tear plants when eating so that the stems and leaves are ragged, not cleanly cut like rabbit damage.

Rabbits have large incisors, similar to squirrels and mice. But rabbits have two pairs of both upper and lower incisors, while rodents have only one set. (Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents.)

It would be nice if there were plants that are truly 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. If you are interested in how to deter rabbits, there are ways to control and deter rabbits from overrunning your garden.

Plants That Rabbits Will Eat

The entire list of plants that rabbits will eat, or at least sample, is too long to list out. But the following are rabbit favorites:

Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits

Tender, young leaves are the most susceptible, although they will sample many plants in the vegetable garden:

Annuals and Perennials

These plants often sustain the most damage, because they are tender and generally out in the open with no protection:

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, trying using a rabbit repellent. (Remember, you'll need to reapply after rain and according to directions on the container.)

Rabbit-Resistant Plants

It should be no surprise that plants with a strong fragrance or fuzzy leaves like lavender and black-eyed Susan are less popular with rabbits. Unfortunately, these plants will not deter them completely. Rabbits grazing in your flower beds will simply eat around the less enticing plants. However, many plants that are toxic to pets and humans are also toxic to rabbits--and they tend to avoid them. Try interplanting planting highly fragrant herbs and flowers, plants with prickly, hairy leaves, and toxic plants with your vegetables and ornamentals to help confuse and repel rabbits. (But do be careful with toxic plants if you have pets or young children!)

Rabbit-Resistant Vegetables

These tend to be either aromatic, thorny, or members of the nightshade family:

Rabbit-Resistant Annuals and Perennials

Trees and Shrubs Rarely Eaten by Rabbits

rabbit-resistant plants
The Spruce