Rabbit Proof Plants

Rabbit feeding on plants
Akio Tsuji / EyeEm/Getty Images

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 woody plants because there's a clean cut. Deer do not have teeth on the top front of their mouths and must tear off the plants they munch on, leaving ragged stems.

Rabbits have large incisors, similar to rodents, like squirrels and mice.

But rabbits have 2 pairs of both upper and lower incisors, while rodents have only one. (Rabbits are not rodents. They are classified as lagomorphs.)

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. So use the following lists as a guide, but don't expect them to be fail safe.

Some Favorite Plants that Rabbits will Eat

The list of plants that rabbits will eat, or at least sample, is too long to include, but here are a handful of their favorites.

Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits Eaten by Rabbits

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

Most tree fruits and berries are also rabbit treats.

Annuals and Perennials Eaten by Rabbits

These often get the most damage, because they are tender and generally out in the open, with no protection.

Shrubs and Trees Eaten by Rabbits

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 and you can't protect it, tossing a branch or two on the ground might keep them content enough to leave the shrub alone. They will go for the easy meal. Better to sacrifice a couple of branches, than the whole plant.

Rabbit Resistant Plants

It should be no surprise that plants with strong fragrance or fuzzy leaves, like lavender and black-eyed Susan, are less popular with rabbits. Unfortunately, these plants won't deter them completely. Rabbits grazing in your flower beds will simply eat around the plants listed here.

Vegetables Not Often Eaten by Rabbits

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

Annuals and Perennials Not Often Eaten by Rabbits

Remember, they may nibble to see if they like it and will eat anything, if they are really hungry.

Trees and Shrubs Not Often Eaten by Rabbits

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Juniper (Juniperus)
Spruce (Picea)
Fir (Abies)

If you are interested in how to deter rabbits, check out Controlling and Deterring Rabbits in the Garden.