One spring when I was walking around my yard, enjoying my tulips I came upon some that had been dug up. Darn squirrels, I thought. It’s bad enough that they dig up all of my freshly planted bulbs in the fall, but do they have to dig up the ones that survived in the spring too? A little research showed me that the real culprit was a rabbit.
When I moved to New Jersey, I knew that there was a big deer problem, but no one ever talked about rabbits. In my first house, I only saw a rabbit once. It was just a poor scrawny thing. I didn’t see any rabbits at my second house until the tulip massacre. After that, it was clear that at least one rabbit had taken up residence in my yard. And what a rabbit it was, big and plump.
My yard was perfect rabbit habitat. Shrubs and densely planted flower beds formed a rabbit friendly perimeter surrounding an open area grassy area otherwise known as my lawn. Rabbits love to hide in brush and graze in meadows and grasslands.
Obviously I had to give up planting tulips. That was no great loss. They don’t last long in New Jersey. But what could I plant that the rabbit wouldn’t eat? Fortunately, a lot of the same plants and herbs that deer don’t like are also disliked by rabbits.
So when you plant rosemary, lavender, thyme, bee balm, and mint to discourage deer, you are also planting rabbit-resistant herbs. Chives and other alliums (such as onions), sage, yarrow, and catmint are just as distasteful to rabbits as they are to deer. Like deer, they don’t care for strongly scented herbs.
There appears to be a lot of disagreement about basil. Some authors claim that it keeps rabbits away and others say that rabbits dislike all aromatic herbs EXCEPT basil.
A very interesting herb that is often mentioned as rabbit resistant is aconitum or monkshood, also called wolfsbane. This is one of my favorite herbs. Unlike most herbs, it is a shade lover. The name monkshood derives from its gorgeous stalk of flowers that are shaped like a monk’s hood. It is called wolfsbane because it is extremely poisonous. Hunters stalking wolves used it on the tips of their arrows. If you choose to grow it, be sure to keep pets and children away from it. Always wear gloves when handling it. Every part of the plant is poisonous. I didn’t realize how poisonous it was for years and never wore any protection when planting, transplanting or deadheading it. I was also fortunate and suffered no ill effects. Despite its toxicity, there are several cultivars that have been developed by growers. My preference is for the original purple form but you might like to try some that have different flower colors.
Like deer, the only real protection from rabbits is a fence. Without a fence, you can still grow many popular culinary herbs that will discourage rabbits from snacking in your yard.