The picture of Bugs Bunny munching on a carrot is an iconic "Looney Tunes" image. It does little, however, to warm gardeners to the rabbits snacking on their vegetable gardens. What some gardeners may not realise is that rabbits also feed on ornamental plants. They decimate tender tulip bulbs and springtime shoots while awaiting summer's vegetable bounty. Planting perennials rabbits usually don't eat will protect your flower garden from these ravenous rodents.
Edging your garden with a pair of rabbit-resistant perennials will discourage rabbits eager to dine on the flower bed. Moss pink brightens spring gardens (Phlox sublata) with 3- to 6-inch mats of evergreen, mosslike foliage and abundant white, pink red or lavender blooms. The fragrant, tubular flowers open as early as March and last for several weeks. This charming plant needs full sun to part shade and organically rich, well-drained soil. It spreads quickly by self-sowing.
Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum 'Pink Chablis') follows moss pink with clusters of delicate, hooded, pink May-to-July flowers. Its 8- to 12-inch mounds of green-margined, silvery white foliage spread where their stems touch the ground. Pink Chablis likes partial to full shade and well-drained, moist soil.
Dicentra (Dicentra spectabilis), or bleeding heart, colours shady garden spots with arching stems of deeply lobed, soft green foliage. Its distinctive, heart-shaped pink flowers -- with downward-pointing, lower white petals -- line the stems' branches in April and May. Astilbe (Astilbe x arendsii 'Rotlicht' Red Light) flowers in May and June with feathery spikes of tiny, deep red flowers. They make a striking contrast with its airy mounds of glossy, deep green lobed foliage. Both these 2- to 3-foot, rabbit-resistant perennials are good choices for the middle of perennial borders. They perform best in moist, humus-rich well-drained soil and partial to full shade.
Scabiosa (Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue') has up-to-8-inch clumps of downy, greyish-green, lancelike leaves. Its 15-inch stems bear densely petalled, ruffled lavender-blue flowers from May until frost. Their central clusters of needle-thin stamens account for the plant's familiar name of "pincushion flower." Butterflies feed on the perennial's nectar.
Sea thrift (Armeria maritima) thrives in sun and sandy, coastal soils. This plant grows 6 to 12 inches high, with evergreen, grasslike foliage. Round, white, red, pink or purple flower clusters crown sea thrift's stems in spring and summer. Both these rabbit-resistant sun lovers need well-drained locations.
Perennials with aromatic foliage, bark or blooms seem to deter rabbits and other hungry visitors. Mint-scented leaves line wild bergamot's (Monarda fistulosa) pale green, branching stems. The 2-to 4-foot perennial's fringed pink or lavender blooms last for as long as a month in midsummer. The showy flowers' nectar-filled, curving tubes draw hummingbirds and butterflies.
Chocolate daisy (Berlandier lyrata) combines mounds of velvety-textured, chocolate scented leaves with yellow, chocolate-scented flowers. The maroon-eyed, daisy-like blooms top its grey-green foliage from April to November. They give way to unusual, ruffled greenish-brown seedpods. Wild bergamot and chocolate daisy perform best in full sun and dry, well-drained soil.
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- Penn State Monroe County Extension: Rabbit-Resistant Plants; Laurel Bishow
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Phlox Sublata
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Lamium Maculatum 'Pink Chablis'
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Dicentra Spectabilis
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Astilbe x Arendsii 'Rotlicht' Red Light
- Michigan State University: Cerastium Tomentosum -- Snow-In-Summer
- Perennial Plant Association: 2000 Plant of the Year: Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue
- Cornell University: Sea Thrift
- CSU Cooperative Extension; Rabbit/Ground Squirrel/Deer Resistant Plants; Irene Shonle
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Monarda Fistulosa
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Berlandier Lyrata