Rabbits might look cute and fluffy, but they’re not a welcome sight for gardeners. They’re a menace to seedlings and young leaves, and they’re not fussy about what they eat, munching happily on a wide variety of garden plants. Luckily, there are steps you can take to stop rabbits from eating your plants.
The best way to keep rabbits out of your garden is to put up a rabbit-proof wire-mesh fence with a maximum mesh size of 2.5cm (1in). The fence should be at least 1.2m (4ft) high, with a further 30cm (12in) of fencing buried below ground level. Bend the lower 15cm (6in) of the below-ground section outward so that it forms an ‘L’-shape underground – this will stop rabbits tunnelling underneath the fence. Make sure any gates are also rabbit-proof and able to be closed securely.
Rabbits are curious creatures, so they’re likely to nibble any new plants in your garden just to find out what they are. It’s a good idea to protect new plants until they get big enough to be less attractive to rabbits (remembering that rabbits can reach up to 50cm (20in) high by standing on their hind legs). Rabbits have a tendency to gnaw the bark of young trees and shrubs, so protect new plantings by placing wire or plastic guards around their trunks, and surround individual plants with wire mesh to a height of 90cm (3ft).
Scents and sprays that repel rabbits
Chemical repellents containing aluminium ammonium sulphate, such as Vitax Stay Off, have some effect in stopping rabbits eating plants. However, they do need to be reapplied regularly, especially while the plant is growing fast or after rainy weather.
If you’d rather use natural products, you can try soaking cotton wool buds with peppermint oil or vinegar and leaving them about the garden. Again, they need to be reapplied frequently to be effective.
Sadly, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed rabbit-proof plant. However, there are a few plants that rabbits seem to find less appealing, particularly plants with thick or prickly leaves, and plants with very strong scents. If you have a problem with rabbits in your garden it’s worth experimenting with these:
- Euphorbia (spurge)
- Helleborus x hybridus (hellebore, Christmas rose)
- Digitalis (foxglove)
- Allium (ornamental onion)
- Tagetes patula and T. erecta (French and African marigolds)
- Agapanthus (African lily)
- Acanthus (bear’s breeches)
- Bergenia (elephant’s ears)
- Eryngium (sea holly)
- Salvia x superba (sage)
For more advice on how to protect your plants from rabbits and keep your garden looking good, visit our garden centre, where we're happy to help!