13 Rabbit-Resistant Annuals
Put one of these colorful annuals in your garden beds to keep hungry bunnies at bay.
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Also called floss flower, ageratum is one of the few annuals that blooms in light shade, although it prefers at least six hours of sun each day. While some varieties are pink or white, blue is the most common color. Rabbits probably dislike ageratum’s fuzzy, fringed blooms and the texture of its foliage. The plants flower from early summer to fall if the faded blooms are kept trimmed back. Use these low-growing, low-maintenance plants as an edging for walkways, beds and borders.
Sun-loving lantana bears flower clusters that look like brightly-colored confetti. Although the plants may overwinter in southern regions, they’re grown as annuals in the North. Some gardeners say rabbits love to dine on their lantana, but others report that they avoid the plants because of the leaves' pungent aroma. The foliage and ripe berries are also known to contain a toxin that can affect many animals. Butterflies and hummingbirds, on the other hand, love the tubular flowers.
Lobularia maritima bears clusters of tiny white, lavender, violet or pink flowers in spring. Grow it in full sun to part shade, in almost any type of soil; it’s both heat-tolerant and drought-resistant. If you’re planting seeds, sow them on the surface of the soil after all chance of frost has passed. The plants form a dense carpet of flowers, and the blooms continue year-round in warm climates. Try the plants in borders, rock gardens and mixed beds.
Also known as pot or English marigolds, calendulas are related to French and African marigolds. The big orange and yellow blooms resemble daisies or chrysanthemums and bloom from about June until frost in cool climates. (If your summers are hot, grow French marigolds instead for a longer bloom period.) Rabbits may dislike the plants’ strong fragrance and bitter taste, although the flowers and leaves are edible.
Geraniums are thought to deter rabbits with their pungent smell, although gardeners enjoy varieties with a citrus, rose or other appealing fragrance. Zonal geraniums are bushy plants that typically bear soft, rounded leaves marked with a dark band. Grow geraniums in full sun and keep the faded flowers removed to encourage reblooming. Many gardeners bring their plants inside to overwinter, where they’ll continue to produce flowers if they get enough sun.
Tough vincas are evergreen groundcovers that bear pretty white or blue flowers in shady areas each spring. Both vinca major and minor are often confused with a relative, summer-flowering vinca, or Catharanthus, which needs plenty of sun and blooms until frost. Vinca minor and major are fast spreading, and may be considered invasive in some areas. Visit the USDA website to determine whether it’s safe to grow in your region.
While children (and adults) love playing with snapdragon blooms to make the little flowers “snap” open, rabbits find the plants unpalatable. In fact, many say that portions of Antirrhinum are toxic to pet rabbits and should not be grown around them. Snapdragon varieties range from dwarf types to giants that grow 3 to 4 feet tall, so there’s a size for every sunny garden space. Keep the flowers deadheaded to encourage repeat blooms.
Colorful Shirley poppies aren’t eaten by most rabbits, probably because of their aroma and milky sap. You may see these drought-tolerant annuals referred to as corn poppies, Flanders poppies or field poppies. They thrive in cool weather, but succumb to heat and humidity. Give them full sun and rich, well-drained soil, and they’ll rebloom into early summer. The delicate-looking flowers come in pink, red, orange, violet, yellow and white, backed by fern-like, gray-green foliage.
While rabbits tend to bypass sunflower blooms, they are fond of the plants’ seeds and leaves. Some gardeners are able to grow sunflowers by sprinkling blood meal, human hair, cow manure, fox urine or other repellants in the garden, or by planting a border of other rabbit-resistant plants around them. Wire mesh, buried several inches deep, can also help. Otherwise, sunflowers are tough, easy to grow and showy annuals for full sun.
Attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, salvia is not usually eaten by rabbits, probably because of its scent. Depending on the variety, salvia blooms may be cream, orange, lavender, pink, red, purple or blue on plants with green, gray-green or silvery green leaves. Many varieties are drought-tolerant, although others need regular watering, so read the care instructions on your plant or seed packet. Give salvias full sun to light shade, in garden spots with average, well-drained soil.