The Q&A Archives: Rabbits and Deer

Question: Hello. Currently, I have come across most of my outdoor plants missing. I know why; deer and rabbits. The problem is this year I asked some experts on which plants to plant don't get eaten by these pests, however, they got eaten aswell. I've tried deer repellents and rabbit repellents, but none seem to do the trick. Can you give me a possible solution?

Answer: As cute as they are, bunnies can be really exasperating when they choose to dine in your garden. The plants listed as 'deer resistant' typically are those that deer avoid because of toxicity, or simply because they don't taste very good. It's pretty much a trial and error situation in any given garden because hungry deer will eat almost anything, regardless of flavor. In my own garden they stay away from native plants but relish everything else. As for bunnies, there are some plants they avoid, because of toxicity or because the leaves are tough or hairy or tasteless or otherwise nasty. Bunnies get most of their moisture from the plants they eat so they tend to choose the most succulent leaves in the garden. In my own garden, the bunnies chomp on sunflower leaves (which are somewhat hairy) but they don't touch the leaves of the summer squash (also somewhat hairy) so I'm a little confused - at least with my population of bunnies. The University of Nebraska Extension put together a list of plants that bunnies tend to avoid - but maybe Nebraska rabbits have different tastes, so use this list with a grain of salt: Yarrow, Monkshood, Wormwood, Aster, Astilbe, Bellflower, Wild Indigo, Snakeroot, Autumn Crocus, Foxglove, Daylily, Leopards Bane, Meadow Sweet, Hosta, Red Hot Poker, Cranesbill Geranium, Iris, Bishops Hat(Epimedium), Narcissus, Yucca, Oriental Poppy, Lambs Ear, Sedum, Globe Flower, Meadow Sage, Bergenia, Pearly Everlasting. If there are some plants you really want to protect, encircling them with chicken wire might be the only way to save them. A final note - some gardeners find that a pet dog or cat can be an effective deterrent. Best wishes with your garden!

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