Problems with Rabbits?

News at Howland Jones | 19/03/2017

Whilst undeniably very cute, rabbits can cause considerable damage in the garden. They like to feed on a very wide range of ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables. New plantings and soft growth in the Spring may be eaten, even on plants that are generally less susceptible.

Rabbits do most of their feeding between dusk to dawn but can also be active during the day.

Rabbits or their spherical droppings are usually easy to spot. Symptoms of damage can include:

  • Shoots on herbaceous plants grazed to ground level
  • Foliage and soft shoots of woody plants can be grazed up to a height of 50cm (20in) by rabbits standing up on their hind legs
  • Bark may be gnawed away from the base of trunks, especially in winter when snow or frost makes other vegetation unavailable. This can kill trees and shrubs if ringbarked. Partly gnawed trunks should be wrapped in black polythene to encourage the damaged area to callus over
  • Rabbits also dig holes and scrapes in lawns and flower beds (Mr Howland would not be amused!)

There are many ways of reducing the number of rabbits in your garden, including installing netting or fencing, or less palatable, shooting or trapping etc. But these options are not for everyone.

Where complete fencing is impracticable, it may be possible to protect small areas, such as kitchen gardens, or particularly susceptible plants, such as lilies, by wire-netting barriers around them. For example individual plants can be protected with netting 90cm (3ft) high, without the need to lay part of the fence in the ground.

Plastic tree guards/spirals (biodegradable spirals based on potato starch are available) or wire netting should be used to protect the trunks of young trees and shrubs.

Animal repellents which contain aluminium ammonium sulphate may be more appealing which you can spray on plants. These have a bitter taste so are not suitable for edible plants that are close to harvesting. Repellents seldom give complete protection, particularly during wet periods or when plants are making active growth.

You may decide to be selective in your choice of plants in the garden. In areas where rabbits are particularly troublesome, it is advisable to grow plants that are relatively resistant.

Here are 5 usually rabbit-resistant plants for:

  • Shade - Hellebores
  • Full sun – Sunflowers
  • Containers – Busy Lizzie
  • Small tree – Bay tree
  • Shrub – Buddleja


There is no guarantee that any plants will remain free from damage in all conditions. Recent plantings and soft growth in the spring can sometimes be eaten, even if the plants are not susceptible at other times.

So in summary, rabbits can cause damage to the garden, but we would still rather see them bobbing along than not.