Rabbit Resistant Southwestern Landscape

Late summer and wildlife abounds! While a single bunny is cute, it is upsetting when they decimate your landscape. To avoid the issue, select plants that are pretty-looking but nasty-tasting. There are a number of desert plants that are rabbit resistant and can help create a lush-looking colorful yard. The reason I am telling you about these now is that fall is ideal for planting most plants.

Mexican sage is lovely in the garden – but not a sage for culinary use.

Plant
Select plants from the list at the end of this article. But don’t stop with planting. Compared to a tough, dry plant of the same species that has been growing in the desert for years, that lush plant from the nursery is delicious. It will get sampled.

Protect
Protect plants until they become established. Your yard may be a sea of cages for a while, but that will change. Get your plants established. Then harden them off by letting them live on rainfall alone for a year. When you take the cages off, they may get eaten. But! When the plant regrows, it will regrow with a double dose of animal resistant chemicals. Plant chemicals are expensive for a plant to make. They have to use energy that would better be used to make more branches, leaves and flowers. Thus they make animal deterring compounds only if they have to.

Chilies deter animals that use scent to find food.

Defend
For very persistent bunnies, there are repellents you can apply to your landscaping. Liquid Fence is one brand. Based on garlic oil, it is very strongly scented when wet, but dries to odorless for humans. Rabbits can still smell it however, and will learn to avoid your yard. It can be expensive with time as it does wash away. But in some neighborhoods you only need it in spring and summer when the babies are hungry.

A lower tech repellent solution is to buy pounds of dried hot chilies. I get them in bulk from the supermarket and scatter them around the yard. The chilies also keep the dogs off my landscape. Birds eat them however, so you must renew them every so often.

Honesty compels me to state that all rabbit resistant plants are just that — resistant. And there are many hungry animals. Picture the rabbit clan. Albert has one bite. Then Bertbert has a bite. Next Culbert hops by and takes a nibble. And Dilbert tries some too. By the time Herbert hops up for a bite, your shrub is a nub! But with careful planning, and wise planting, we can share the space with our native animal neighbors.

Native threadleaf verbena blooms in winter.

List of Rabbit Resistant Plants for the Southwest

* showy, long lasting flowers
# native plant that can easily be grown from seed – for ideal resistance

Ground Covers
bulbine * (Bulbine – all species)
dalea *# (Dalea – all species)
lantana * (Lantana – all species)
rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
verbena *# (Verbena – native species especially)

Many native plants can easily be grown from seed.

Shrubs
bird of paradise, red * (Caesalpina pulcherrima)
chuparosa * (Justicia californica)
creosote * (Larrea tridentata)
hummingbird bush * (Zauschneria – all species)
jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)
little leaf cordia * (Cordia parvifolia)
marigold Mt. Lemmon *# (Tagetes lemmoni)
marigold, Palmers* (Tagetes palmeri)
marigold, sweet * (Tagetes lucida)
Monterrey olive * (Cordia boyseryi)
desert plumbago *# (Plumbago scandens)
salvia * # (Salvia– native species especially)
Texas ranger * (Leucophyllum species)
Texas mountain laurel * (Sophora secundiflora)
woolly butterfly bush (Buddleia marrubifolia)

Plumbago, also called leadwort, contains compounds that make it distasteful to wildlife.

Vines
Baja passionflower vine *# (Passiflora foetida var. longipedunculata)
lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea)
snapdragon vine *# (Maurandya antirrhimiflora)
yuca vine * (Merremia aurea)

Perennials
desert milkweed * (Asclepias subulata)
desert marigold * (Baileya multiradiata)
desert zinnia * (Zinnia acerosa)
goldeneye daisy * (Viguiera deltoidea)
gopher plant * (Euphorbia rigida)
golden dyssodia * (Dyssodia acerosa, D. tenuisecta)
iris (Iris – all species)

Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

Article copyright © Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

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