Currently, there are no legal forms of controlling rabbit populations in the United States with chemicals or poisons. Fences provide plants some protection from voracious rabbits but are not of much value in landscaped common areas or in front yards. Most sprays that claim to deter rabbits must be applied regularly and indefinitely, making them a troublesome and temporary solution to the rabbit problem.
Rabbits are a real problem in suburban north Texas neighborhoods. Anyone who jogs or walks in the early morning hours can bear witness to the surreal nocturnal rabbit world that exists alongside street after street of homes. Just before dawn, you can find them feasting on plants seemingly without fear or concern.
The increase in rabbits seems to closely follow the construction of neighborhoods where they are protected from natural predators by people and fences. Rabbits are active at night, but the damage they do to plants is visible in the daylight.
So, what can be done?
Some hope may be found in an article written by Jeff Schalau where he compiled a list of rabbit-resistant plants.
Below is a link to the link to Schalau’s Arizona Cooperative Extension article on Deer and Rabbit Resistant Plants.
In my experience, not all of the plants on the list are rabbit resistant. Hollies made the list, but I have watched rabbits devour them from the base up to about 2-1/2 feet. This is perhaps why Barbara Medford of the Lady Bird Johnson Center wisely said, “To start with, there are no truly deer- or rabbit-proof plants. And sometimes rabbits, like people, will be choosy and make different choices in one yard than another right down the street. If they are hungry enough, they will eat any of these plants, and even when they’re not terribly hungry, will nibble the fresh new growth on plants they would ordinarily avoid. Most browsing animals prefer not to eat plants that are aromatic or prickly but, again, in times of drought or bad weather, they’ll eat what they can get.”
Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service also recommends modifying the habitat of a landscape area to make it less inviting to rabbits. This is difficult to do in a suburban area where an unwitting neighbor may have inadvertently created a rabbit sanctuary in a backyard. The plant list compiled by Schalau is a good place to start in thinking about plants that can survive alongside the invisible, but ever-present rabbit population. I have noticed that rabbits tend to leave aromatic plants like boxwood and juniper alone.