Issue 14, August 13, 2010


The rabbit species that primarily causes damage to trees and shrubs in Illinois is the Eastern cottontail. Cottontails cause serious damage to shrubs and small trees by stripping off the bark during the winter. Although they can be repelled with thiram, an ingredient in some rabbit and deer repellents, this requires at least a couple of treatments during the winter. The first application is applied after the weather turns cold, usually between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a second application during a warm spell in mid-February.

Fencing also protects ornamentals but must be at least two feet high and of a small enough mesh to keep the rabbits out. In the winter, this fence should be at least two feet higher than crusted snow depth. It is difficult to find fencing that does not detract from ornamental plants. When attractive fencing is found, it tends to be expensive.

Last Saturday, I was visiting the Missouri Botanic Garden in St. Louis, MO. In their home gardening center, manned by University of Missouri Extension Master Gardeners, I noticed a publication that listed plants that are less susceptible to rabbits. As we are approaching the season for fall planting, the following list may be useful to you. The entire publication containing various management methods, other repellents, and less susceptible herbaceous plants can be found at this link.--Phil Nixon

Woody Plants Seldom Damaged by Rabbits:

Azaleas (Rhododendron species)

Hydrangea, Smooth (Hydrangea arborescens)

Boxwood (Buxus species)

Inkberry, Dwarf (Ilex glabra 'Compacta')

Buckeye, Common (Aesculus glabra)

Laurel, Mountain (Kalmia latifolia)

Buckeye, Bottlebrush (Aesculus parviflora)

Maple, Japanese (Acer palmatum)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

Pine, White (Pinus strobus)

Butternut (Juglans cinerea)

Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)

Cinquefoil, Bush (Potentilla fruticosa)

Spruce, Blue (Picea pungens)

Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster species)

Sumac (Rhus species)

Dogwood, Tatarian (Cornus alba)

Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera)

Gum, Sweet (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Walnut, Black (Juglans nigra)

Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Yew (Taxus species)

Hydrangea, Climbing (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris)


Phil Nixon

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