Do not let a rabbit’s cute appearance and shy demeanor fool you. If you let these tiny critters wander around your garden, they will eat your plants, even your succulents!
Like deer, rabbits do not usually feed on succulents if there are other tasty options available on the proverbial buffet table but rabbits do eat succulents if there is no tastier food available.
Who is the real culprit?
Before you point an accusing finger toward the neighborhood rabbits, it is a good idea to determine which pests are actually invading your garden.
First, look at the plants that you suspect that you think rabbits have eaten. If rabbits are the real culprit, you will notice the shoots of the affected plants are practically gone. Rabbits prefer to gnaw on tender shoots during spring. Come winter, they will turn their attention to the plant’s bark.
Look at the bite marks. Do they look clean? Do you notice 45-degree cuts? Is the damage located in the lower portion of the plant?
Rabbits make a clean cut on fresh stems, usually with a 45-degree angle. And because of their small size, they can only reach heights of about two to three feet.
In contrast, deer tear off parts of the plant, leaving stems and leaves with a ragged appearance. Plus, these ruminants can reach plants about six feet high.
Rabbit-proofing your garden
If you are sure that rabbits have been feasting on your succulents and other plants, you might be tempted to hunt them down.
However, using firearms to get rid of a rabbit infestation is tricky, if not downright impractical.
For one, you will have to contend with gun laws in your area, especially if you live in a city or the suburbs. Plus, you will have to dispose of the carcasses. Not to mention the fact that you will alarm your neighbors.
Shooting rabbits is an uphill battle where you might be the inevitable loser. Rabbits can easily multiply and you will have a hard time getting rid of a colony. Also, you may have to waste a whole day hunting your prey with no assurance when they will come out to venture into your yard.
Instead of attempting to shoot Bugs and his friends, there are a few strategies that you can employ.
Eliminate potential hiding spots
You might be unknowingly and unintentionally inviting rabbits into your property.
Although rabbits venture into gardens in pursuit of their next meals, some of these small mammals come into landscapes to find a haven from their predators.
Take a close look at your yard. Do you have piles of dead leaves, undergrowth, and weedy patches? Rabbits might find these appealing. If you want to protect your plants from these invaders, make sure that you eliminate potential hiding and nesting spaces.
On the other hand, if you can live with the idea of coexisting peacefully with rabbits on your property, earmark a portion on your yard, away from your main garden.
Use that small spot for planting the plants that rabbits find edible. These animals tend to go for food that is the most accessible for them. Plus, you can attain some measure of peace of mind, knowing that your garden will be the least of the rabbits’ concern.
Use plants as weapons
Like deer, rabbits prefer some types of food over others. In particular, these critters prefer veggies, young stems, and fruits.
In particular, rabbits love to feast on tomatoes, corn, carrots, cucumbers, and hot peppers.
But as opportunistic eaters, rabbits will eat almost anything. Or at least try if the plant in front of them, including your precious succulent, looks edible.
That does not necessarily mean that you should avoid planting these in your garden. Instead, you might want to add plants that rabbits avoid.
These include butterfly weed, Russian sage, celandine poppy, dusty miller, lavender, yarrow, Mexican marigolds, garlic, onions, leeks, and chives.
These plants can thrive hand in hand with your other plants, including your succulents.
Build a fence
You do not need a tall fence to prevent rabbits from entering your property. Contrary to what some people might believe, these small mammals are not strong jumpers. That means that your fence can be effective even if it just stands around two feet tall.
However, you need to make sure that the space between the rails or mesh is narrow enough to keep rabbits from squeezing in between these.
It is also a good idea to bury your fence about 10 inches beneath the soil. That depth is enough to keep rabbits from digging their way through into your property.
Want something quick and easy? Consider using repellents to ward off rabbits from your property.
Many gardeners found great success using bone meal to keep rabbits away from their crops. Rabbits hate the stink of bone meal. But be forewarned, bone meal stench can be overwhelming even to humans.
If you have a pet dog, you can let him loose in your yard to mark his territory by leaving his scent. Ideally, you should do this during the night.
Avoid using mothballs. Mothballs work best in confined spaces, never in large spaces like gardens. Furthermore, you might end up doing more harm than good. Mothballs contain chemicals that may not be safe for the environment and your plants. You can even kill beneficial insects that your plants love.
Succulents and your pet rabbits
But what if you keep rabbits as pets? Can succulents poison your furry little pals?
There are some varieties of succulents that are known to be poisonous to small mammals or even humans when ingested. These include the pencil cactus, aloe vera, and the Euphorbia.
If you would like to keep both your rabbits and succulents inside your home, you should take a few precautions. Although rabbits do not usually eat succulents, they are curious creatures who will not pass on the opportunity to nibble on anything that looks palatable, including your plants.
As much as possible, keep your succulents in a secure location, away from your pets and young kids.
Consider keeping succulent species that are known to be safe for rabbits.
As an added protective measure, put decorative rocks on the top of the soil of your succulents. Rabbits like to dig and will not pass up on the opportunity to mess up your succulent’s potting mix.
Apart from creating a huge mess and potentially damaging your succulents, rabbits that dig succulent pots can be poisoned by the fertilizer residue left in plant containers.
Small size, big damage
Rabbits may be small in size, but do not let that fact lead you into thinking that these critters cannot do big damage in your garden.
Rabbits will attempt to eat almost anything that seems edible to them, including your succulents. Take the necessary precautions and follow the tips listed here to protect your plants, especially your succulents, from these little rascals.
Image: Istockphoto.com / kynny