If Rabbits Keep Ruining Your Lavender, Plant Its Fragrant Lookalike Instead

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If Rabbits Keep Ruining Your Lavender, Plant Its Fragrant Lookalike Instead

Lavender is a popular plant due to its beautiful light purple blooms and delightful aroma. It is used for a variety of purposes such as decoration, fragrance, and essential oil production. However, lavender is also a favorite snack of many animals, such as rabbits, which often leads to the plant not surviving in rural areas. If you are facing this issue, Russian sage can be a great alternative.

Russian sage has similar tubular-shaped blooms in a light purplish shade that can be easily mistaken for lavender. Although it is a member of the mint family, it is not a variety of sage. Unlike lavender, Russian sage has a more pungent scent, with a hint of menthol and a slightly herbal aroma reminiscent of lavender. 

What is Russian Sage?

Russian sage with yarrow

Kathryn Roach/Shutterstock

Russsian sage grows best in USDA zones 4-9 but thrives best in warmer climates, where the plants can grow quite large at 3-4 feet tall in width and height. The gray-green leaves each spring give way to lavender-shaded flowers that last from midsummer through the first frost. In winter, Russian sage sports silver-white stems that look beautiful on frosty mornings. Russian sage is also incredibly resistant to drought and does best in clay and medium soil with good drainage.

While its small light bluish-purple blooms and similar scent can often be mistaken for lavender by humans, rabbits will know the difference and stay away, making the sage a hearty alternative to the more tasty lavender plants that become damaged from being eaten. It is also a perennial, which means it will return and spread a bit each growing season, making it excellent for no-fuss gardeners.

How to use Russian Sage

bee on russian sage

Harold Stiver/Shutterstock

Russian sage makes a great element to add to any garden for both its beauty and draw for other kinds of fauna like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, particularly when planted along with other herbs and flowers popular with insects and birds like goldenrod and milkweed. Together, they make a heavenly scented garden, but one that usually proves a little too pungent to be especially tasty to the local mammals and pests, which keep them from devouring the leaves of the Russian sage. Plant it alone or as a border around flower beds as a preventative measure.

Dried Russian sage is often used for sachets and potpourri, particularly since its scent is slightly more noticeable and pungent than similar flowers and the small purple blooms make a lovely contrast to other dried blossoms. Unlike lavender, however, its blooms can be slightly toxic, so it is not recommended for edible uses. Russian sage essential oil also can be used as a deterrent for ants and beetles.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.