The Best Ways To Keep Your Lilies Safe From Hungry Rabbits

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The Best Ways To Keep Your Lilies Safe From Hungry Rabbits

Rabbits are often attracted to lilies (Lilium) in gardens due to their tendency to browse and chew on young plants. This can be frustrating for gardeners who are trying to create a pollinator paradise. One way to prevent rabbits from eating your lilies is to fence them in with chicken wire. However, if the cost of fencing is too high, natural and commercial repellent sprays can be used instead. Keep in mind that these sprays will need to be reapplied regularly to remain effective. Another option is to tidy up your property to remove their favorite shelter spots.

Once rabbits become accustomed to eating your lilies, it becomes difficult to stop them from doing so. A tell-tale sign of rabbit damage is a cleanly cut flowerhead at a 45-degree angle, as opposed to the jagged cuts made by deer. Rabbits are limited to causing damage under two feet in height unless snow cover provides them with a boost. Another sign of rabbit activity is a cluster of small, tan spherical pellets. If your soil is hard, you may be able to spot their four-toed paw prints, with the back prints being 2.5 times larger than the ones on the front. As soon as you notice rabbit damage to your lilies, it’s important to take preventative measures to stop them from causing further damage.

Prop fences around your lilies

Fencing in garden

AlboPepper / YouTube

Constructing a stake-supported, wire-based fence is the best way to protect your lilies from hungry critters. Favor the ones with under 1-inch mesh sizes because they keep the younglings out, too. Push the fence at least 6 inches deep into the ground and flatten out a few inches toward the rabbits’ entry. Alternatively, lay a layer of rocks and bricks around the fence to prevent the pests from accessing the flowers by digging underneath. Ensure the structure is at least 2 feet high, but raise it further if your area receives snow or has jumping hares.

If you’re only looking for a short seasonal fix (for instance, if you just wanted to give the blooms extra protection in the summer), electrical netting may be more suitable. Although easy to install and use, they need regular maintenance or the twitchy-nosed creatures could chew through the fencing. To avoid such possibilities, double-wrap up to 3 feet of the fence’s bottom with chicken wire. Use posts wherever necessary to prevent the wire from dropping down. You can also repurpose old plastic milk containers to protect individual lilies. Remove the bottom of a 1-gallon box, place it around the blooms after leaving some margin, and drive it 3 inches deep into the substrate. Covering your plants with nylon mesh or another garden cover can also yield great results.

Make the area uninviting

Bobbex in store

Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

While fences are great at banishing rabbits, they’re unsightly, expensive, and must be monitored regularly for breaches and half-chewed wires. If you find it a bother, use the critters’ noses against them by wielding scents that they dislike and that also mask the pleasant aroma of the lilies. Blood meal — the powdered blood collected from slaughterhouses — can offend the bunnies’ herbivorous sentiments. Just spread it thinly alongside your lilies, spray a diluted mixture, or add it to a container and place the vessel adjoining the potted blooms. To boot, it doubles up as a nitrogen fertilizer, which lilies need when their leaves are growing. Apply it around dusk or dawn, when the toothed bandits are most active. Reapply after rain and sprinkler irrigation.

However, avoid blood meal if coyotes are a festering problem, as they find it attractive; use egg-based repellents like Bobbex instead. If you’re game for a DIY recipe, Seattle Neighborhood’s Gardening Program has one involving eggs, yogurt, cayenne pepper, dish soap, and essential oils. You can also keep hungry rabbits out with the common household essential talcum powder. Rabbits find it unpleasant, but dusting your plants with baby powder has its drawbacks. Being lightweight, it can’t withstand strong winds and leaches out if it rains, necessitating frequent reapplications. That being said, clear out weeds, debris, rock piles, and other safe hiding spots from your garden to prevent rabbits from establishing their “bolt areas” closer to your lilies.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.