Ideas for Protecting a native plant garden

I’ve tried planting some native flowering plants to feed hummingbirds and other birds. Many of the new natives have not flourished or even disappeared altogether. I finally realized the problem.:rabbit:
I also have these to consider:deer:

I feel like I’m putting out $$ worth of bunny food instead of enhancing a bird habitat.



They make stinky deer and rabbit repellant but it’s gotten more expensive unfortunately. It can deter them but not stop them where there’s heavy pressure. I cage a lot of stuff to keep it safe from deer. For rabbits you could try attracting predators like great horned owls. I’ve also heard if you have a dog that runs around outside a lot most animals will stay away but you gotta train the dog to not destroy the plants too and that doesn’t always work.


If my plants get eaten by rabbits I just plant different plants in the spot next year. I have a spot in my backyard where the rabbits would eat anything I put there… finally I planted prickly pear and they’ve left it alone.

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If nothing is eating your plants, the garden is not wild enough :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve had coyotes and deer browse my yard, but they leave scat and seeds behind, so it’s a fair trade. Coyotes seem to keep the rabbits away.


I have sighted coyotes and rabbits in my yard recently, as well as deer. there was a bobcat a couple of times not to long ago. The rabbits seem to know their business about avoiding bigger animals; there’s a lot of old shrubbery in the yard that provide cover for rabbits and gophers.

@charlie I’ll look into the stinky repellent and hope it is not too repellent to me also.

We have a great horned owl I hear at night and a pair of hawks that live across the road. Maybe one of them will get lucky.


I can’t name anything specific for the species causing you problems but if you research there will probably be plants they hate which can act as a repellent

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Not sure where you’re located but a great book that recently came out is Deer Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast. A lot of native gardening books these days have deer-resistant lists as an appendix, and most native nurseries do as well on their websites. I live in an area with extremely high deer pressure (300 per sq mi) and get them nearly every day in the yard. We also have rabbits. I’ve yet to find a foolproof way to prevent all damage, but a mix of things helped last year - setting out cubes of white, mint-scented soap on stakes at the height of the plant kept deer away from some plants. I covered young plants with overturned flower pots at night, weighed down with a rock or brick on windy days, until they grew too large for it. And I was also very vigilant - the rabbits would always come around the same times every evening and early morning, and at least in the evening I could get out there and scare them off. Same with the deer, if I happened to spot them (usually around 2-3am, which, being a night owl I was still awake) I’d go out there and shoo them. We also have groundhogs that eat some of the plants too, and for that I’ve only been able to just scare it off when I see it.
In general, plants in the mint family, carrot family, alliums, milkweeds (obv), and others with high concentrations of distasteful metabolic compounds, prickly or waxy leaves aren’t touched. Asteraceae gets hit heavy. My New England aster, Rudbeckia, wood aster, and goldenrod are a constant battle, and I have lost the battle on sunflowers.
If you can get new plants past that first year of growth, they stand a much better chance in future years. New young leaves will always be targeted first, and they tend to leave older, tougher foliage alone. I put in some native cinquefoil and wild petunia in the fall and the very next day they’d been eaten to the ground - deer and rabbits are always roaming!


Where I live it’s Wallabies, they will break your heart. In my experience the best solution is exclusion fencing, saves your plants without harming the wildlife. I constructed about a kilometre of 1.8M high fencing, it makes the world of difference,

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for me its the %@$#%@$%#$%@#$%@$ iguanas. i use a lot of netting and caging and fencing to block them off. unfortunately im not sure if hummingbirds can get through chicken wire or similar


I’ve used tomato cages wrapped with chicken wire around the base to protect plants known to be rabbit candy. To get new plants established, I like to start seeds off in pots and let them grow 2-3 years in containers to where they have a sizable root system before planting them out in the yard. It’s more work because you have to take care of potted plants, watering them in the summer and heeling them in during the winter, and dig a bigger hole. However, it seems to be more reliable for getting plants established at a stage where a bit of browsing won’t hurt them that much any more compared to young seedlings and saplings. Of course if your rabbits have access to the potted plants, this might not work that well.


Embrace the idea you’re feeding mammals as well as birds?

Yeah, that’s really helpful, I know. How big an area are you dealing with? In my small yard, it’s worthwhile to grow hummingbird plants like single-flowered fuchsias in hanging baskets. I do get rabbits (and red-tailed hawks that eat them) and squirrels (and fishers that eat them) and occasionally deer (and they get hit by cars now and then) in my 6/10ths of an acre in a small town. But if the plants I buy and plant out die, it’s more likely to be voles, in my yard (and there are domestic cats - not mine! - that target the voles).

OK, I have actually embraced the idea that I’m feeding the mammals and insects and slugs and whatever, along with the idea that if something gets eaten, there’s a hole in my yard I get to fill with new plants, and buying new plants does not break my heart.

But all this is not to diminish your distress, which I do understand - you have my sympathy!


Yes, I’m trying that, too. I did resort getting some very drought tolerant grevillea for the hummingbirds, even thought it is not native.

I think I should go find some similar info for the West Coast. Although, I think it is tricky here, as I live in SF Bay Area, which has huge differences in climates and terrain over small areas: mountains, coastal, valleys, and even near desert-like plains. What does great in one area won’t do well at all 30 miles away.

Well, I rent; so a major investment like that is beyond the scope of what I could do here. I do really enjoy seeing wildlife, but now I understand why the landscaping here was such a mess. I suspect that prior tenants just gave up, which I understand more now (especially, considering the droughts we’ve been having).

[quote=“annkatrinrose, post:10, topic:29291”]
I’ve used tomato cages wrapped with chicken wire around the base to protect plants known to be rabbit candy. To get new plants established, I like to start seeds off in pots and let them grow 2-3 years in containers to where they have a sizable root system before planting them out in the yard.
[/quote]. I saw some nice looking Cages on Amazon. I’ll have to consider those.

:laughing: To say nothing of the gophers and moles, which leave huge swaths of mounded soil as they search for roots. I just discovered 3 sizable aoneum (sp.?) I transplanted out a few months ago have been pulled down into new tunnels.

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Goodness! Iguanas! Our local Anna’s Hummingbirds are small, but not small enough to safely negotiate chicken wire. Although, maybe chicken wire would be okay long-enough to let some of the plants get established

Another strategy which I haven’t personally tried is to plant foods deer and rabbits really love so that they will leave other edible plants alone. My neighborhood has a lot of dogs so not a lot of rabbits or deer, but plenty of squirrels. The squirrels mostly dig holes, but they happily eat exotic tulips.

that’s what my husband suggested, too - to plant lettuce. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try; at least lettuce seeds don’t cost much. :crazy_face:


Rabbits apparently love kale.

Possible idea: Plant your hummingbird plants, ringed by an unpalatable, unpleasant plant (bitter-tasting or having thorns), with an outer ring or border of kale on the outside.


Not everyone would be interested in this option, but they do have companies you can hire that specialize in native planting. I assume they would consider such issues and know what to do.

I tried that earlier but you just attract more herbivores.


Good point; I will ask about that next time I’m at the native plant nurseries. I know one does landscape consulting, but I suspect that is for a whole yard project. Still, I can ask.

My solution to deer is to plant only things that are Spiny, Sticky, Smelly, or Sappy. Fencing could also work, but I’m not crazy about the expense and maintenance.

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