Rabbit Damage on Shrubs and Trees
The sun is shining, the snow is melting and the birds are singing…. Wait a minute… What happened to my shrub? Half of it is gone! What are all those little poop pellets on the ground? They may look cute, but rabbits certainly know how to do a lot of damage to our plants!
As the snow melts, we are getting a very clear picture of the damage done by the rabbits this past winter. The large volume of snow made food scarce, and rabbits found tasty morsels to stay alive throughout this very long winter.
How bad is the damage?
If the bunny ate the end of the twigs, the plant will have no problem recovering. It may look misshapen for a while, but a little judicious pruning can definitely fix that problem.
This shrub got chopped in half by the bunnies, but they did not damage any of the stems at the base as they were still covered by a couple of feet of snow. As the snow melts, more of the shrub is exposed and it’s not time to get complacent! The rabbits will not have access to any other food and now that the lower parts of the stems are exposed, they will most likely start nibbling on those.
Apply Plantskydd https://www.plantskydd.com/ in order to deter any further munching.
This is also the time to clean up your shrub by properly pruning it. Rabbits have sharp teeth and leave a nice clean cut, but it may not be at the proper location on the stem. A clean, angled cut made with sharp secateurs or loppers, just above an outward facing bud, will encourage your shrub to heal quickly.
Feed your plants!
The stored energy in the root system will help this shrub recover and get back to the original height. Be sure to water and fertilize your plants throughout the growing season in order to encourage the development of strong new growth.
Acti-Sol is a natural fertilizer that will provide slow and healthy growth. This pure hen manure is in dried, pelletized format, making it very easy to apply at the base of the shrub. It is approved for organic agriculture, certified by EcoCert Canada. I avoid using synthetic fertilizers as they usually promote soft, lush growth that may be susceptible to insect and disease attack.
If the rabbit has chewed through the main trunk, the depth of the damage will help determine whether the tree can recover.
Bark (or Cork) is the protective layer on a tree. The living phloem and vascular cambium are the conductive tissues which transfer water and nutrients to the leaves and roots. If the rabbit has chewed through these layers, it has essentially cut through the pipes and stopped the flow in that one section of the tree. If the extent of the damage covers more than one third of the diameter of the trunk, it will be very difficult for the tree to recover. The trunk will be weakened in that location.
Pictures of trees with extensive damage:
- Cindy Cluett