A few years ago I planted a row of burning bush near the top of a retaining wall as a hedge. They were decent size…the ones sold in 5 gal containers. Last winter they took a big hit when an ice storm came through and broke off a ton of branches. This turned what were nice full bushes into some thin and bare looking bushes. I was gonna rip them out and start over, but decided to give them a season to repair themselves. They made a decent recovery over the growing season. Now, just this morning I look out and see what appears to be a ton of rabbit tracks in the snow around the bushes…and lots of broken branches lying on the ground. What little recovery these things made over the growing season is now lying on the ground. Needless to say I’m pretty frustrated here. 10 good size burning bushes are not cheap, and now I’ve got 10 Charlie Brown bushes that will need to be ripped out. Do rabbits eat the branches of burning bushes? Or could these branches just get broken off because of the exposed area they are in? They are along the top of a retaining wall that gets some decent winds and is very exposed. Are burning bush supposed to be covered/protected in some fashion for the winter in cold climates? I live in the lower peninsula of Michigan.
Burning Bush are one of rabbits favorite foods, especially late into winter. The plants are very hardy and are one of the most popular in the midwest. They have continuous budding so they can usually recover from this damage, but if they get it in consecutive years it can be detrimental to the plant. When I was a grower and even still now, I used a product called Milorganite, which is a natural fertilizer, I believe, derived from human waste. It works extremely well as a repellent for deer and rabbits. I also use it religiously on new annual plantings. It has to be re-applied every couple of weeks, but it's cheap and effective,while also fertilizing. It's not sold as a repellent, it's just something I discovered about 10-12 years ago while planting annuals. Word of caution; don't leave it in your garage without being in a plastic container, it will stink up the whole garage. I think you can get it at the home centers now, if not, try a nursery or landscape supplier. Good luck!