What Flowers Do Rabbits Eat? Crocus and More

Plus Tips on Protecting Your Flowers From Damage

Flower of Pink Supreme carpet rose.
Rabbits will even eat the young, thornless branches of rose bushes. David Beaulieu

It is essential to learn what flowers rabbits eat if you live in a neighborhood bothered by these pests. Gardeners all too often have gone out into their spring-fresh yards in the morning, their hearts set on admiring the new crop of Crocus flowers, for example, only to experience a rude awakening: Overnight, a rabbit (you can tell it was a rabbit from the fresh droppings left behind) had eaten everything, flowers as well as the plants' foliage. Sure, there are some rabbit-proof flowers out there, but who wants to be restricted to planting just those particular plants? Instead, we will take a look at ways to protect the garden from these pests, in addition to citing examples of plants at risk of being eaten by them.

Rabbit damage to certain plants can be more heartbreaking than damage caused to others. When rabbits eat shrub plants, at least there is usually something left over (the rabbits can't reach the high branches on reasonably mature, sturdy shrubs). In fact, in the case of shrubs that bloom on new wood, you will not even lose out on the current year's flowers due to rabbit damage in, say, January, February, or March. So if a rabbit chews the stems of your beautyberry shrub (Callicarpa), for example, down to the ground in the winter, you have not truly lost anything since most gardeners prune these bushes down to within a few inches of the ground in early spring, anyhow. Beautyberry offers no winter interest, so if a rabbit eats the branches in winter, no harm has been done. But when rabbits eat spring bulb plants, that spells "the end" in no uncertain terms: You will have to wait till next year to enjoy your crocus. A year is a long time to wait (especially after having waited in vain for the flowers on your bulb plant for the current year).

How to Protect Plants From Rabbit Damage

Short of establishing a reliable dog or cat patrol to keep out the rabbits, all of your options for protecting plants that rabbits eat have their drawbacks. But here are some of the best methods:

You could surround your crocus (or other flowers known to be on the menu for wild rabbits) with chicken-wire. But pest-proof fencing (for rabbits, groundhogs, etc.) of this sort is unsightly, so you may have to strike a compromise between aesthetic goals and practical concerns.

For flowers that bloom later in the year than crocuses do, the Scarecrow Sprinkler (which requires the use of a garden hose) might be an option. But it is way too early for Northerners to be setting up a garden hose outside to protect the flowers that bloom the earliest, because you will still experiences sub-freezing nights in early spring in places like New England, U.S. You surely do not want to risk broken pipes in the basement for the sake of protecting plants from rabbits.

Another option is to use a Havahart trap, but those are a lot of bother and, even if successful, would have to be set up continuously to control a critter that breeds like a rabbit.

Eliminating hiding places where pests can take cover is always sound pest-control policy. Rabbits are smart and would prefer not being caught out in the open. They are more comfortable coming out to graze on your landscape plants when a place to duck into, under, or behind (when a threat emerges) is located nearby. However, rabbits that are hungry enough are pretty brazen and will laugh at the danger inherent in grazing in an open area, where they are subject to attacks even from birds of prey.

Nonetheless, the smart thing for you to do is to make rabbits as uncomfortable as possible by depriving them of hiding spots such as:

Perhaps more importantly, brush piles, outbuildings, etc. can serve as spots in which or under which rabbits breed. So you can nip the problem in the bud, in some cases, simply by eliminating them or by taking precautionary measures. For example, the base of a storage shed can be ringed with chicken wire (partially buried in the ground to discourage tunneling) to make it more difficult for rabbits to get under it. Or it can be sprayed with repellents to drive the critters away.

Speaking of repellents, another option is to spread some sort of stinky substance all around your property to repel rabbits. For example, some gardeners use blood meal (it has the virtue of being organic). But such repellents generally have to be reapplied after a rain.

Examples of Flowers That Rabbits Eat

In addition to crocus, wild rabbits eat a number of different kinds of plants. They will eat just about anything when really hungry, but here is a list of some of the flowers that they prefer to eat (including shrubs):