4 Plants Rabbits Eat (And Why They Eat Them)

Most common plants that rabbits eat

Gardens. They’re an eye-catching addition to any yard when they’re well-kept and can last for years depending on what you’ve decided to grow. Whether it’s a vegetable garden that provides a plentiful harvest or a flower garden that helps attract bees for pollinating the buds on your fruits and veggie plants, gardens provide benefits to not only just the gardener themself and are also a sought-after hobby for many. 

To get to this rewarding stage, there are a number of garden pests that you must be prepared for, one of the greatest of which nuisances are rabbits. They can cause devastation to your vegetable or fruit garden in a single evening and eat your flowers before they have the opportunity to bloom. 

While there are a number of different vegetable plants, fruits, flowers, and more that rabbits eat, there are a few particular plants that are so tempting of a delicious snack to rabbits that they’re unable to resist. Some of these irresistible snacks include leafy greens, peppers, and even certain annual and perennial flowers. We’ll take a look at some of the most desirable plants in your garden that rabbits may be snacking on and what you might be able to do to deter them!

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What Do Rabbits Eat In General Anyways?

Cute domestic red rabbit on green grass sitting among white flowers close up photo

Rabbits are herbivores meaning that they strictly eat plants. According to an article by Michigan State University, depending on the season, and the specific food source that’s available, rabbits will snack on a variety of roots, leaves, seeds, and bark from a variety of plants to ensure that they’re getting the nutrients they need for survival.

When food is scarce, rabbits will eat a wider variety of plants including fruits and vegetables. In normal conditions, however, rabbits prefer a healthy array of leafy green plants, flowers, and grass as a regular part of their daily meals.

So, from your flowers, fruits, shrubs, and vegetables, here are just a handful of the most common plants from each of these categories that rabbits will eat if they’re available in your garden in a time of need.

Here’s a quick table to summarize some of the plants that rabbits love!

Common Yard Plants That Rabbits Eat

FlowersVegetablesFruitsShrubs
LilyLettuceAppleForsythia
TulipKaleGrapeHydrangea
IrisSpinachBlueberrySmokebush
PetuniaPeppersStrawberryBarberry
Sweet PeaBeansPearWitch Hazel
DaisyBroccoliKiwiJuneberry
Baby’s BreathBeetsRaspberryFlowering Quince

Next, we’ll get right into the specifics of these plants. Let’s get to it!

#1 Rabbits Love To Eat Flowers

While appealing to the eyes and the nose, what’s not to love about flowers? With their little noses moving at what seems to me a mile a minute, rabbits have the exact same thought!

When it comes to rabbits making a meal out of the flowers in your flower beds and gardens, all parts of the flowers are susceptible to being devoured – from the bulb when you initially plant them (though it is rare), to the flower petals once they are in full bloom and everything in between – rabbits will eat it all!

In fact, when my tulips come up every spring, it seems like I get to enjoy their pop of color around the base of my trees for only a day before they’re eaten up by the neighborhood bunnies! It’s no surprise that this flower is at the top of the list for rabbits!

TulipLilyIrisPetuniaSweet PeaDaisyBaby’s Breath
Hardiness Zone3 – 84 – 93 – 9 9 – 113 – 104 – 83 – 9
Bloom PeriodSpringSpring thru FallSpring and SummerSpring thru FallSummer and FallSummer and FallSummer
Sun ExposurePartial to FullPartial to FullPartial to FullFullFullFullFull
Flower ColorMulticolorMulticolorMulticolorMulticolorMulticolorWhiteWhite and Pink

…But Do Rabbits Eat ALL Flowers?

There are certain flowers that rabbits will avoid because of their potent scent or because the flower, stems, or leaves may have rough, prickly, or other uncomfortable feelings on their fur as they roam the area. 

Some of the flowers that rabbits will do their best to avoid are:

  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Forget Me Not
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Snapdragon

When planning your flower arrangement in the garden for the upcoming year, consider intermingling some of these less favorable flowers with those that may attract rabbits. Your flower garden will get a refresh, and you should see fewer rabbit prints coming to and from your flower garden. 

#2 Rabbits Love Eating Vegetables

On TV shows, movies, and basically any screen where we may see rabbits, it’s not unusual for these critters to be depicted crunching on some leafy greens or nibbling on a carrot.  If only our little ones were as eager to eat fresh vegetables as these animated rabbits are!

FUN FACT: Carrots are not a preferred snack for rabbits. 

So, while the carrots in your garden may be safe (so long as they’re not uprooted by another creature), the green, fibrous vegetables in your garden are still at risk. 

Because rabbits’ teeth are continuously growing, they’re more likely to pick these fibrous vegetables to help keep their teeth in good condition and not overgrown.   

Leafy GreensPeppersBeansBroccoliBeets
Harvest Time3 – 4 weeks2 – 3 months2 months2 – 3 months7 – 8 weeks
Sun ExposurePartial to FullPartial to FullPartial to FullFullPartial to Full
WateringRegularRegularRegularRegularRegular 

Are There Vegetables Rabbits Don’t Eat?

Just like with flowers, there are certain vegetables that rabbits will stray from because they are too aromatic or may be prickly on their fur. There are many scents that rabbits hate, which could keep them away.

Some of the vegetables that rabbits will shy away from include:

  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes

As these vegetables work against taste preferences, you might be able to plant alternating rows of some of these vegetables alongside those leafy greens and beans that rabbits love. 

Before you plant though, be sure that the plants won’t be competing for nutrients as they grow.  Farmers’ Almanac has a great cheat sheet of companion plants and foes for our common vegetables! 

#3 Rabbits Also Love Fruit!

Food background fruits collection apples berries banana oranges fruit backgrounds

While fruits may not make up the majority of a rabbit’s plate during its meals, rabbits will eat fruit if the plants are accessible, or if the fruit has fallen from its branches. 

Fruit is beneficial to rabbits, especially fruits with higher water content, but because of the high sugar content in many fruits, eating it in moderation is key.

Plus, because many of the most beloved fruits of rabbits grow on vines, trees, and shrubs, you may not notice any rabbit damage on the plants themselves. Instead, rabbits will wait for the fruit to fall during a windstorm, or wait for the plant to be disturbed by another pest and nibble on the fruit that has fallen to the ground. 

ApplesGrapesBerriesPearKiwi
Hardiness Zone3 – 82 – 104 – 73 – 103 – 9
Fruit SeasonSummer to FallFallSpring to SummerSummer to FallSpring to Summer
Sun ExposureFullFullFullFullFull

But Some Fruits Do Pose A Danger To Rabbits

There are some fruits that rabbits absolutely should not eat due to their natural toxicity and parts of the fruit which pose a challenge for eating. 

Apricot, plum, and peach fruits are dangerous for rabbits to eat not only because of the chemicals they contain, but their pits are not safe to eat and rabbits aren’t able to digest them. 

#4 Rabbits Will Eat Shrubs As Well

This idea may surprise some. After all, how would these small creatures get to all the leafy delicious parts of a shrub when the leaves are generally higher off the ground?

When it comes to shrubs, new growth and younger shrubs are especially susceptible to rabbit damage – especially during the spring season when spring shoots begin to sprout. 

In general, rabbits will prefer this new growth to an already developed area of the shrub, but if a shrub becomes overgrown and rabbits aren’t able to get to the freshly green parts that are most desirable, they will absolutely nibble on these low-hanging leaves and branches so that they don’t go hungry. 

ForsythiaHydrangeaSmokebushBarberryWitch HazelFlowering Quince
Hardiness Zone3 – 83 – 9 4 – 92 – 63 – 95 – 9
Bloom PeriodSpringSummer to FallSpring to SummerSummer to FallFall to WinterWinter to Spring
Sun ExposurePartial to FullShade to Full SunFullFullPartial to FullFull
Flower ColorYellowMulticolorYellowWhite and PinkYellowMulticolor

What Shrubs Are Safe From Rabbits?

It’s hard to say that there is such a thing as a rabbit-repellent shrub because in extreme cases rabbits will eat greenery and various shrub parts that they would turn their head to in more desirable food conditions.

A few shrubs are toxic to rabbits if eaten in large amounts or have irritating growth that make it unpleasant for rabbits to maneuver around. If you add some of these shrubs to your landscape, they may help assist in keeping rabbits away:

  • Azalea
  • Boxwood
  • Butterfly bush 

How To Protect Your Garden From Rabbits

Rabbits have been one of the most prevalent garden pests since the earliest of times, and they can quickly damage, and in some cases kill, an entire plant. While they might go away in the winter, rabbits can be quite pesky when it comes to your harvests.

Whether it’s your flowers, fruits, and veggies, or larger shrubs that you may be looking to protect, here are a few ways that you may be able to help reduce the amount of rabbit activity in your yard. 

We have created a guide of 7 Easy Ways to Naturally Get Rid of Rabbits, which you can also use as a supplement to the following techniques.

Use Planters And Raised Beds

View of a herb in a raised bed in the garden.

Most rabbits eat with all four feet on the ground – they’re not known to conduct extreme acrobatic feats in order to get to the greenery that is higher off the ground. 

With this in mind, changing up your garden setup by adding some raised garden beds, or adding some decorative pots to your flower garden, may just be the thing needed to help eliminate rabbits from munching on your plants! 

Depending on the type of plants that you’re looking to grow, and where you’re growing them, using a raised garden bed like Best Choice Products Outdoor Wooden Raised Garden Bed Planter or a vertical garden like Amazing Creation’s Stackable Planter are great alternatives as opposed to planting directly into the soil where there isn’t much protection from rabbits and other pests. 

Consider Planting More Mature Plants

Rabbits are attracted to fresh, young greenery and plants, so planting older and more established shrubs and vegetation may help prevent rabbits from coming in and making them into a meal.

Of course, when working with established plants, it’s best to reach out to your local nursery to ensure that the plant will thrive in your area once planted, as well as to get maintenance tips so that these plants don’t become overgrown and start attracting other garden pests to your yard. 

Eliminate Spots For Rabbits To Hide

Yummy snacks and a nice spot to curl up and call it a night? Sign me up! 

Whether it’s a large or small garden pest, offering up a free meal from your garden and a place to stay after the meal may be something that some folks are unintentionally guilty of. 

It doesn’t help that, surprisingly, rabbits aren’t opposed to making their nests right out in the open, so reducing the places for them to hide and nest may pose a challenge all by itself. You can find out where rabbits really go and live during the day, to help you determine which areas you might want to focus on.

However, the leaf pile that we decide to leave for tomorrow or the woodpile in the corner of the yard might be offering up additional nesting spots for these critters. So, by eliminating any leaf, wood, or other brush piles in your yard, you’re also eliminating additional spots that can offer rabbits security for nesting and breeding. 

PRO TIP: While cleaning up the leaf and other yard debris in your yard, don’t forget to check your vegetable and flower gardens. Removing any dead or fallen plants will help make it easier to spot any rabbit (or other pests’) prints! 

Use Fencing

While this may not be the most ideal option, depending on the side of your garden area, adding fencing can be an effective way to help reduce rabbit activity. 

The one thing to remember while exploring this option however is that rabbits are often seen digging underneath fencing materials, so you’ll need to dig below the ground in order to bury your fencing material for it to be most effective. 

If you’re not certain whether fencing will be the most cost-effective fix to your rabbit problem, consider trying out a plant cage like Erva Bunny Barricades. These cages come in a number of pack sizes and are perfect if you’re looking to protect those prized cabbages from being nibbled on until you come up with a more permanent solution. 

We have also created a list of specific sounds and noises that scare rabbits, if you’re still looking for some solutions.

Putting It All Together

Rabbits. They have cute little noses and fluffy little tails that allow them to appear innocent, but those tiny teeth can cause some ferocious damage to numerous plants in our yard.

Rabbits prefer to eat a steady diet of grass, flowers, and other green plants, but when conditions make these plants scarce rabbits are able and willing to turn to other plants in your yard like your beans and broccoli plants, fruits like kiwi and berries, and even some shrubs that you thought would have been safe. 

With teeth that are always growing and ready for a meal, rabbits can cause substantial damage, but they are such a prominent pest that it may be unlikely to be able to eliminate them in their entirety. 

To help minimize rabbit activity in your yard and their damage to your plants, consider adding some “rabbit repellent” plants to your gardens along with implementing additional tactics like removing hiding spots, starting a vertical or raised garden, and fencing off precious plants to help keep these critters out.

References

Craven, S. R. (1994). Cottontail rabbits. The handbook: prevention and control of wildlife damage, 53.

Mátrai, K., Altbäcker, V., & Hahn, I. (1998). Seasonal diet of rabbits and their browsing effect on juniper in Bugac Juniper Forest (Hungary). Acta Theriologica, 43(1), 107-112.

Okuda, A., Hori, Y., Ichihara, N., Asari, M., & Wiggs, R. B. (2007). Comparative observation of skeletal-dental abnormalities in wild, domestic, and laboratory rabbits. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, 24(4), 224-229.

Robley, A. J., Short, J., & Bradley, S. (2001). Dietary overlap between the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in semi-arid coastal Western Australia. Wildlife Research, 28(4), 341-349.

Thompson, H. V. (1953). The grazing behaviour of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.). The British Journal of Animal Behaviour, 1(1), 16-19.

Todd, J. B. (1927). Winter food of cottontail rabbits. Journal of Mammalogy, 8(3), 222-228.

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