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Do Rabbits Eat Roses? How To Protect Your Rose Bushes From Bunnies

Do rabbits eat rose bushes? Yes! They eat the petals, buds, leaves, stems, bark, and even thorns if they’re still young. They eat parts of the rose bush closer to the ground since they can’t reach high, so you better protect your roses with chicken wire or rabbit repellent to prevent damage.

Are your roses slowly disappearing one by one? Can’t figure out who is stealing them? 

You may have fluffy critters at work in your garden! Yes, I am talking about rabbits! They don’t only eat carrots and cabbage. They will eat anything and everything when hungry, even your precious roses!

If you have ever dealt with rabbits in your garden, you already know how difficult they are to eradicate. Luckily, there are many cruelty-free ways to keep them out of your rose garden. I can’t wait to share them with you! 

Keep on reading to learn how to protect your rose bushes from rabbits without harming them! 

Do Rabbits Eat Roses?: The Full Breakdown

A close-up shot of a rabbit in the garden

Yes, rabbits love eating roses, just like hostas. They have a particular taste for plants that are parts of the rose family called Rosaceae

They love eating ornamental flowering plants, including Cinquefoil, Goatsbeard, Pearlbush, Burnet, and Avens. They are particularly fond of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, which also belong in the rose family. We sure love these berries too!

While you and I don’t like getting pricked by rose thorns, rabbits don’t mind at all! They will even eat them if they are still young! They will happily munch on prickly foliage and stems on top of the rosebuds and petals. 

Rabbits prefer young rose bushes that are still flowering close to the ground. This way, they can reach the good stuff! But, they won’t turn away from a mature rose bush with roses a couple of feet from the ground. They will eat whatever they can reach!

4 Ways To Tell If Rabbits Are Eating Your Roses

Before you start protecting your rose garden against rabbits, you first need to confirm they are to blame for the damage. Many other culprits might be nibbling on your roses and you can’t successfully protect your rose bushes without knowing what’s eating them

Once you confirm that it’s rabbits at work, you will know which pest control methods to use. So how can you tell you’ve got rabbits in your garden? Easy! 

Catch Them In The Act

A rabbit munching weeds

If you catch a rabbit in the act or often see them running in your garden, you don’t have to investigate any further. Mystery solved! 

You should consider protecting your roses even if you see just one bunny for a brief moment. Chances are that one rabbit is bringing others, as well!

Look For Large Holes

a rabbit hole in the lawn
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A clear sign that you’ve got a rabbit in your garden are big holes in the ground. Rabbits create nests and passages underground that lead to spots they frequently visit, whereas hares build nests above ground

Rabbits can dig long tunnels underground, which will destroy your yard if you don’t find the solution in time. 

Watch For Droppings

Rabbit poop on the ground
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Rabbits leave droppings everywhere! They are a clear indicator you have rabbits roaming your rose garden! Look for brown or green pellets that are less than a quarter of an inch in size. They don’t have a particularly unpleasant odor and break down easily. 

Inspect The Chew Marks

A close-up shot of the remaining parts of a rose flower that's nibbled by a rabbit
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Another way to confirm if rabbits are eating your roses is to inspect the bites on your rose bushes. Rabbits have sharp and strong incisors that make clean bites, at a 45-degree angle.  

The height of the damage should also tell you a lot. Rabbits can’t reach high and eat stems and leaves close to the ground. If your rose bushes are damaged at the top, you can start suspecting deer

When To Protect Your Rose Garden

Rabbits typically don’t kill off rose bushes, but they can cause enough damage to delay their growth. It may take a long time for your roses to recover and show their true potential. That’s why you should protect your roses in time, before you start noticing the damage

Rabbits are most active in March when their mating season starts. Early spring is when they go crazy looking for mates and extra food. At this time of the year, roses start waking up too and they start growing new leaves and flower buds. 

Early March is the right time to start protecting your roses and you’ll need to continue doing so after that! Rabbits can reproduce almost throughout the whole year, so don’t be surprised to see them hopping in your backyard after spring. 

5 Ways To Protect Your Roses From Rabbits

Put Up A Fence

A blooming rose bush by the fence

The best way to keep rabbits out of your rose garden is to fence off your garden. Build a fence around the whole perimeter of your garden or circle each rose bush separately

You don’t have to buy an expensive fence. You can use chicken wire! It is cheap, and it works! Chicken wire will keep rabbits out since it has holes smaller than 1 inch

Rabbits can jump up to 4 feet in the air, so your fence should be at least 3 feet high. The higher, the better. Don’t forget that rabbits will burrow their way into a garden if needed. Try to bury the fence at least 10 inches deep into the ground to stop rabbits from digging below the barrier. 

You can also bend 5 to 8 inches of the chicken wire at the bottom at a 90-degree angle to create an L shape. The extra length should lay flat on the grass. This will stop rabbits from digging near the fence

Raise Your Rose Garden Beds

A woman tending to potted rose bush

A good way to stop rabbits from eating your roses is to plant them in pots or raised garden beds. This makes it hard for them to reach your roses. 

Rabbits can’t reach far up. They mainly eat roses, leaves, and stems that are close to the ground, so this is a logical solution

You should increase the height of your garden beds by at least 2 feet. Barrel pots can also be large enough to accommodate your rose bushes.

Deter Rabbits With Scents

Spraying chemicals over a blooming rose bush

A great way to stop rabbits from getting near your roses is to use smells they don’t like to your advantage. Let your dogs play in the garden and spread their natural odor around the area. The rabbits will know that this isn’t a safe place for them to visit anymore. 

You can also buy rabbit repellent and spray it around your garden. You can even make some yourself! Here’s how you make rabbit repellent:

Soak chilies in hot water and let them marinate until the water cools. Transfer the liquid into a spray bottle and spray it on the lower parts of your rose bushes. That’s it! 

If this doesn’t work, you can spread sulfur, talcum powder, or chopped onions at the base of your rose bushes. 

Here’s another recipe for homemade rabbit repellent you can try making: 

Grow Plants That Rabbits Hate

Did you know rabbits hate the smell of certain plants? You can grow these plants around your rose bushes as an eco-friendly way to keep bunnies away. These are the plants that rabbits dislike!


Lavender flowers up close

Lavender is a great companion to roses. It doesn’t need a lot of babysitting and it can thrive in many different soils and even survive the winter, if it’s not too cold.

Lavender is mostly known for its medicinal properties, beautiful appearance, and strong fragrance that repels rabbits, deer, moths, mosquitoes, and flies

The purple-blue color of lavender will look amazing next to your flowering roses. It will make your garden look dynamic and keep it free of rabbits!

Black-Eyed Susan

black-eyed susans

Black-eyed Susan has a striking appearance and recognizable sweet grassy smell. Bees and other pollinating insects love them, while rabbits avoid them

They give off a strong aroma at full bloom, which will discourage rabbits from eating your roses. But planting black-eyed Susans alone may not be enough. You may have to put other measures in place just in case. 


Allium with purple blooms

Did you know that plants belonging to the Allium genus are rabbit-resistant? I am talking about onions, leeks, garlic, chives, and ornamental allium

These plants have a pungent smell that rabbits hate. Don’t hesitate to plant them around your roses. They look very appealing when flowering. Alliums will keep your roses healthy, too. 

Alliums exude sulfur, which prevents the development of blackspot fungus on rose leaves. Garlic is especially known for its strong antifungal properties. Garlic planted near roses will also repel aphids and greenflies. Pretty amazing!


Catnip in bloom

Your cat may love it, but rabbits despise it! You’ve guessed it – catnip! Most rabbits don’t like the smell of catnip. They stay away from it when they see it in the wild. 

You can safely plant this simple herb below and around your roses. They won’t steal their spotlight, even when in full bloom. 

Play Nice

rabbit interacting with a human

All of the methods provided above aim to stop rabbits from getting into your garden, but you don’t have to keep them out completely if you don’t want to. You just have to keep them away from your roses

A lot of people like seeing wildlife in their yard. You don’t have to treat rabbits like an enemy. Instead, you can play nice and try a more friendly approach to the problem. 

Rabbits gravitate towards places where they can safely nest and feed. You can rake up the leaves in your yard and pile them in a corner far away from your roses

You can even plant vegetation rabbits love to feed on near the pile of leaves. This will keep them interested and more stationary, so they won’t roam your garden as much. 

Of course, you should still protect your rose bushes with a fence or repellent, just in case. After all, rabbits love roses just like you do! 


Can rabbits kill rose bushes?

Rabbits can kill rose bushes if they cause severe damage to them. But most of the time, rose bushes can survive rabbit damage since they only eat above-ground parts of the plant and not the roots, like moles and gophers.

Can rabbits eat rose thorns?

Rabbits can eat rose thorns if they are still young and part of the new growth. Rabbits can eat all parts of the rose bush, including the petals, stems, bark, and leaves. They will work their way around thorns if they dislike them. 

Do rabbits eat rose bush leaves?

Rabbits eat rose bush leaves, even if they are prickly. They particularly like to eat young leaves that are close to the ground and easy to reach. They also like to nibble on roses, buds, stems, bark and will eat even thorns if still young.

Rabbits Love Roses – Just Like You!

Do rabbits eat roses? Yes, they love to eat them! If you want to protect your rose bushes from fluffy invaders, you will have to put up a fence, use a deterrent scent or try other cruelty-free methods from my list. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Fence in your roses with chicken wire.
  2. Raise your garden beds to make roses hard to reach.
  3. Spray rabbit repellent on your roses and around your garden.
  4. Grow lavender or catnip around your rose bushes.
  5. Build them a spot where the rabbits can hang around, far from your roses.

How do you plan on protecting your roses? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to ask any questions! I would love to hear your thoughts!

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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

2 thoughts on “Do Rabbits Eat Roses? How To Protect Your Rose Bushes From Bunnies”

  1. In the Southwest, at least, baby rabbits attract snakes, poisonous and otherwise. Keeping rabbit nesting sites away from areas where snakes might like, such as shaded corners, under outdoor furniture, under bushes that are low to the ground and the like is a really good idea if you want to avoid a nasty surprise and want to keep pets safe.


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