5 Rabbit Safe Flowers – Annuals

This week I’ve been sorting through my seeds and working out what I should be planting when and how I’m going to fit it all in. I know mixing gardens and bunnies can be a bit tricky, so I thought I would share a few ideas for what to grow. I’m starting with flowers; here are my favourite  annual flowers (plants you have to resow each year) that you can start in the next few months. They are all rabbit safe (should your bun accidentally nibble) and look pretty!

Nasturtiums

# Photo by Andy Wright

These are brilliant, lovely big flowers in bright yellows, peach, oranges and reds and big bright green leaves to set them off.  The seeds are big (size of a small pea) so they are easy to sow and great for children to have a go with. They are also easy to grow, you can start them in pots or straight in the ground. If you let the seed pods ripen and collect them when the go brown you’ll have free seeds for next year too!

They come in two types, bushes which funnily enough are bush shaped, and climbers which will ramble 6-8′ along the ground or up a fence, bamboo cane or rabbit run. The whole plant is rabbit (and human) safe, leaves, flowers and seed pods. The trouble with being so tasty is it has a tendency to be popular with caterpillars and little black flies but you can pinch off the leaves or just let the caterpillars do their thing and the plants will have another flush of leaves once they turn into butterflies. Mine flower from summer right up until the first frost.

Pansy/Viola

# photo by aidswarrio

Pansy flowers are a similar shape to nasturtiums but they come in an even bigger range of colours, from white to pink, red, blue, purple, yellow, orange etc. The plants themselves are smaller and more compact so they are great for hanging baskets or window boxes.  Pansy’s are a little more tricky to grow from seed but they are very commonly available as plug plants so you can cheat and just plant them out. You can also get ‘winter pansy’s’ in autumn which, in the UK at least, will flower through winter in a sheltered spot.

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

# photo by Brian Ballard

There are two types of marigold – Pot/English Marigolds (Calendula officinalis)  and French/African Marigolds (Tagetes). It’s the Pot Marigolds that are rabbit safe. They are big orange and yellow flowers – often sold as cut flowers, so good if you want something to pop in a vase inside that you don’t need to panic over when Scamp jumps the table, hops across a book shelf and sniffs the flowers with his teeth. Not that he would ever do that!

They are easy to grow, and again, the seeds are quite big and easy to save from year to year. They seem to self seed well too – I can see some young plants that germinated last autumn and hung around the winter – they’ll probably be some of the first flowers open when the weather warms up and I’ll sow more to flower a bit later so we get them through to autumn. They grow from about 6″ to 2′ depending on the variety so read the seed packet to make sure they’ll fit the space you have.

Peas

# photo by themediatedgarden

Peas? Yes, I know the are a vegetable and I’ll cover those in a different post, but vegetables are plants too, we just happen to eat parts of them. Sweet peas are very pretty but they are also poisonous, so if you want pretty climbing flowers, that are completely rabbit safe, the edible kind is a better option. Most standard varieties of peas have white flowers… still quite pretty but for a real splash of colour try a mangetout (snow/sugarsnap pea) variety called Carouby de Maussane – 6′ tall with beautiful purple flowers. They aren’t the most common variety so you might have to pick them up online rather than a local shop. The whole plant is rabbit edible, sow extras and you can thin them out by eating the growing shoots or leave them to grow on for tasty pods (the pods are better for rabbits than actual peas so pick them before they start to swell up).

Sunflower

# photo Michal Zacharzewski

I love sunflowers! My efforts to grow giant ones seem to top out at a puney 7′ but I have fun trying each year. Everyone knows what a sunflower looks like right? Tall stalk, big yellow flower up top and big green leaves like steps all the way up. There is actually a bit more variation that that, I grew some with chocolate coloured flowers last year, and they also come in white, oranges, red, and even a deep reddish purple – some have multiple flowers per stalk. They come in different sizes too, from 20′ giants, to dwarf ones that are only a foot tall. Again sunflowers have big seeds, that you can collect and sow (or eat) the next year, and they are easy to grow.

Anyone got any other favourite rabbit safe flowers to recommend?

Ps. Apparently I take quite a lot of rabbit photos and not so many flower photos so these are stock images, as obviously there are no flowers out to take pics of until later in the year when it’s too late to start sowing. So thank you to those that do take pics and give permission to share them.

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19 Responses to “5 Rabbit Safe Flowers – Annuals”

  1. DIana Moll says:

    Mallows are safe for rabbits the flowers, leaves and branches too.

  2. Sam says:

    great post – thank you! can they eat sunflower stalks, leaves and petals or is it just the seeds?

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Sam, as far as I understand the whole thing is bunny safe, seeds aren’t too good for bunnies because they are high in fat but some people do feed as a treat. Did you know you can eat sun flower buds…. although I think I’d rather just leave them to flower. Any accidentally nibbling shouldn’t cause harm.. well at least not to bunnies, won’t do much good to the sunflower to get nibbled through!

  3. kkkkk says:

    Is there a study saying marigolds (Tagetes) are not safe? And in which way are they not safe? I’ve never heard of this before.

    • Tamsin says:

      Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of scientific study on rabbit safety for a lot of plants, so in general it’s a case of going for what is definitely safe and avoiding others, though it’s quite possible they could be fine too.

  4. Piper says:

    I live in Las Vegas NV. We have a golf course near by that has tons of bunnies and near every morning I see about 20 near my house…. My young sons get so excited to see them! I am currently redo the front yard landscaping but I want it to be safe. We do not want to attract ever bunny to a meal but just something non-toxic, flowering, and water-wise for the desert.

    Any advice?

    • Tamsin says:

      Gosh, I’m not sure where to start as I’m sure the plants available/that would thrive are very different to local to me.

      A good place to start would be things that people eat – in terms of plants that tends to mean it’s fine for bunnies too. So things like herbs and any edible flowers. Perhaps pop in your local garden store and see if they can recommend any.

      Cultivated versions of what grows local could work too as the bunnies would be used to it.

      I think you’ll probably fine as long as you avoid anything specifically marked as toxic, or can causes allergic reactions ie the sort of thing you wouldn’t want around your children anyway.

  5. doreen says:

    can domestic bunnies eat the petals from tulips ?

    • Tamsin says:

      I know the bulbs are definitely poisonous, I’m not sure on the rest of the plant but I’d err on the cautious side and say no leave that one alone.

    • geekgirl101 says:

      It’s said that any plant that grows from a bulb is toxic to rabbits.

  6. Helen says:

    We have 4 rabbits that are all kept free to roam in our garden. We want to enhance the garden for them by planting some of the flowers, and plants suggested on here, (creating somewhat of a McGregor garden) but wondering how to actually go about it….Once we start planting I assume everything needs to be covered with some sort of netting or fenced off to allow it to grow otherwise it will all be munched before plants fully grow?? Or is it a case of planting a wide variety all at once so there will be plenty for them and plenty to grow?? We would really appreciate any practical advice on how to go about this. Thank you 🙂

    • Tamsin says:

      Rabbits are very good at munching plants right down to the ground so I’d definately suggest some form of protection. Keeping the base of the plant protected and just letting them nibble the end shoots is a nice compremise. For example, using mesh or an upturned hanging basket over plants – the plants will grow through but the rabbits can’t eat the whole plant. Hanging baskets are good too, or plants that are climbers or tall so you can protect the trunk with a circle of mesh and let the rest grow away out of reach. You may find with four it’s best to keep the majority protected from them and then cut them a ration to eat from what you grow 🙂

  7. Rabbit 3 mum says:

    I had no idea sweet peas were poisonous! I just planted them for the buns. Guess I’ll toss them ….they were getting to be so pretty….sigh

    • Tamsin says:

      I’m guessing if you are enjoying them they are out of reach. I think the seeds are the main issue so if you cut the flowers as they fade that should stop it producing seed and make it flower more so as a side benefit. You can also cut the flowers to have in a vase.

      Edible peas aren’t quite so pretty or such a variety of colours but there are some pretty whites and pinks, particularly if you look online or at heritage varieties for next year.

  8. Raven says:

    I Planted the most beautiful Iris bulbs in the backyard transplanted from my mothers age old garden. They are coming up everywhere, the little bunnies are eating them down to the ground. We are in the process of putting up nice mesh cages around them. But I am guessing these are a favorite of the bunnies. They don’t eat the bulb, just the leaves. I am now planting sunflowers and marigolds. Hoping these have more of a chance to grow. Thankyou so much. this page has been very intersting.
    Raven

    • Tamsin says:

      Unfortunately rabbits will eat anything not protected – sunflowers and marigolds are very tasty. I find an easy way to protect plants (at least while they are small) is to put an upturned wire hanging basket over the top 🙂

    • Helen k-a says:

      Irised are bulbs though are they ? I thought they were a type of Tibet / rhizome

  9. Sabrina Hutchinson says:

    I gave my rabbit some french marigold I didnt know there was a difference will it hurt them im really upset after reading this I hope you can help.

    • Tamsin says:

      A small amount will hopefully not do any harm. Make sure you feed plenty of hay and keep eye on on the poop. Any concerns e.g. you rabbit acts unwell, stops eating or stops pooping get in touch with your vet.

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