Are you having problems with animals eating your marigold plants? Your money is on the local bunnies. But do rabbits eat marigolds?
Wild rabbits do eat marigolds, especially the leaves. Rabbits mainly eat grass and weeds, then supplement this with flowers such as marigolds. A hungry rabbit will eat all parts of a marigold plant including the flower, leaves, and stem. Some marigold species can be highly scented or toxic making them off-putting for rabbits to eat.
Now you may be wondering what you can do to stop rabbits from destroying your beautiful marigold plants. But first, it’s important that you know that rabbits are 100% the culprits.
There is no point in putting measures in place to deter rabbits if some other animal is responsible.
This guide will take you through the signs of rabbits in your yard and the strategies for keeping rabbits away from your marigold plants.
Soon you’ll have a beautiful patch of marigolds that can thrive in your yard.
Let’s get started.
Do rabbits like marigolds?
As a general rule rabbits eat marigolds, but they’re not a particular favorite. They will eat the leaves, shoots, and bud first and then move on to the petals. Rabbits like to eat petals as they are slightly sweeter than the leaves. Yet marigolds can be off-putting for some rabbits as they have quite a strong scent.
Marigolds are full of water, nutrients, and fiber which helps rabbits to grow and thrive.
One adult rabbit can eat 1-2 marigold flowers in a night. So if your yard is overrun with bunnies then it’s likely your marigold plants won’t survive very long.
Is It A rabbit eating your marigolds?
Rabbits are crepuscular animals. That means they eat mostly at dawn and dusk. They need a small amount of light to help them see, but also a bit of darkness to help protect them from predators.
Rabbits love to eat grasses, weeds, flowers, and tree bark depending on the season. When a rabbit hops into a garden they see it as a good food source with protection from predators.
Plants such as marigolds are an excellent source of fiber. Rabbits need lots of fibrous food to keep healthy digestion and also to keep their teeth healthy by chewing.
Rabbit damage to flowers can be quite distinctive. The damaged leaves and stems are small clean-cut bites. Rabbits will usually eat a whole leaf by clipping it from the bottom of the stem and eating. The rabbit will also eat the flower heads in the same way.
Rabbits will opt for the leaves that are around their grazing level. This means any rabbit damage will be under 3ft (92cm) and will usually work from the bottom of the plant upwards.
Rabbits don’t waste food and they’ll eat as much as they can before feeling threatened. That means the rabbit will work its way around a whole plant before moving on to another.
Signs A Rabbit is eating your marigolds
- Small, clean-cut bite marks in your plant leaves
- Stems are bitten clean off at a 45-degree angle
- Plants are eaten from the bottom up
- Chickpea size round rabbit droppings
- Rabbit track marks
If you’ve noticed these other signs around your yard, then the marigold eater is mostly likely a rabbit. You’ll need to look into ways to keep them out of your yard if you want your plants to thrive. We’ll give you help with that later in this guide.
If you’re not seeing any other obvious signs of a rabbit coming into your yard then it’s important you find the culprit. You can either wait a few days to see if you can find some more clues.
Or you may want to know for sure. After all, it can be a few animals that are causing the damage. One way you can check is to set up a cheap and inexpensive trail cam (this is a good one). That way you can take specific measures to keep the marigold thief away.
What Animals eat marigolds?
The problem is that rabbits may not be the only animals damaging your marigold plants. Let’s take a look at what other animals may be responsible.
Although most birds don’t eat marigolds as part of their diet, some species can cause your plants damage.
Crows and blackbirds can damage the leaves and flower heads on your marigold when searching for insects. If this is the case you’ll find the broken leaves and stems on the ground, unlike a rabbit who will munch this once broken off.
Finches are also well known for eating the seed heads on marigolds. They’re particularly attracted to the bright orange colorings of the flowers. Finches will only eat the seed head of the marigold and won’t damage the leaves.
Insects can do a lot of damage to your marigolds in a short period of time. The problem with insects is they are small but where there are thousands of them they can wreak havoc by eating away large parts of your marigold plant.
Insects will usually cause small holes around the edges or inside the leaves. Depending on the extent of the damage the leaf edges may turn brown or die off.
Common insects that attack marigold plants are:
- Spider mites
- Leaf miners
The best way to prevent insect damage to your marigolds is to handpick off any insects. You can always encourage birds in your yard as an eco-friendly way to cut down on insects. I don’t recommend using insecticide chemicals as this can be harmful to the other wildlife that comes into your yard.
Caterpillars and Bees
Pollinators do not normally cause much damage to your plants. They will normally use the flower head for nectar and then move on.
Yet there are some species of butterflies and bees that can be problematic for your marigolds.
Some butterfly and moth species such as the sunflower moth and the buckeye butterfly can use marigolds are host plants. That means they lay eggs and wait for them to hatch. Once the caterpillar emerges they feast on every part of the plant they can find.
Leafcutter bees can be another issue for your marigolds. That’s because they like to nest inside the dead flower head. Leafcutter bees will make lots of small semicircle-shaped holes in the edge of the leaves of your marigold plant.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails love to eat your marigold plants. They will mostly attack the shoots and green leaves rather than the flower head.
As nocturnal eaters, you’ll notice that any damage by slugs or snails happens overnight. The tell-tale silvery trail is a dead giveaway that they are the culprit.
Slugs and snails will make quite extensive damage to your marigolds and they will leave lots of small, ragged holes all over the leaf.
Marigolds are often named as a deer-proof plant, but don’t let that fool you. Deer will eat marigolds in your yard. It may depend on how fragrant the species you’ve grown. Even if they don’t eat the flowers they happily eat any tender leaves or shoots.
Deer are quite distinctive in their eating and will chomp large erratic parts from the top down. Deer also often leave a lot of the stem still on the plant.
Will marigolds Grow Back if Eaten by rabbits?
Marigolds are very hardy plants and will grow back after being eaten by a rabbit. The leaves are the most favored part of the marigold, but they’ll simply create more buds and blossom again if the stem is still alive.
An uncontrolled rabbit problem will see them coming back again and again until your marigold is completely bare. Once a marigold is completely decimated it’s unlikely to grow back that season. Yet as marigolds are annuals they will simply die back and then flourish again the next year.
To help you enjoy your marigold plants for as long as you can, it’s important to deter rabbits from coming to your yard. If you don’t they’ll come back again and again, moving on to all your available plants and greenery.
How to Protect Marigold from Rabbits
The best way to stop rabbits from eating your marigolds is to stop them from getting into your yard in the first place. A physical barrier such as a fence will keep out any unwanted rabbit visits.
If a fence isn’t an option for you then you’ll want to use methods that make your yard uncomfortable for rabbits to stay and eat. This isn’t too hard as rabbits are very skittish animals and will run at the first sign of danger.
If you want some advice on this check out my guide on how to keep rabbits out of your garden.
Rabbits can be put off by some overly fragranced plants or one which has previously caused them stomach upset.
You can use this to your advantage by planting marigold species that rabbits tend to naturally avoid.
Which marigold plants are rabbit-proof?
Marigolds are not rabbit-resistant plants. They aren’t a particular favorite, but rabbits will still eat them given the chance. Calendula marigolds appear to be much better tolerated by rabbits than those from the Tagetes species. Some gardeners have noticed that there are a few species of marigolds that rabbits don’t appear to like.
The three types of marigolds known to keep rabbits away are:
- French marigold
- Marsh marigold
- Mexican marigolds
The reason these types are so effective if they are well known to be toxic to rabbits. Now, they won’t kill a rabbit but they will cause them quite a severe stomach upset. The likelihood is that once a rabbit tried these then they wouldn’t come back again to finish the plant off.
Often advice on what plants are rabbit-proof can be anecdotal. It will work for one gardener but not for another. That’s because rabbits all have different tastes. Plus those gardeners may also have other rabbit deterrents in place. This may be the reason rabbits are staying away and not the marigold species they’ve planted.
You may have already tried planting these marigold species without much success. Then try again using a combination of other deterrent methods.
Rabbits do like marigolds, although they aren’t a favorite. They will happily chomp away on the leaves, buds, shoots, and flowers if it’s an easy food source.
Rabbits have a distinct pattern to their plant damage. They will eat a lot of the plant down to the stems, but also leave other tell-tale signs they’ve been in your garden.
It’s important to make sure that you know rabbits are the culprits before putting effective deterrents in place.
Having a variety of deterrents in your yard will keep the rabbits away from your marigolds for good. That way your marigold won’t just be safe but your other plants will too.