By Kimberly Toscano
While bird feeders work magic in attracting winged visitors to the landscape, plants provide the structural heart of a bird-lovers garden and can help attract a greater diversity of bird species. Trees, shrubs, and tall grasses provide perches, nest sites, and much needed shelter from predators and severe weather. Shrubs and flowering perennials offer food in the form of fruits, seeds, and nectar. Build a bird-watchers paradise by incorporating a variety of plant materials that offer food and shelter all year long.
Give Me Shelter
Create a range of habitats to attract birds with different needs by planting multiple layers of cover including trees, evergreens, and woody deciduous shrubs. Low-growing trees like Empress of China® Dogwood and ‘Sweet Tea’ Mountain Gordlinia provide roosts, nesting sites, and shelter through all four seasons. Songbirds will dine on the red fruits of both trees.
Evergreen trees and shrubs provide ideal winter shelter. The dense foliage of Baby Gem™ Boxwood brings cover to small spaces, while large hollies like Robin™ and Christmas Jewel® offer shelter as well as bright red berries enjoyed by bluebirds, woodpeckers, thrashers, and mockingbirds. Flowering shrubs such as Miss Lemon™ Abelia and Shining Sensation™ Weigela provide sweet nectar for hummingbirds among their protective canopies.
Ground-nesting birds and other wildlife benefit from a mix of grasses in the landscape. The arching evergreen foliage of Platinum Beauty™ Lomandra provides plenty of hiding places. Birds rest upon the stiff blades of ‘Gold Breeze’ Miscanthus and pluck seeds from the airy plumes in autumn.
Fruits and Seeds
Fuel fall migrations and fill birds’ bellies through the winter months with fruiting shrubs. Birds cannot resist the waxy berries of ‘Marvel’ Mahonia, which appear late summer, while the bright red berries of Snow Joey™ Viburnum provide winter fodder for robins, bluebirds, cardinals, finches, waxwings, and other songbirds.
Flowering perennials offer an abundance of seeds and are one of the best ways to attract finicky seed-feeding birds like American goldfinches. For these golden jewels try planting hardy Echinaceas like Crazy White™ and Pow Wow®‘Wild Berry’. American goldfinch will also flock to ‘Denver Daisy’ Black-eyed Susan along with chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees.
Native bloomers are popular among songbirds. The tiny seeds of ‘Arizona Sun’ and Mesa™ Gaillardias provide a feast for finches, chickadees, titmice, and warblers. Entice cardinals, finches, and other seed-feeding birds with ‘Ladybird’ or ‘Autumn Blush’ Coreopsis. Forego deadheading to attract seed-feeding birds and leave seed heads in place over the winter months.
A Haven for Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds require a constant and diverse supply of flower nectar from their arrival in April until late fall. In spring, migrating hummingbirds follow the bloom cycles of clove currant and columbine on their northward journey. Despite their dainty blooms, heucherellas such as ‘Redstone Falls’ in the FALLS™Series are another spring favorite of hummingbirds. You will also find spring visitors buzzing the blooms of your Southgate® Rhododendrons.
It is no secret that hummingbirds are highly attracted to red flowers. Draw these beauties by the dozen with the bright red blooms of Light Show® Red Bottlebrush and Stars & Stripes™ Pentas. Summer, salvias, and hummingbirds go hand-in-hand. For a playful red bloom, try planting ‘Little Kiss’ Salvia. Hummingbirds also adore blue- and purple-hued salvias including Nectar Blue™ Salvia.
Also try the following hummingbird favorites. In addition to birds, expect a steady stream of butterflies and other pollinators.