Plants that Attract Birds to Your Yard

Bird feeders aren't the only way to invite your feathered friends into the yard so you can get a closer look. Adding plants that attract birds to your existing garden will result in winged visitors that come for the blossoms and foliage, the seeds and even the insects that are drawn to the same plants.

Know Your Zone
Before you choose new plants for your garden or yard, take the time to consult a gardening zone guide to be sure the varieties you're considering are either native to or grow well in your area. Next, consult your field guide to birds to learn which birds are native to your region: what species are you most likely to attract, what species you can increase your chances of attracting, which birds remain year round, and which birds migrate through your region and when.

Plan Your Garden
You can either plan your garden around attracting certain species like finches or hummingbirds or go broader and select flowers and plants that appeal to wide range of birds. Each species has is naturally attracted to particular plantings. Some feed on plant foliage and stems while others are drawn to plant sap. Nectar, pollen, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds are all sources of food either for birds or the insects the birds eat.

Depending upon your yard, budget and the birds you'd like to watch consider planting a combination of annuals, perennials, native grasses and shrubs and even fruit trees. Not only will you create a sanctuary that designed for attracting wild birds, you'll create one for you and your family to enjoy as well. Try to stagger your plantings so that something is always in bloom throughout the spring and summer to maximize the number of birds that come to feed.

Keep in mind when you're sketching the layout of your yard or garden that most birds prefer to find clusters of bushes, hedgerows, climbing vines, and patches of wild grasses or flowers that are separated by stretches of lawn and other open spaces. Birds are also attracted to dense thickets that include trees.

Most wild birds are attracted to brightly colored gardens and planting annuals is the quickest and easiest way to make your yard attractive to them. Hummingbirds especially, along with various species of songbirds seek color. Annuals are inexpensive and can be started from seed or purchased from your local nursery. If you're short on time and don't want to miss the birds that migrate through your region early in the season, choose flats of annuals that have already been started.

Perennials also attract a wide variety of birds into your yard, but depending upon what you choose, you may have to wait a season or two for the bulbs and plants to mature before you achieve the look-and visiting birds-you're striving for. Consider planting a variety of both annuals and perennials to increase the number and species of birds you'll attract to your yard.

Selecting Your Plants
You know your gardening zone, what birds you're likely to attract and how to plot your garden. Now, you're ready to head off to your local nursery to purchase bulbs, seeds and plants. But which annuals should you buy? Some possibilities include:

  • Amaranthus (Love-Lies-Bleeding) attracts finches and sparrows
  • Bachelor's Buttons attract buntings, finches, and sparrows
  • Cosmos attract buntings, finches, junco and sparrows
  • Impatiens attract cardinals, grosbeaks and sparrows
  • Mexican sunflowers attract buntings, cardinals, finches, jays, nuthatches and titmice
  • Tickseed sunflowers attract finches, nuthatches and titmice
  • Zinnias (annual varieties) attract buntings, chickadees, finches, sparrows and titmice

Most people plant perennials to bring in hummingbirds and if you're trying to attract this tiny creature to your yard, you have lots of options, including bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, coral bells, cosmos, dahlias, foxglove, geraniums, hosta, lupine, several varieties of sage, and verbena. If you have perennial zinnias in your gardening zone, you can plant those too (you'll also attract buntings, chickadees and titmice).

For finches, try perennials like coreopsis and globe thistle or use plants like niger which will also attract junco, mourning doves, pine siskins, sparrows and towhees. Niger's black seeds make it a favorite of finches.

Irises, hibiscus, gladiolas, lilies and other perennials grown from bulbs help draw birds into your yard to feed on plantings or from your birdfeeders, get water from your birdbaths and make use of any birdhouses or nesting boxes.

Finally, don't overlook the use of vines to bring birds to your yard. Honeysuckle is another favorite of hummingbirds, but songbirds like it too. Native vines don't just provide food for birds, but also shelter. Consider planting vines like American wisteria, clematis, passionflower, twining snapdragon or wild grape to give birds another reason to visit-and stay.

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