Planting for the Birds

May 18, 2016 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds

With the May long weekend approaching, gardeners are chomping at the bit to get out and get plants in the ground if they haven't already started. If you are one of those gardeners and if you are still trying to decide on what to plant this year, we have a few suggestions for plants that will attract birds while beautifying your yard.

Annual Plants for Hummingbirds

Many people enjoy seeing hummingbirds, so planting something to attract them into your backyard may interest you.  Hummingbirds have long, thin bills that are ideal for probing into trumpet shaped flowers to find the nectar they are seeking. They also seem to be more attracted to flowers that are red in colour. At the greenhouse, search for annuals that are high in nectar production such as fuchsias, nasturtiums, snapdragons, dianthus, foxglove, impatiens, and petunias.

Annual Plants for Seed Eating Birds

Seed eating birds are very attracted to the seed heads in flowers. Unfortunately, the seeds in the flowers are not available to the birds until the seed head has dried out.  So during the season, either refrain from deadheading or flowers or if you do, save the seed heads, and once they have dried out, offer them to the birds in a tray feeder. Once fall is here, leave your flowers and the seed heads standing and you will have the birds visiting even in colder weather conditions. Annuals you can look for at the greenhouse for attracting seed eating birds include cosmos, cornflower, marigolds, zinnias, black eyed susans, daisies, impatiens, and sunflower mixes.

Perennial plants to consider

If you prefer not to plant a lot of bedding plants, you may want to look into perennials. There are a variety of choices available with high nectar production to attract those hummingbirds. Look for bee balm, phlox, columbines, coral bells, hollyhock, foxglove and lupines.  

Vines and shrubs to consider

Even when planting shrubs, vines, and trees, there are certain varieties you can look for that will attract more birds.  Consider plants with berries such as dogwood, mountain ash, chokecherry bushes or trees, Russian olives, and crabapple trees. Also consider shrubs or climbing vines that have a high nectar production like morning glory or honeysuckle vines (a hummingbird favorite).

With this information, you can see that attracting birds to your yard is not only about what feeders you have in your yard. Birds are looking for the right environment, including plants (and water!), when deciding whether to spend time in your backyard.