Apr 24, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2017

Top 10 Flowers You Can Grow for Birds

1) Purple Coneflower; 2) Zinnia; 3) Sunflowers; 4) Black-eyed susan; 5) Bee balm; 6) Larkspurs; 7) Fuchsia; 8) Salvia; 9) Coral bells; 10) Milkweed. Photos by USFWS, JOLAN DENES, PHOTOS.COM, THOMAS BARNES, ALAN SILVESTER BIDGEE, DOMINICUS BERGSMA, ANDRE KARWATH, ANNELI SALO, and ERICINSF.
Share:

Here are some garden stalwarts, plants that are easy to grow in most parts of the continent, that repay the slight effort of planting them with gifts for both people and birds.

1. Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.

Purple coneflower is one of the most popular herbal cold remedies going. This big, robust prairie native feeds nectaring butterflies while the flowers are young, and goldfinches and sparrows after the seed heads mature. As a plus, it throws seed children all around, so plant it where it can make a family, and prepare to give plants away.

2. Zinnia, Zinnia elegans.

It's hard to beat old-fashioned zinnias for ease of growing, color impact, and bird appeal. This annual takes off planted directly in the ground, or started in flats. Hummingbirds constantly probe the tiny yellow true flowers inside the gaudy sepals, and goldfinches often tear the sepals away to get the seeds before they're even dry. If you plant masses, you won't mind trading a few flowers for brilliant yellow goldfinches.

3. Sunflower, Helianthus annuus.

Annual sunflowers are hot property in garden design in recent years. Goldfinches, cardinals, and woodpeckers have always known their charms. A row of giant sunflowers, grown from seed, can make a fast-growing, 12-foot-high property screen, and a black-oil sunflower plant can produce dozens of seed-heavy heads, festooned with birds. Beware of pollenless (and seedless) cutting sunflowers if you wish to attract birds. The Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia, has smaller, blaze-orange flowers and tasty seeds as well.

4. Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta.

This native wildflower and its cultivars, the gloriosa daisies, are terrific perennials that can grow to the size of a bushel basket and bloom hard through heat and drought. Finches and winter sparrows and juncos appreciate the seeds in their black, conelike heads.

5. Bee balm, Monarda didyma.

If you want to watch natural hummingbird territoriality at work, plant bee balm. Its whorled heads of scarlet or pink flowers ooze with tangy nectar and drive hummingbirds crazy as each bird tries to keep it all to itself. This perennial, like other mints, likes to crawl, so plan to give it some room. Newer cultivars like Cambridge Scarlet are more resistant to mildew.

6. Larkspurs and delphiniums, Delphinium ajacus, D. belladonna, and others.

Though some, such as scarlet larkspur, come in red, the predominant shades of delphiniums are lovely, cool blues. Their upright spikes form a gorgeous backdrop for lower-growing plants. This, perhaps surprisingly, doesn't stop the hummingbirds from visiting. Annual larkspurs self-sow freely, and the finest plants are those that germinate in the fall and overwinter.

7. Fuchsia, Fuchsia cultivars.

If you're trying to hang out the welcome sign for hummingbirds, try hanging a basket of fuchsia in a shady spot. Avoid the double, ruffled kinds, and choose single-flowered varieties—they're much easier to probe for nectar. My favorite of all is the annual Gartenmeister Bonstedt,'an erect, bronze-leaved plant with elegant masses of coral-red tubes that look great in planters and pots. Warning: rabbits adore them, hence the hanging baskets!

8. Salvia, Salvia splendens, S. farinosa, and others.

Drought-resistant and willing, salvias are usually grown as annuals. They offer the tubular flowers hummingbirds prefer, abundant nectar, and great color, in every shade from splendens' hot red, wine, purple, and peach, to farinosa's true blue.

9. Coral bells, Heuchera sanguinea.

A modest mound of gray-green foliage bursts forth with a summer-long display of foamy, pink bells on wiry stems, which will buzz with hummingbirds as long as they bloom. This hardy perennial likes partial shade and plenty of moisture.

10. Milkweed, Asclepias species.

While it's best known as being essential for monarch butterfly caterpillars, milkweed attracts many other insects that feed birds. Some birds use the downy fiber attached to seeds to line nests. There are many varieties of milkweed on the market. Try to find one native to your area so it will grow easily in your soil and climate.



About Julie Zickefoose

Writer and nature artist Julie Zickefoose blogs at juliezickefoose.blogspot.com.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • Has anyone heard of a Carolina wren opening doors? Our cat brought us a wren late last night, thought it was a goner but put it in our parakeet's old cage that has the sliding vertical doors. The wren gained strength, started to bop around the cage. We wanted to release it in the morning to make sure we could see it escape to safety. I put the cage in a quiet bathroom and went to bed. I woke up to the sound of fluttering wings. Sure enough the wren somehow got out, crept under the bathroom door and was trying to get out. I caught it with a light blanket and released it outside. It promptly flew away, very strong. I went back to the cage and am just dumbfounded and impressed, no way out unless it somehow pried the doors open. I was just relieved that it was ok. I can't believe it survived being carried around and batted about like a toy by the cat!Thoughts?
    by Beth Andries, Wed, 27 Sep 2017
  • cool
    by Luke Tansey, Sat, 16 Sep 2017
  • how can i get Caterpillar and other insects at home or buy them etc etc etc for my quails any suggestions earliest res thanks in advance
    by asif, Mon, 11 Sep 2017
  • I use Brita (filtered) water, cane sugar (hoping it's nonGMO). Heat water in pan, prep sugar in a glass, heat-proof measuring cup. 1 cup sugar, add hot water to make 2 cups total or so. Stir. Cool. Store in jar (glass or plastic) in fridge. Add to mix to feeder as needed, add more water to make ~3 parts water, ~1 part sugar. maybe more sugar as birds arrive I spring, more water in summer when it's hot. I make it concentrated 1 to 1 so it's easier store.
    by Debby Stark, Fri, 16 Jun 2017
  • Keep forgetting to do this. I like the roof idea!
    by AppalachiaTori, Wed, 24 May 2017