Discover how to make your garden a haven for birdwatching by choosing the best plants for birds that offer both a great food source, as well as protection.
How to Choose the Best Garden Plants for Birds
Choosing the right plants for your bird garden couldn’t be easier. In fact, there are a plethora of both annuals and perennials plants in most regions of the U.S. that do the job equally well.
But with all these choices, how do you decide which are the best plants to attract fliers to your garden?
Here are a few suggestions to get you started in the right direction:
1. Know Your Zone
Melinda Myers, a nationally-known horticulturist and master gardener, suggests if you’re choosing plants for your bird garden, be sure to buy only those that are specific for your zone or region. For example, if you buy a flower, tree or shrub that is only hardy in the southern region, and you live in the midwest, chances are your plant will only thrive during the summer months and that’s all.
The idea here is to maximize your garden budget and the potential to draw as wide range of birds as possible. So knowing your zone is key to a successful bird garden.
RELATED: Audubon Native Plants Database
To learn which zone you are in and what to include in your garden to attract birds, it’s always best to take a trip to your local garden center, local extension office or even ask a master gardener. They know the best plants that will grow in your zone and you’ll find that the birds will be happier too.
Bird-Friendly Plants for Zone 10
Trees and Shrubs
Elderberry (shade tolerant)
Saskatoon service berry or Amelander (shade tolerant)
Red Twig Dogwood (shade tolerant)
Wafer-Ash or Ptelea (shade tolerant)
Hostas (shade tolerant)
Astible (shade tolerant)
Coral Bells (shade tolerant)
Columbine (shade tolerant)
Begonia (shade tolerant)
Fuchsia (shade tolerant)
Impatiens (shade tolerant)
2. Location, Location, Location
Believe it or not, birds choose their preferred location for what it can offer them in terms of food, water and protection.
For example, if you live in an arid section of your region, you will attract one set of birds who love to fly low and eat short grasses and such. While on the other hand, if you are located near the edge of a forest or wooded area, these fliers will usually flit in and out of the trees to grab a quick bite to eat then flit back into the protective cover of the woods.
So what should you do if you like woodland birds but your yard looks like the Great Plains? The answer is that you’ll need to create a garden that offers plantings that look and work similarly to this type of habitat.
My recommendation again is to check with the experts who will better serve your interests and tell you what is possible and what isn’t. But be aware that committing to this type of a project takes hours of work and many times a lot of money. So get the best bang for your buck and buy only the best plants for birds that you’ll need.
3. Byways and Flyways
Some birds come and go due to their migration patterns. So, while you might see one bird species in the spring, they may be absent during the summer months.
The trick here is to plant a variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs that will entice a wider range of fliers to your garden. This way you’ll be able to view birds throughout the four season. And, if you choose a mix of early, mid, and late perennial bloomers and annuals the birds that frequent your garden will find it a birdie-paradise.
Oh, and don’t forget the winter foliage, too. If you plan ahead, you can provide the necessary food and protection for wintering species. Many times, if you just leave your summer stock and allow it to go dormant, it will offer seed and places to perch during the long winter months.
4. Think Pollinators Too
Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and yes, even certain birds like hummingbirds, are an added bonus when you have an attractive bird garden. They are a flower’s best friend, and in the case of insects, they also provide a great food source for local aviaries.
So, consider adding a couple of bee/butterfly plants to round out your garden and to make your garden even more inviting.
5. Go Native and Natural
When choosing plants for your bird-friendly garden go native plants whenever possible. It’s nature’s best kept secret.
Truth is, birds know what plants taste best and will be lured to those over beautiful buds. This is because the law of survival for fliers depends on eating the best seed possible. That is not to say, however, that cultivars don’t provide good feeding for aviaries, but native plants do have a long track record of providing what birds need the most.
That’s why it’s important to mix and match your plants for the best of all worlds. And, don’t just plant one single plant. Group a bunch of like flowers in clusters and use several varieties of native plants to maximize your garden’s potential.
Finally, avoid pesticides which can harm birds and pollinators, alike.
More Bird Garden Resources
Discover more ways to attract birds to your garden with these super resources:
Birds & Blooms
Birds & Blooms is the go-to magazine for everything about birding and specialty gardens.
Bird Identification Books
If you really want to be in the know of which birds are more attracted to home gardens, you’ll need a good bird identification book.
My favorite and the one I use frequently is published by National Geographic: Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America.
Melinda Myer’s Garden Series
Melinda Myer offers a plethora of garden lovers books that are packed with super tips and ideas to create garden havens for birds, butterflies and bees.
And, for more ideas how to attract birds to your garden be sure to check out my Pinterest Board: Gardening Ideas from Wisconsin Homemaker.