Written by David S.
It is an exciting process considering what types of plants to install in your landscape to feed birds. If you are used to plants, you probably have a few in mind that will produce seeds during the winter months. The deal is that many types of birds do not eat seeds. Some eat fruit and nectar, others eat insects, and some eat vegetation.
Seed Producing Plants for Birds
Sunflowers are one of the best plants you can grow for birds who eat seeds. The trick is to harvest the sunflower heads and dry them so that you can put them out during the winter months. A nail on a fence is usually good enough. Stick the sunflower on the nail, and the birds will come to it to eat. Of course, you will need to replace it often. Growing bigger sunflowers, such as the mammoth variety, will produce larger heads and more seeds. The wild sunflowers or bush varieties are also good.
Sunflowers can spread quickly, thanks to eco-engineers such as blue jays. You can pull up any that begin to grow where you don’t want them to be. Sunflowers are also an excellent way to add bright colors to your yard. They come in many shades, from pale yellow to flame-red/orange.
Toyon is an evergreen native shrub that produces vivid red berries in the winter. Cedar waxwings, mockingbirds, and even robins eat the red berries of the Toyon plant. Toyon shrubs make excellent hedges and will also help to block eyesores. You find Toyon in Chaparral forests. It likes well-draining soil, and it will stand up to the brutal summer sun of Southern California. It is drought-tolerant but will thrive with water. Toyon is also known as the Christmas berry and as California Holly. It is a lovely way to add bright red color to your landscape, feed wild birds, and is a lovely source for floral wreaths for doors.
Coffeeberry – More of a coastal shrub or small tree – it will reach 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide if grown in the sun and with plenty of water. It is not specifically a good choice for the interior part of Southern California. Thrashers and towhees are two species of birds that feed on coffeeberry fruit. In addition to winter food for birds, the dense branches also provide nesting habitat and some defense from predation.
Evergreen Trees and Shrubs – There are many of them, and they will help to attract red-breasted nuthatch to your yard. These are insect eaters, and they will walk up and down the tree’s bark looking for insects. Unfortunately, insects often try to overwinter by tucking themselves under the bark of trees or in crevices. The nuthatch has a specially adapted bill for grabbing and pulling insects out of their overwintering locations.
Asters – If you want to provide some beautiful flowers for hummingbirds, consider asters. They bloom late into fall and early winter and are a great nectar source for hummingbirds. They may attract butterflies to your yard too.
There is a long list of plants and shrubs, even small trees that positively impact wildlife, especially in winter. In addition to plants, consider adding a water source, such as a small fountain or birdbaths.
Starting Plants off on the Right Foot
Landscaping is a sustainable way to add beauty to your yard and benefits the wildlife population around your home.
Planting Shrubs – Shrubs have a more extensive root mass than many plants. Be sure to dig the hole deep enough and wide enough to allow the roots to spread out as the plant grows. If you have clay soil, this is even more important because clay tends to drop water, leading to root rot problems. Larger holes allow you to add more mixed soil, which will spread out any excess water.
Supplement shrubs with soil products such as perlite, appropriate fertilizers, and compost, such as EB Stone, Black Gold, or FoxFarm.
Flowering plants, such as Sunflowers and Asters, will benefit from quality soil that is well-draining but still holds water. That magic mixture includes aggregates such as perlite, sand, and vermiculite, which absorb water and allow aeration. Good aeration helps to prevent anaerobic bacteria from colonizing around roots. Anaerobic bacteria are not healthy for plants, and they cause the soil to stink. Plants need air to circulate through the soil to promote healthy bacteria and soil biota to thrive and provide a catalyst for the chemical process in the soil. Those chemical reactions, plus the beneficial soil organisms, break down nutrients into usable forms for plants to uptake.
The Long List of Choices for Plants that Bloom Late
Many plants bloom late in the year, especially in the milder Southern California climate. Right now is a great time to head down to any of our five Southern California Green Thumb Nursery locations and browse plants that bloom late or produce a late crop of seeds.
Roses and bare root roses – the rose hips are full of seeds and packed with vitamin C.
Fruit Trees and bare root fruit trees such as persimmons and pomegranates are excellent choices. Both have fruits that birds will eat. These can also be harvested for your fruit bowl.
Be sure to look at the many options for decorative pots that also make lovely and colorful containers for evergreen trees and shrubs. If you are looking to attract insectivores, trees are a good option. Pines, maples, cedars, and spruce are all options that provide a place for insect-eating birds to hunt and nest. Our plant experts can help you select the best plants for your yard and microclimate and help with product selection to make your landscape thrive.
Planting trees and flowers that benefit wildlife is an excellent way to support bird populations. Bird feeders are also an option, and Green Thumb Nursery has a lovely array of bird feeders and hummingbird feeders too.
Green Thumb Nursery has many options that enable you to install plants or feeders that bring birds to your yard when it comes to providing for nature.
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