Goldfinch and Coneflowers In The GardenGoldfinch and Coneflowers In The Garden

How To Plant A Bird Garden With Native Flowers

If you’re a gardener, there’s a very good chance that you adore the sight of birds visiting your garden throughout the season and enhancing it with their energy and sound. Many of us encourage those visits simply with a birdfeeder; but when we choose to plant a garden specifically to feed the birds, we connect on an even greater level with our feathered companions, and have the great pleasure of watching them gather those seeds in the way that nature intended. And, if you’re trying to incorporate more native plants in your garden, why not choose varieties that satisfy both needs? If you grow it they will come! Read on to see some of the most popular native plant selections for feeding birds in your backyard.

Planting Native Sunflowers to Feed Birds

autumn sunflowerautumn sunflower
Customer Photo by Annette R. beautifully captures a bird resting upon an Autumn Sunflower.
sunflower seeds in pansunflower seeds in pan
Harvest sunflower seeds yourself, or leave them be for the birds to do the work.

The most sought after seed at the feed store also happens to be one of the most expensive: sunflower. Why not grow some yourself and enjoy the sight of birds feasting on the plump seeds? Sunflowers are a sun-loving plant native to the Americas, and both annual and perennial varieties can be grown to feed the birds.

Birds Attracted to Sunflowers

Sunflower seed is the most popular birdseed, with good reason! A host of birds enjoy this seed, including tufted titmouse, chickadees, meadowlarks, mourning doves, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, quail, and many types of sparrows. 

 > Shop Sunflower Seeds

Cultivation Guidelines for Sunflowers

Sunflowers are not a fussy plant, but they do require a very sunny position and good drainage for best flowering. Sow the seeds ½ inch deep about 12 inches apart in a moderately fertile soil and keep moist as the seedlings establish strong roots. If you allow last year’s plants to seed themselves, make sure that seedlings are thinned and given adequate space by the time they are 3-4 inches tall to promote strong flowering and healthy plants.

If you want to feed the birds naturally, just leave seedheads alone and the birds will take care of the harvesting. If you wish to harvest them yourself and spread the bounty out over a few months of winter, cut the seed heads when most of the seeds are ripened and plump and allow the heads to dry. When they come apart with a little encouragement, pull the seeds off and store in jars or freezer bags. 

Learn More: How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds To Feed Birds

Planting Native Echinacea (Coneflowers) to Feed Birds

american gold finch on a echinacea or conefloweramerican gold finch on a echinacea or coneflower
A goldfinch visits a beneficial and beautiful plot of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)

The strong stems and bright colors of purple coneflower (or Echinacea) make them one of the most beloved of our native plants – both to birds and to gardeners alike! WIld native species have purple, white, or pink flowers, and can be found in prairies and open woodlands, but many colorful culitivars have been added to this rainbow over the last decade. True to their name, they are a cone-shaped flower with prominent, spiky seed heads.

Though coneflower seeds can be harvested by the gardener, it is much more enjoyable to leave the seedheads in place at the end of the season, and watch the birds taking all they want in the fall and winter. Some birds will feed while perched on the swaying plants, and some will wait for the fall and winter to pull the remaining stems back down to the soil line.

Birds Attracted to Coneflowers

Coneflowers attract many birds, including goldfinch, sparrow, brown towhee, indigo bunting, cardinal, house finch, grouse, and chickadee.

 > Shop Echinacea (Coneflower) Seeds 
 > Shop Echinacea (Coneflower) Plants

Cultivation Guidelines for Coneflowers

Coneflowers are not only a wonderful plant to try when feeding birds, but a great choice when you are putting together a children’s garden. They require little care, grow well in average soils, and can even handle a small amount of shade – though too much will cause legginess and poor flowering. For best results, plant in a sunny location in a soil with good drainage and some organic content. Kept moist until germination, and thin seedlings to 8-12 inches apart. Plants will self-seed. You can encourage later-season flowering for fall feeding by dead-heading the first blooms in mid-summer.

Planting Native Bee Balm (Monarda) to Feed Birds

A Hummingbird Visits Blooming Bee BalmA Hummingbird Visits Blooming Bee Balm
A hummingbird visits blooming Bee Balm

Anyone that has grown bee balm will tell you how amazed they were by the amount of wildlife this fragrant native perennial attracted to their garden. Apart from the host of pollinating insects hovering over the spiky whorls of red, purple, or pink flowers in summer, hummingbirds always seem to find these unusual flowers. They simply cannot resist the sweet nectar stored in long, tubular nectaries. Later in the season, seedheads will attract smaller birds like finches.

Beebalm can be grown from seed or as established plants. This beautiful plant is in the mint family, and most varieties have a tendency to quickly spread through the garden via underground runners. Weeding and dividing this fragrant perennial is one of the true pleasures of early summer - you’ll understand the moment you brush against a mature stand.

Birds Attracted to Beebalm

Hummingbirds are the primary birds attracted to beebalm, but if you leave the round seed heads in place, finches, sparrows and other small birds will also feast upon the small thistle-like seeds. This may take a bit of determination on the part of the gardener, as bee-balm is often defoliated by powdery mildew late in the season and the temptation is to cut it to the ground. Instead, plant it in association with other blousy perennials such as ornamental grasses to hide those unattractive legs and keep the birds happy.

 > Shop Bee Balm Seeds
 > Shop Bee Balm Plants

Cultivation Guidelines for Beebalm

Beebalm can be grown from seed or from established plants. If sowing seed, find a sunny, average-to-moist location with a good amount of organic matter in the soil. Prepare seed bed by raking to a fine tilth. Broadcast the seed thinly and cover lightly, keeping moist. Many of the most popular varieties do much better in a moist location, so do not spare the hose but make sure the soil drains well. If planting established plants, space 12-18 inches apart and follow the same cultivation requirements. Consistent moisture encourages resistance to powdery mildew, so consider this as you water your garden.

 

Planting Native Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) to Feed Birds

A Goldfinch blending right in with Black Eyed Susans in bloom.A Goldfinch blending right in with Black Eyed Susans in bloom.
A Goldfinch blending right in with Black Eyed Susans in bloom.

Black Eyed Susan (or Rudbeckia) are North American natives famous for their sunny yellow petals and dark center cones. Later in the season, seedheads will attract smaller birds. These bright and sunny flowers are easy to grow, and will bloom for weeks from early summer to early fall. Black Eyed Susan is a versatile, popular flower that can be grown from seed or as established plants. They can easily reseed and are known to spread out easily. Like Coneflowers, you can leave the seedheads standing to attract birds through the fall, while offering insect habitat. 

Birds Attracted to Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan attract beneficial insects, which in turn helps to attract birds that feed on insects - which are particularly important when birds are raising their young. (For example, it takes 5,000 to 9,000 insects to feed one nest of baby chickadees!) The prominent seedheads also provide food for smaller birds. Birds commonly attracted to Black Eyed Susan include goldfinches, chickadees, eastern towhee, cardinals, and nuthatches.

 > Shop Black Eyed Susan Seeds
 > Shop Black Eyed Susan Plants

Cultivation Guidelines for Black Eyed Susan

Beebalm can be grown from seed or from established plants. They thrive in full sun, but some varieties will also tolerate part shade. All Rudbeckias tolerate a wide range of soil types, from clay to loam. If you have very sandy soil which dries out easily, add organic matter to help the soil retain moisture. If sowing seed, find a sunny, average-to-moist location with a good amount of organic matter in the soil. Prepare seed bed by raking to a fine tilth. Broadcast the seed thinly, but do not cover, as seeds need light to germinate. Once established, Balck Eyed Susan can tolerate dry soil for a few weeks, but remember to water during prolonged drought.

If planting potted plants, space 18 inches apart and follow the same cultivation requirements. 

Planting Native Zinnia to Feed Birds

Zinnias are easy to grow, and provide big rewards with little effort.Zinnias are easy to grow, and provide big rewards with little effort.
Zinnias are easy to grow, and provide big rewards with little effort.

 

It's easy to smile when you see these flowers popping up in summer! Zinnias bloom in bold, vibrant colors, and whichever color you choose, the nectar-rich blooms and seeds sure to attract birds and pollinators to your garden. These sun-loving, drought-tolerant perennials are native to Southwestern North America and Central and South America. They thrive in tough places, are easy to raise from seed, and continue to self-seed year after year.

Birds Attracted to Zinnia

Goldfinches adore Zinnias, and the splash of gold in the garden as they flit from seedhead to seedhead will delight you. House finches, titmouse, nuthatches, sparrows, and chickadees are regular visitors. Hummingbirds are also attracted to the brightly colored nectar-rich blooms.

 > Shop Zinnia Seeds

Cultivation Guidelines for Zinnia

Zinnias are well-known for creating the backbone to children’s gardens because they’re just so easy to grow. Sun, average soil, and average water requirements are their main needs. Make sure that the soil is well-draining, as they hate wet feet and will often rot or succumb to fungal disease. In cooler, wetter climates, you may have trouble with diseases, and it’s often advisable to start them in seed pots in a greenhouse where you can control conditions – transplanting them to gritty, well-draining soil later. Otherwise, spread the seed thinly in spring and rake it in, tamping the soil down firmly. When seedlings emerge, thin to 6 inches, and keep slightly moist as they establish.

wildflowers for birds photowildflowers for birds photo

Shop Native Wildflowers That Attract Pollinators

Your garden can make a difference. You can help feed your favorite birds, bees, butterflies and more by choosing native plants that will provide food and habitat. Support wildlife in your area and help restore a healthy ecosystem from the ground up.

  1. Yellow Black Eyed Susan Seeds, Rudbeckia hirta

    Versatile, drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow, Black Eyed Susan adds a cheerful splash of color to the summer landscape. A native plant that attracts a variety of pollinators, Black E...

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    Black Eyed Susan Seeds Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
    As low as $12.95 Sale $12.31
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Versatile, drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow, Black Eyed Susan adds a cheerful splash of color to the summer landscape. A native plant that attracts a variety of pollinators, Black Eyed Susan pairs beautifully with other prairie favorites like Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed. Its adapatable nature makes it a great choice for poor soils and tough conditions. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Biennial.
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  2. Yellow Wild Sunflower Seeds, Helianthus annuus

    This native sunflower is the grandfather species of them all and is a true staple of any wildflower garden. Bright, cheerful flowers are only 3-4” across and this variety grows to ...

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    Wild Sunflower Seeds Sunflower Helianthus annuus
    As low as $12.95 Sale $12.31
    Per 1/4 Pound
    This native sunflower is the grandfather species of them all and is a true staple of any wildflower garden. Bright, cheerful flowers are only 3-4” across and this variety grows to be 24-72” tall. Wild Sunflowers are extremely easy to grow and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden all season long. This native beauty is also the state flower of Kansas! All of the seed we handle at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Annual.
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  3. Zinnia Seeds Lilliput Mix, Zinnia elegans

    One of most popular Zinnia varieties, the Lilliput Mix grows to be only 18-24” tall and is famous for an abundance of pom-pom blooms in bright, vivid colors. Blooming from mid summ...

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    Zinnia Seeds Lilliput Mix Zinnia Zinnia elegans
    As low as $16.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    One of most popular Zinnia varieties, the Lilliput Mix grows to be only 18-24” tall and is famous for an abundance of pom-pom blooms in bright, vivid colors. Blooming from mid summer until frost, this mixture can be cut all season long for spectacular summer bouquets and is extremely easy to grow. Like all Zinnia, this variety is deer resistant and attracts pollinators. All of the seed we handle at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Annual.
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  4. Yellow Maximilian Sunflower Seeds, Helianthus maximiliani

    Maximilian gives you the iconic color of Sunflowers but is a perennial, blooming year after year. This variety illuminates the garden with golden-yellow blooms all the way from summe...

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    Maximilian Sunflower Seeds Maximilian Sunflower Helianthus maximiliani
    As low as $19.95 Sale $18.96
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Maximilian gives you the iconic color of Sunflowers but is a perennial, blooming year after year. This variety illuminates the garden with golden-yellow blooms all the way from summer into fall. Reaching heights of 3-8’, this Sunflower will quickly become the true backbone of your perennial wildflower meadow or garden. Like all Sunflowers, Maximilian is easy to grow and attracts pollinators all season long. All of the seed we handle at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Perennial.
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5 Tips For A Bird Friendly Garden

Seed isn’t the only thing that attracts birds and keeps them in your garden.

  1. Provide a clean source of water for best results when creating a native flower garden for your birds. Make sure to break the ice each morning if you live in a cold climate.
  2. Habitat is also very important. Providing hiding and nesting places for birds protects them and makes your garden very attractive to visiting wildlife. Consider using ornamental grasses, shrubs, and small trees as you build your bird sanctuary, not just seed-producing perennials. Other great native wildflowers to attract birds include Coreopsis, Joe Pye Weed, and Asters.
  3. Bird houses are a wonderful way of attracting a nesting pair of birds. Make sure that you are not only matching the house and entry hole to the type of bird you wish to attract, but that you have snake baffles on the pole to ensure that all that nest-building is not in vain.
  4. Remember – a ‘messy’ fall garden is often the most appealing to birds. Leave those seed heads and habitat areas in place, instead of mowing or cutting down your plants, through the fall and winter and give yourself a bit of a break in the process.
  5. Lastly, don’t forget to invest in a great pair of binoculars. That way some of the best bird-watching can happen right from the comfort of your living room window!
Goldfinches In The GardenGoldfinches In The Garden
Goldfinches In The Garden
  1. Echinacea and Swallowtail butterfly, Butterfly and hummingbird wildflower seed mix

    With its abundance of nectar-rich blooms, the Butterfly & Hummingbird Wildflower Seed Mix can be planted to attract beautiful pollinators in any region of the country. Containing 16 ...

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    Butterfly & Hummingbird Wildflower Seed Mix Butterfly and Hummingbird Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    With its abundance of nectar-rich blooms, the Butterfly & Hummingbird Wildflower Seed Mix can be planted to attract beautiful pollinators in any region of the country. Containing 16 annual and perennial wildflowers including Wild Cosmos, Rocket Larkspur, Echinacea and Catchfly, this diverse blend delivers stunning color throughout the season. A great choice for a variety of soil types, this mix contains only 100% pure, non-GMO and neonicotinoid-free seeds. Guaranteed to grow. .
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  2. Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix

    The Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Mix is an easy-to-grow compilation of 27 wildflowers that will thrive in any sunny location throughout the US. Including 4 different types of Milkwee...

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    Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $15.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    The Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Mix is an easy-to-grow compilation of 27 wildflowers that will thrive in any sunny location throughout the US. Including 4 different types of Milkweed to ensure Monarchs have plenty of host plants to lay their eggs on, this mix also contains a variety of nectar-rich wildflowers for energizing monarch populations before they migrate. A blend of annuals and perennials provide early and lasting color. This is your go-to mixture for creating an official Monarch Waystation or simply helping out the local pollinators in your area.
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  3. Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix

    This mixture attracts beneficial bugs to the garden. Beneficial bugs include lacewings, lady bugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps, which help to destroy harmful pests such as aphids...

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    Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix Beneficial Bug Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $11.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    This mixture attracts beneficial bugs to the garden. Beneficial bugs include lacewings, lady bugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps, which help to destroy harmful pests such as aphids, thrips and mites.
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  4. Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix, Photo Credit Heidi Erickson

    The Honey Bee Wildflower Mix features 19 nectar-rich wildflowers and clovers adored by bees. Easy to grow across much of the country (zones 1 - 8), this pollinator-friendly mix inclu...

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    Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix Honey Bee Wildflower Seed Mix
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    The Honey Bee Wildflower Mix features 19 nectar-rich wildflowers and clovers adored by bees. Easy to grow across much of the country (zones 1 - 8), this pollinator-friendly mix includes 12 annual varieties like Lacy Phacelia and Yellow Prairie Coneflower for quick, first-season blooms, and 7 perennial wildflowers like Mexican Hat and Echinacea for years of lasting color in the seasons to follow. Contains 100% Pure, non-GMO and Neonicotinoid-free seeds that are guaranteed to grow.
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