Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I plant to attract birds?

Birds are generally attracted to plants which produce seeds and small fruits. Many birds prefer high energy seeds of row crops such as millet and sunflowers but these are not always practical to grow in an urban setting. These, however, can be used for winter feeding. Since many birds also eat fruits, planting trees and shrubs which produce small fruits will also attract birds to your yard. When selecting these plants, be sure to choose plants whose berries ripen in summer, as well as plants which have fruit persisting into fall and winter.

Blackberries, raspberries, and other fleshy summer berries are relished by many wildlife species and are generally rich in high energy sugars. Excellent fall and winter choices are hollies, hawthorns, viburnums and crabapples. These fruits are generally composed of lower energy lipids which resist rotting. These fruits persist well into the cold weather and are eaten by birds when little else is available. Honeysuckle fruits are not considered a good source of food for birds.

If having hummingbirds is your desire during the warm months of the year, providing food is the single most compelling way to attract them to your yard. Provide plants that produce red, orange, or pink tubular-shaped flowers, such as coral honeysuckle, scarlet runner bean (which also has edible beans), and trumpet creeper. Columbine, coral bells, salvia, jewelweed and bee balm also are excellent sources of nectar for hummingbirds.

Along with providing food don't forget to provide shelter. Dense shrubs and evergreens such as eastern red cedar, whose foliage and delicate gray berries help provide cover and food, are good choices. They provide cover and shelter from predators and harsh weather.

When planting, consider maintenance. Avoid plants with severe pest problems which would require regular pesticides that can harm birds. It is also important to provide feeders in winter and a bird bath or other supply of water. Given these attentions to their needs, birds will reward you with song, color and fewer troublesome insects.