Did you know there is a wide array of flowers that provide food for birds? Annuals for birds aren’t the first thing we think of when attracting birds to the garden. However, the blooms are an excellent way to bring more birds to your home.
Some produce seeds or nectar, while others attract helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies, too. There are even annual trees to support bird populations. Our list includes the most popular annuals for attracting birds, no matter where you live.
Keep in mind that the right plants for you may depend on your planting zone. All annuals come with different care requirements. Overall, they’re all easy to care for in warm locations, though.
Use this guide to plant the right beneficial flowers for you. We’ll show you which birds you’ll attract, where the best location for each plant is, and what season to expect your new visitors.
- Birdscaping with Annuals
- Beneficial Annuals for Birds
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
- Salvia (Salvia officinalis) – Valuable Annuals for Hummingbirds
- Petunia (Petunia)
- Phlox (Phlox paniculata) – Beneficial for Birds and Pollinators
- Penstemon (Penstemon)
- Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus) – Powerful Annual for Bird Seed in the Spring
- Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
- Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) – Perfect for Fall Bird Seed
- Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
- Marigold (Tagetes) – Attracts Insects for Birds
- Lantana (Lantana camara)
- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) – Attracts Birds in the Summer
- Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- Aster (Aster) – Annuals for Bird Seeds in the Fall
Birdscaping with Annuals
Gardening for the birds, or birdscaping, is the process of designing the garden’s structure around attracting the animals. The first step is to stop using chemical pesticides.
Backyard bird species tend to feast on insects, so using organic methods protects the vital food source. Weeds are also beneficial for birds. A windflower garden allows the birds to plant whatever they want.
Ensure the area receives sun for at least half of the day and leave shrubbery near the birds. They also adore birdhouses, feeders, birdbaths with a dripper, and berry bushes. Introducing more of these things near the annuals you plant increases the number of visitors you receive each year.
Which Annuals are Right for Me?
There are many types of annuals for birds that produce seeds, from grasses to weeds and shrubs to flowers. Other annuals present sweet nectar or bright shades to attract beneficial animals.
Some annuals for a wildflower mix even bring more insects to your yard, and the food source appeals to nearby birds. Select the annuals for your needs. Another essential aspect is to make sure the plant will thrive.
Choose the native plants best for your climate, as each variety comes with different sunlight, water, and other growing requirements. Buying local plants helps the birds recognize the food source and remain more vigilant against diseases or pests.
Most annuals with flowers are native plants. They grow in full sun, but their soil type, fertilizer, composting, and mulching needs vary.
Native flowers come with different growth heights and spreads when the plants mature. Plant the taller options in the back of a garden bed, or grow the blooms in a container garden.
When to Plant Annuals for Birds
Plant most annuals from seed in the early spring or after the final winter frost of the year. Each flower sprouts at different times, so check the flower’s cold tolerance.
Some cool-season annuals, like marigolds, are planted outside a few weeks before the last frost of the year. Others start from seed indoors and are transplanted outside when there’s no longer any frost danger.
If you want to attract hummingbirds, in addition to growing annuals that they like, make your own hummingbird nectar recipe (4:1 ratio of sugar and clear water) and add it to a feeder. In most parts of the country, you’ll have hummers for eight or nine months of the year.
Leave Seeding Annuals Over the Winter
Avoid deadheading in the autumn. The annuals that produce seeds continue to provide, becoming a valuable food source for birds over the winter months. Many species even prefer these seeds to packaged birdseed you buy from the garden center, such as goldfinches.
Some birds are attracted to seed-bearing flowers, but the more abundant species prefer fallen seeds on the ground. Leaving these flowers alone through the offseason allows blooms to fade and drop seeds for winter birds.
Beneficial Annuals for Birds
Whether you enjoy birdwatching or attracting birds to the garden, these plants are advantageous annuals for birds. Each provides something attractive to birds, whether it is nectar, seeds, insects, or color.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Sunflower seeds are easy to grow annuals for beginners and children, as well as veteran gardeners. Push the seeds into moist, warm soil outdoors, and the large seedlings appear quickly. Birds also love to eat the seeds.
Instead of deadheading the blooms each year, leave the heads to fade and feed the birds. If you must, sunflower seeds can also start indoors under a grow light. Plant the seeds in a peat pot and keep them under the light source as much as possible.
Make sure you know how big your variety grows as well. Sunflowers range from three to ten feet tall, so transplant the flowers to an outdoor location with plenty of growing space later.
Salvia (Salvia officinalis) – Valuable Annuals for Hummingbirds
Salvia, also called garden sage, is an attractive flowering plant that is also one of the most valuable plants to attract hummingbirds. Like other pollinators, they adore the flower’s tubular shape and high nectar content.
In some regions, salvia is an annual. However, it’s not hardy in all areas. Most varieties come in light colors, but the annual types tend toward red.
The best type for your yard depends on your planting zone. Only plant salvia outside after any danger of frost is over, and always search for a full sun flower bed in a south-facing location so the flowers thrive.
An accessible and inexpensive flower, petunias are tubular and full of sweet nectar. The petunia plant grows as an annual in containers, hanging baskets, garden beds, and ground cover.
The multiflora type is more tolerant of rain, making them particularly ideal as summer bedding. In warmer climates, the flowers are tender perennials. However, both types attract hummingbirds.
Plant petunias from transplants rather than seeds in a soil-less mix. These annual flowers for shade actually produce more blooms in full sun. Water once per week.
Phlox (Phlox paniculata) – Beneficial for Birds and Pollinators
An old-fashioned flower, phlox is a well-known useful annual for pollinators and one of the best annuals for hummingbird gardens. The flowers offer a robust, beautiful scent that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden as soon as the blooms open in the spring. They also produce seeds for birds.
Depending on your whereabouts, you may see phlox in tons of shades, sizes, and bloom seasons. There are many varieties, most of which enjoy the full sun. Plant phlox in containers along your entryway to take advantage of the sweet fragrance.
Another reliable annual for attracting hummingbirds, the penstemon is native to North America. There are several hundred species of these blooms. It comes in shades of pink, blue, red, white, and purple.
Most options reach at least four feet tall and bloom for the entire summer. Plant penstemons in a bright, sunny area with well-draining soil. They’re suitable for containers if you enjoy cut flowers or as ground cover.
Avoid fertile or damp soil, as the plants will rot over time. Expect the long-lasting blooms to extend from the spring through the fall, attracting birds throughout the year.
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus) – Powerful Annual for Bird Seed in the Spring
Sometimes called cornflowers, the bachelor’s button is attractive and appears in the late spring through the summer months. The name comes from the blue and purple blooms, which look like buttons. They also come in white, pink, and red cultivars.
As one of the plants and flowers for hummingbirds and other pollinators, plant bachelor’s button in a full sun area during the early fall. This option thrives in most landscapes in the United States. Don’t worry about much after planting, as bachelor’s button self-sows.
Caring for this annual includes minimal work. The nectar in these annuals for attracting butterflies is irresistible, while songbirds adore eating the seeds. Expect to see spring birds like sparrows, finches, and buntings.
Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
The tubular red blooms, fruit, and nectar in the vines of the trumpet honeysuckle attract hummingbirds and other popular birds, such as hermit thrushes and purple finches. Baltimore Orioles also enjoy eating these flowers.
Trumpet honeysuckle is native to most areas of the United States. However, the plant won’t grow in colder northern regions. If you have Japanese honeysuckle in your yard already, swap it out with the less invasive trumpet honeysuckle to attract more birds.
Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) – Perfect for Fall Bird Seed
Coneflowers are native plants with purple, pink, or white flowers. The beautiful wildflowers attract pollinators, while the seeds feed birds like goldfinches in the fall. Many other types of birds enjoy eating the blooms as a snack after a relaxing bath, so try adding a birdbath nearby.
There are many species of echinacea native to different regions. Each cultivar introduces a new color, such as the White Swan. However, the plants thrive and self-sow in most places.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
As one of the most popular true annuals, zinnia is easy to grow from seed in all areas. There are many popular zinnia cultivars, from low-growing creepers to the common species that grows up to four feet tall. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy the bright pink, yellow, orange, lavender, white, and red flowers.
Zinnias germinate quickly in a summer garden, as they love warm conditions. Avoid planting them outside until nightly temperatures remain at around 60°F. Start the seeds indoors a month before the final frost.
Marigold (Tagetes) – Attracts Insects for Birds
If you’re looking for flowers with brilliant, long-lasting color that also attract birds, plant marigold. They’re hardy in many planting zones, making them popular among vegetable gardeners and companion planters.
The yellow blooms attract insects for fall birds, like goldfinches, while other birds eat the seeds. Marigolds are also beneficial for pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Plant marigolds from seed directly in the garden a few weeks before your final frost date. The flowers grow between six inches and three-feet-tall.
Marigolds are distasteful to a lot of unwanted critters, as well. Grow marigolds to repel aphids from kale and other veggies in your vegetable garden. Marigolds are great companion plants for cilantro and celery.
Lantana (Lantana camara)
Lantana grows up to three-feet-tall as an annual, or up to ten-feet-tall as a perennial in warmer southern climates. The flowers bloom for an extended time. Many varieties exist, each with different colors.
Depending on your region, most of the plant’s growth occurs during the late summer. Plant lantana in a hot, dry location. If you have a garden area where most plants struggle to stay alive, lantana handles intense sun and little moisture.
Highly attractive to pollinators, lantana brings butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your home. The birds also enjoy feasting on berries from the plant.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) – Attracts Birds in the Summer
A garden classic, the black-eyed Susan grows in light shade to full sun areas. This traditional flower displays yellow petals and a dark center, similar to a daisy. However, many other varieties offer other color combinations.
Plant black-eyed Susans in a late summer garden near water to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds. Goldfinches devour the seed heads of black-eyed Susans immediately.
Other species like house finches and chickadees also feed on the seed heads throughout the season. The best part about the black-eyed Susan is that it self-sows, so never deadhead – leave them for continuous bird seed.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Instead of bright-colored flowers, this option has foliage that changes from red-orange to burgundy in the fall. The Virginia creeper is closely related to Boston ivy, so these creeping shrubs that attract birds work well as ground cover or climbing along a trellis or stone wall.
The Virginia creeper produces dark blue berries, which birds adore. Be careful, however. The berries contain high levels of oxalic acid, which are toxic to humans.
The sap may also irritate your skin. Handle the plant with gloves, and place it in a location away from kids and pets.
Aster (Aster) – Annuals for Bird Seeds in the Fall
With shades from blue and white to red and yellow, this option brightens up the backyard in the fall. Aster comes in many varieties and sizes, from a miniature alpine plant to a six-foot-tall beast. The popular flowers explode with color to lure in autumn butterflies and birds who feast on the nectar and seeds.
Aster requires bright sun and rich soil. If you live in a cold zone, plant early. The seedlings need plenty of time to become established before winter strikes.
Seasonal plants, like annuals, are the perfect addition to bring more birds to your yard. The option for you may depend on your climate, when you plant, and the birds you hope to attract. If birdwatching, you may try tactics to bring in more goldfinches.
Which annuals will you add to your garden? If you found this article on the various annuals for birds helpful, please share our list of plants with your friends on Pinterest and Facebook.