QI would like to plant annuals that would attract a bigger variety of birds. Can you suggest some?
AAnnual flowers alone are of limited value in attracting birds, with the exception of hummingbirds. If you want to attract birds to your yard, combine annuals with landscape plants such as perennials, shrubs and trees.
Hummingbirds, always searching for nectar, will visit several annual flowers, particularly salvias. I grew a lovely cultivar called 'Lady in Red' last year and saw hummingbirds frequently. Other good annuals for hummingbirds are Nicotiana, four-o'clocks, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), zinnias, petunias, nasturtiums and snapdragons. Hummingbirds also like impatiens, which are well-suited to shade or partial shade. Try both the usual bedding plant type, available in many colors, and the native jewelweed or touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis).
If annuals are allowed to develop seeds in late summer, they provide food for seed-eating birds in the fall and winter. Cosmos, zinnias, marigolds and bachelor's buttons can produce a lot of seeds. Annual sunflowers may attract birds in late summer or early fall when the seed heads mature.
Many herbaceous perennials and woody plants are also valuable sources of food for birds. If you have the space, consider planting perennials such as purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and other coneflowers (Rudbeckia sp.) that provide seeds, and coralbells (Heuchera), bee balm (Monarda) and gas plant (Dictamnus albus), all of which provide nectar for hummingbirds. Many shrubs and trees bear fruit that is relished by birds. Try pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), many of the viburnums and small-fruited crab apples (Malus) such as 'Snowdrift' or 'Red Jade'.
-- Nancy Rose is a horticulturist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. To ask her a question, call 612-673-9073 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.