The real beauty of any landscape is its ability to feed and attract wildlife.  I am always trying to attract colorful songbirds to my garden. My first love is photography, and second is the beautiful sound of the song birds I awake to every morning. To attract songbirds you will need to implement just one of these tips, or a few or all of them as time allows, to maximize the winged visitors to your outdoor spaces.

Photo Gallery of Song Birds from Unincorporated Will County, Illinois by Sandra Rust/Photographer

Plant a Diverse Landscape

Attracting songbirds to your garden means opting for a an array of plants/flowers to supply structure and food throughout the year.  Try to include a range of plants, from annuals to perennials, herbs, vegetables, and grasses. For example, the seed heads of perennials and ornamental grasses draw fall ground-feeding birds and supply cover for birds as they forage on the ground.

I love photographing colorful finches, and their love for thistle seeds is well known, so to attract finches they’ll seek out the seeds of plants in the massive Asteraceae (Compositae) family, including sunflower, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower and aster. They also gravitate toward grasses and weedy plants. Some bird-watchers also swear that yellow flowers attract goldfinches. And while the ornithological jury is out on that assertion, adding goldenrod, yellow zinnias or blanket flowers to the mix can’t hurt, right?

Below is a list of plants/flowers that attract songbirds:) from “The Garden Helper”  credit:

Common Name Botanical Name Height Plant Characteristics and Notes USDA
Growing Requirements
Aster Aster novae-angliae 12-24″ Asters grow into a dense mound of light green foliage. In May and through June, the plant will become covered with soft, 1 1/2″ white, purple, pink or red flowers 4-9
Bachelor’s Button Centaurea cyanus 18-36″ Bachelor’s Button is the annual version of the Mountain Cornflower. It is an easy to grow plant that quickly forms a nice clump. It begins producing it’s bright flowers in late spring and will often continue blooming well into fall. Excellent for dried flowers and potpourri.
Beard Tongue Penstemon Barbatus 12-24″ Tubular flowers in red, pink, purple, or white will be sure to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. 4-9
Beauty Berry Callicarpa bodinieri 6-8 ft. Beautyberry grows to a height of 6-8 feet. The foliage is a beautiful bronze color as it emerges in spring. Small lavender flowers in mid-summer produce clusters of intensely purple berries in the Fall 6-8
Bee Balm Monarda didyma 2-4 ft. Like other members of the Mint Family, Bee Balm can become invasive. The plant should be divided every 3 years to keep it tidy. Stimulate a second flowering in the same year by cutting the bright crimson flowers right after they bloom 4-8
Bunchberry Cornus canadensis 4-6″ Bunchberry Dogwoods are probably the ultimate ground cover plants for growing in moist, woodland areas or in your shade garden. These short, bright green plants only reach six inches tall. They produce bright red berries that are eaten by many species of wild birds. 3-8
Butterfly Gaura Gaura lindheimeri 2-4 ft. Butterfly Gaura are shrubby, perennial wildflowers that are closely related to the Evening Primrose. From late spring until first frost, they produce 8″-24″ spikes of 1″ flowers that are white when they open at dawn and fade to rose-pink as the sun sets. 5-10
Chilean Mitre Flowers Mitraria coccinea 6 ft. The Chilean Mitre Flower is a gorgeous creeping and climbing, plant with glossy, dark green leaves arranged in pairs along woody stems. They produce an abundance of intensely colored, scarlet-orange, tubular 1½” flowers with a soft, velvety texture. 9-11
Cockscomb Celosia Argentea 12-16″ Plumosa cultivar flowers resemble plume like feathers, while Cristata flowers looks like a rooster’s comb with crested heads and ridges. Low maintenance, good for dried flowers
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus 3-5 ft. Cosmos are extremely heat and drought tolerant. They prefer full sun and do well in poor, infertile soil. Cosmos plants come in a rainbow of summer blooming flower colors
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster 3″-15 ft. Cotoneaster is an extremely diverse genus of plants which includes ground covers, dwarf sized bushes and large sprawling shrubs. The flowers are generally small and appear from spring to early summer followed by bright red or orange berries for the birds to eat in winter. vary
Creeping Lily Turf Liriope spicata 8-10″ Creeping Lily Turf is a grass like ground cover that grows as spreading clumps of fine, dark green leaves that turn to bronze-green in the winter. Lily Turf produces spikes of tiny flowers in late summer, followed by dark blue berries in late fall. 4-10
Elderberry Sambucus 10-20 ft. Elderberries are fast growing, low maintenance, multi-stemmed deciduous shrubs with deeply veined, serrated foliage. They produce large flat clusters of flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by small berries which may or may not be poisonous, by species 4-10
Evergreen Smilax Smilax lanceolata Smilax is a vigorous growing, durable evergreen vine with thick, dark green, lance shaped leaves. It spreads by underground tubers so it may become invasive. Produces clusters of trumpet shaped flowers in April and May and berries for the birds in the fall 6-8
Fairy Fan Flower Scaevola aemula 8-12″ Fan Flower plants are fast growing tender evergreen perennials that only grow 8″-12″ tall but will spread up to 5 feet. Fan Flowers are sprawling plants with light green, coarsely toothed foliage. The 1″-1½” flowers are produced in abundance from spring through fall. 9-11
Floss Flower Ageratum 6-24″ Ageratum is known for its furry mounds of long lasting floss-like blue flowers, occasionally you can find them in white and pink. Deadhead regularly for continued bloom
Flowering Quince Chaenomeles speciosa 3-10 ft. Flowering Quince is a twiggy, rounded upright deciduous shrub. The 1″ foliage opens to a beautiful reddish bronze color before turning dark green by mid summer. Showy cup shaped flowers cover each stem in the spring before turning to an edible fruit by summers end 4-8
Red Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum 6-10 ft. This 6-10 foot tall deciduous shrub is hardy in USDA Planting Zones 5-8 In early spring it produces pendulous clusters of red or pink flowers that attract and feed hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. The small bluish-black berries are eaten by a wide variety of wild birds. 5-8
Four o’ clock Mirabilis jalapa 24″ Four o’ clocks are fragrant, colorful and very easy to grow. The plants got their name, Four o’ clock, because the flowers do not open till around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, except on cloudy days. Can be easily grown from seed
Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea 12-36″ Goldenrod is an aggressively spreading, upright clumping, deciduous perennial plant with light green foliage. It produces sprays of bright yellow flowers from mid summer until mid fall
Attracts Butterflies: Common Orange Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak, American Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Viceroy
Goldflame Honeysuckle Lonicera heckrottii Honeysuckle vines are easy to grow, vigorous, heat-tolerant, and nearly indestructible. The flashy and fragrant flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies all summer long. 5-9
Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica 3-5 ft. Nandina can be grown in partial shade, but the foliage colors will be much more intense if it is grown in full sun. Produces berries for birds. 6-9
Holly Ilex aquifolium 50 ft. Holly trees require well-drained, slightly acidic, fertile soil. They can tolerate either sun and shade. The male and female flowers of the holly tree are produced on separate plants. Therefore to ensure berry production, both male and female plants need to be planted. 6-8
Hollyhock Mallow Malva alcea 2-4 ft. Hollyhock Mallow plants are multi-stemmed, upright perennials that grow 2-4 feet tall, forming 2 foot clumps. From mid summer until fall, they produce spikes of 2″ rose-pink or white flowers that resemble Hollyhocks. Mallow are reliable, easy to care for plants. 4-8
Honeysuckle Lonicera Honeysuckle are easy to grow, vigorous, heat-tolerant, and nearly indestructible. The flashy, fragrant flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies all summer long. The resulting fruit will provide a fall treat for your local songbirds as well. 4-10
Knotweed Persicaria bistorta 2-3 ft. Knotweed or Bistort plants are low maintenance, quick growing, semi-evergreen perennials with bright green, lance shaped leaves. Knotweed plants produce -bottlebrush-like spikes of tiny, pink, bell-shaped flowers on leafless stems that rise above the foliage from late spring into early fall. 4-9
Larkspur Consolida ambigua 1-5 ft. Larkspur is a low maintenance, upright growing annual with many stems of sparsely covered with light green, needle-like foliage topped with a spire of brightly colored flowers throughout the summer. Remove spent blooms to prolong flowering.
Lily Turf Liriope muscari 18″ Lily Turf are relatively slow spreading plants that eventually form large, 24″-30″ wide clumps of loose, 18″ tall, ½” wide leaves. Lily Turf plants form 6″-8″, spikelike clusters of ¼”, white or purple flowers in late summer. 6-10
Oregon Grape Mahonia aquifolium 3-6 ft. Oregon Grape is a deer resistant, low maintenance, durable, evergreen shrub with glossy green, holly like foliage. It produces spikey clusters of Butterfly attracting, bright yellow flowers in the spring, followed by bluish-black berries to feed the birds. 5-9
Peruvian Lily Alstroemeria 2-3 ft. Peruvian Lily plants are easy to care for, tuberous rooted perennials with bright green, lance shaped foliage that grow 2-3 feet tall. They produce loose clusters of speckled, 1½”-2″ Azalea-like flowers on long, leafy stems in late spring into mid summer. 7-10
Pincushion Flower Scabiosa columnaria 1-2 ft. The Pincushion Flower is a long blooming, clump forming perennial. From early summer until the first frost of fall, Pincushion Flowers produce an abundance of rounded, 1½” flowerheads on top of wirey, 12″-24″ stems. 4-8
Oriental Poppy Papaver orientale 18-36″ Poppy plants form 18″-36″ tall clumps of deeply divided green leaves that are covered with fine bristles. These undemanding perennials slowly spread by rhizomes to form nice two to three foot colonies. Their flowers have the texture of silky crepe paper. 3-7
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea 2-4 ft. Purple Coneflowers produce large, fragrant pink flowers beginning in April and May. The three to five foot flower stalks make them an excellent background planting for your landscape, or in a butterfly garden. 3-9
Red Twig Dogwood Cornus stolonifera 15 ft. The Red Twig Dogwood is native to most of the northern United States and Canada. The white blooms appear in the Spring, white berries appear in late summer and provide a treat for the birds, then in the fall the foliage turns to a deep crimson red. 3-8
Silverberry Eleagnus commutata 8-15 ft. Silverberry is a trouble free, very spiny evergreen shrub with waxy, olive green foliage. It produces small clusters of vase shaped flowers in fall, which develop into berry-like fruits 7-9
Sunflower Helianthus annuus Sunflowers are single stemmed annuals with large, fuzzy, silvery green, lance shape leaves. They produce long lasting, large single or multiple flower heads that range range from 4-12″ deending on the variety.
Tickseed Coreopsis species 1-3 ft. Coreopsis plants form nice, slow spreading clumps of green, fern-like or thread-like foliage with profusely blooming flowers that stand above the foliage on long, wirey stems. Coreopsis are excellent border or rock garden plants, and are great for cut flower arrangements. 4-9
Wild Strawberry Fragaria chiloensis 6″ Wild Strawberries look about the same as the Strawberries that are cultivated for their fruit and their care is the same, but this variety is grown primarily as a ground cover due to its thick growing, glossy foliage. The fruit is edible but not very flavorful 4-9