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Your Garden: A Sanctuary for Yourself and for Birds

It’s easy to create a garden that is a beautiful, peaceful, and much-needed haven for birds and butterflies, whose natural habitats are rapidly being lost to development. Four basic things to keep in mind when planning your garden are the following:

  • Keep part of the area natural.
  • Use shrubs.
  • Add bird-friendly features such as nesting boxes.
  • If possible, add a source of fresh water (be sure to wash containers daily or birds will die from salmonella).

The key is to make your garden less like a perfectly manicured golf course and more like a pretty prairie or meadow. Birds love to forage and eat dropped seeds and fallen fruit. Many birds like to eat thistle and tend to nest in climbing vines or plants such as clematis, ivy, or honeysuckle. Small trees such as holly and ivy are easy to plant and provide berries that birds can eat in the winter. Hummingbirds are attracted to nectar-rich flowers that bloom at different times of the year. Their favorites include cleome, trumpet vine, red petunia, impatiens, catmint, red ivy geranium, salvia, nasturtium, morning glory, fuchsia, and butterfly bush.

Butterflies will turn your garden into a kaleidoscope of colorful wings if you provide flowers, a pesticide-free food source, some weeds and wildflowers where butterflies can lay their eggs, and a sheltered area that provides protection from the wind and rain while allowing butterflies to absorb plenty of sunlight. Easy-to-grow plants that butterflies enjoy include butterfly bush, chrysanthemum, black-eyed Susan, lantana, phlox, goldenrod, milkweed, marigold, purple coneflower, lilac, and lavender. Be sure to provide food sources for butterfly caterpillars, too—good choices include milkweed, fennel, parsley, violet, spirea, wisteria, and passionflower.

If you need inspiration, check out some gardening books at your local library or ask a local nursery to help you figure out which types of plants will grow best in your soil and climate. Happy gardening!

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  • Ingrid says:

    I became an owner of two cockatiels in a small cage. Promptly bought a bigger one but actually feel sick seeing birds in cages. I think it’s perverse to keep a flying being in a cage. Like forcing an able person to sit in a wheelchair and not allow them to walk/run. I would like to set them free or find someone with a huge aviary and other birds (and bushes), where they could be. I live in South Australia (Adelaide area) and believe these birds are native to the interior somewhere…? Any ideas, anyone?

  • I G says:

    I recommend planting only native plants in your region. A great resource for this is . I would not recommend planting the following plants mentioned in this article: Butterfly Bush, Chrysanthemum, Marigold, Lantana, Lilac, Lavender, Fennel, Parsley, exotic Spirea, or exotic Wisteria. Many of these plants are deemed noxious invasive species in many states and should not be planted. Some do not reproduce naturally (marigold, parsley, fennel, lilac) they offer no positive contributions toward native flora or fauna beyond providing a small amount of nectar and pollen. Planting native plants is much for beneficial for natural communities of plants and animals.

  • Amy Johnson says:

    I’m in Australian and have done this…. it’s great that my house can be a sanctuary for wild birds as they haven’t got anywhere else to go

  • DAWN KOSCAL says:

    WHAT plants do you recommend for Las Vegas?