Growing Bird Seed

Plants that allow you to harvest seeds attract more birds to your backyard.

Plants have a lot more to offer than just beautiful flowers. Why not get the most out of your garden by growing plants to feed birds? Here, you’ll find 8 great blooms that offer seeds for birds.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia, Zones 3 to 9)

This is a garden classic birds adore. The traditional black-eyed Susan has dark centers and bright-yellow flowers, but now there are even more varieties to choose from. Grow in full sun to light shade for blooms in summer through autumn.

Blazing star (Liatris species, Zones 3 to 9)

Many gardeners know this plant as gayfeather. Don’t be surprised when you see an American goldfinch gripping the purple spikes of this flower head. It grows up to 5 feet in full to partial sun and blooms in summer.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis, hardiness varies by variety)

It’s not hard to find an annual or perennial coreopsis (also called tickseed) that will flourish in your yard. Plant in full sun and resist the urge to overwater, as it’s a drought-tolerant superstar that blooms in late spring through late summer.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual)

With its gorgeous daisy-shaped blooms, this low-maintenance beauty seems too good to be true. Grow single or double blooms in full sun, and you’ll have flowers (and seeds to offer feathered friends) from summer through late fall.

Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia, annual)

The vibrant, orange flower heads of Mexican sunflower will make a bold statement in any garden. Often mistaken for a zinnia, this sun- and heat-loving plant definitely holds its own when it comes to attracting birds.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3 to 9)

Birds will feast on the cones of this backyard favorite. New varieties offer a wide range of colors, including purple, pink, white, yellow and orange. Plant in full sun for great results midsummer to early fall.

Purple majesty millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, annual)

It’s relatively new to the plant world, but birds have caught on fast! The plant itself is 4 to 5 feet tall, while the flower stalk offers another foot of delectable goodies for birds. Grow in sun or shade to get amazing foliage from spring to fall.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, annual)

You can’t expect to grow your own seed without this classic bird magnet. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, including cultivars that range from 2 to 15 feet tall and colors from yellow to red. Grow in full sun for summer and fall.

Safflower is easy to grow and the birds love it! Even if the birds don’t plant it for you, all you need to do is poke some kernels from your seed mix about an inch into the ground in spring. Safflower leaves get spiny as the plant matures. To save your fingers, grow the plant in a casual bed with blue larkspur, bachelor’s buttons, cosmos, marigolds and other easy-care, self-sowing annuals where it can take care of itself.

Even a small planting can keep cardinals, jays, chickadees, titmice, finches, native sparrows and doves investigating all fall and winter.


Stacy Tornio
Stacy Tornio is a freelance writer and author with more than 15 gardening and outdoorsy books. She tries to get as much sunshine as possible and is currently on a quest to see all the national parks in North America.