What is the Difference Between Nyjer Seed and Thistle Seed?
Tube or sock feeders full of thistle seed are a common way to welcome songbirds into your garden. But the next time you refill your feeders, think about this. The seeds you’re buying at the store aren’t what you might think. They don’t come from the plant we know as thistle here in North America. What’s in the package is nyjer seed, which is just as tasty and healthy for backyard birds.
“When people refer to thistle seed that goes in feeders, they’re generally not talking about the seed that comes from either native or invasive thistle. They’re talking about Nyjer,” said John Rowden, director of community conservation at the National Audubon Society.
Nyjer seeds come from the African yellow daisy, a plant not commonly grown in the United States. The seeds are collected and sold by communities in northern Africa. Before they’re exported, the seeds are sterilized so the plant doesn’t become invasive in other environments.
It sounds like a lot of work to prepare this simple seed, but John said Nyjer’s value to birds makes the effort worthwhile. “It has a good combination of protein, fat and fiber, and that’s great as a winter bird food when fliers are trying to gain that high caloric content,” he said.
Besides serving store-bought seeds, John recommends planting native thistle to naturally bring feathered friends to your backyard. Visit audubon.org/plantsforbirds to find out what options are native in your area.
Learn how to attract more goldfinches to your backyard.
Which Birds Eat Nyjer Seed?
Nyjer seeds are tiny, but they still have a shell. If you think your backyard birds might be just pecking at their food—not eating it—check the ground litter for thin hulls.
“I scatter Nyjer seed on the grass under sock feeders for ground foragers. All manner of birds flock to it!” says Keith Golden of Lake Carroll, Illinois.
Meet the 3 types of goldfinches in the United States.
Feeders to Serve Nyjer Seed
Field editor Kathy Eppers has one tried-and-true suggestion. “Hang the thistle feeder away from your other feeders. It seems the goldfinches and house finches are most apt to feed when they are in an area that’s quiet, without the hustle and bustle of large birds like jays,” she said. Placement in the open also helps birds keep an eye out for predators.
Check out more of the best finch feeders to serve thistle seed.
Serve Only Fresh Nyjer Seed
Serve nyjer seed in any season, but always keep it fresh. Throw out the whole lot if seeds get too wet. As a benchmark, field editor Patrick Hogan said he analyzes the seeds’ shininess to determine freshness. If they look dull, he puts out a fresh batch of seed.
Next, learn how to choose sunflower seeds for birds.
Looking for some new additions to your own wardrobe, or need a perfect gift for you favorite owl fan? These owl shirts will fit the bill! Some of the designs are realistic and include identifiable species, while others are more fun or stylized. There should be something here for everyone.
Also check out these unique owl gifts we can’t resist.
1. You’re a Hoot
Birders will immediately recognize at least some of the owl faces shown on this owl shirt. Non-birders will just admire the clever design!
Discover 13 fun facts about owls.
2. A Parliament of Owls
Here’s a little clever wordplay to make you hoot! A group of owls is known as a “parliament,” so what better way to show them than dressed in their proper wigs and coats? It’s the perfect shirt for a birder who’s also a history buff.
Learn more about burrowing owls.
3. Snowy Owls Shirt
The simplicity of the silhouettes on this owl shirt makes the eyes peering out from the darkness particularly effective.
Learn about barn owls: nocturnal birds of prey.
5. Owl ID Guide
Not sure which owl you’re seeing? Just check your owl shirt! (Unfortunately, it can’t help you ID your owl by sound.) This nifty tee has many North American owls on it, including the great horned, snowy and barred. Seven colors and a variety of styles are available.
Here’s your guide to the amazing owls in North America.
6. Find 11 Owls
Here’s another shirt for those who love realistic illustrations. As the name says, there are 11 owls on this shirt. Can you find and name them all?
Here’s how to attract owls to nest in your yard.
We’ve got another pun for you: in taxonomy, owls make up the order “Strigiforme.” Not everyone who sees this owl shirt will get the play on words, but they’ll enjoy this inventive design.
Don’t miss these adorable baby owl pictures.
8. Winter Forest Owls
This owl shirt features another subtle design, an owl silhouette revealing a snowy winter forest scene.
Learn how to identify eastern and western screech owls.
9. Birdorable Owl Shirts
This cute owl shirt boasts recognizable species in an adorable style! It’s a fun combination of nature and art.
Learn all about great horned owls.
10. Owls of the Nile
In this shirt’s stylized design, owls are combined with beautiful patterns and symbols. It’s an elegant choice for any owl fan.
Psst—northern saw whet owls are the cutest owls.
11. Dramatic Owl
Anyone who finds owls some of the most majestic birds will love these owl shirts. An owl looks truly regal as it perches on a branch in this design, which can be printed on 20 colors and in sizes XS to 3XL.
Learn how to spot the owl in your backyard trees.
12. Early-Bird Owl
It’s easy to be a morning person if an owl this cute greets you with your coffee! This super-adorable shirt design features an owl standing on a cup of coffee (or tea). It’s available in a ton of different styles, including sweatshirts, V-necks and of course, owl shirts. A wide variety of colors are also available.
Next, check out these fun facts about owls in pop culture.
What Do Baby Birds Eat?
If you watch birds in your backyard in spring and summer, you’re likely to encounter bird mothers and dads feeding their babies. What foods do baby birds eat? It depends on the type of bird.
Some species’ chicks hatch out of the egg with the instinct to find their own food. Young sandpipers and ducklings will start pecking at tiny insects within hours of hatching. Baby quail run after their parents, who show them how to nibble on insects and seeds, and soon the hatchlings begin to find food for themselves.
But birds that hatch naked sit in the nest and wait for their parents to bring them food. For most songbird nestlings, the diet consists mainly of protein-rich insects, even if the adults tend to be seed-eaters for much of the year. Cedar waxwings bring insects to their young for the first two days, but then start bringing a variety of fruits. American goldfinch babies get a diet of mashed-up seeds. Baby hummingbirds eat a slurry of regurgitated nectar and small insects.
How Do Baby Birds Learn to Find Food?
Life is tough for young birds when they’re first apart from their parents. They have to figure out how to find enough food to keep their strength up, while learning how to recognize predators and other potential dangers. If they can survive their first few weeks of independence, however, they have a good chance of living a normal life span.
After young birds leave the nest they may watch how their parents search for food, but mostly they will learn by trial and error, with instinct sharpened by practice.
Support young birds wherever you live by providing native plants, keeping cats indoors and avoiding pesticides to make your yard bird friendly. In return, you’ll get the excitement of watching young birds as they grow up and explore their world.
What is a fledgling? See the stages of a baby bird’s life.
Should You Rescue or Feed a Baby Bird?
A young bird out of its nest may look like it needs help, but it’s best to back off and observe from a distance. More often than not, the parent birds are nearby. They continue to feed the youngster while it’s on the ground, and if given enough space, lead it to safety.
Of course, if the fledgling is in immediate danger—in traffic or threatened by prowling pets—move the bird to a safer spot. It is a myth that bird parents will reject a young bird if you touch it. The young bird can be placed back in its nest or in the safety of a nearby shrub. Can you move a bird nest?
If a baby bird appears to be injured, contact a local rescue organization or registered wildlife rehabilitator. It is illegal to raise a wild baby bird.
Next, check out super cute pictures of baby birds you need to see.
If you’re in the market for a new bird feeder right now, good news. Many of our favorite bird feeders are on sale! We’ve rounded up the best bird feeder deals on Amazon.com to make your shopping a little bit easier. Psst—these are the 10 types of bird feeders you need in your backyard.
Big Gulp Hummingbird Feeder
Your hummingbirds will never run out of sugar water with this extra large feeder that holds up to 40 ounces of hummingbird food. It’s easy to refill and clean, and we like the pretty flower feeding ports.
Check out more hummingbird feeders and accessories your birds will love.
Flower Oriole Feeder
Perky Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone Max Feeder
If you are looking for a solution to stop squirrels and bully birds from stealing all of your bird seed, try the Squirrel-Be-Gone Max bird feeder from Perky-Pet. It includes weight-activated perches and flexports so the seeds won’t spill out. Small songbirds like chickadees and finches will love it!
Check out more of the best squirrel-proof bird feeders.
Classic Tube Feeder
Try these large capacity bird feeders to feed a crowd.
Twinkle Star Hexagon Shaped Bird Feeder
This is a good price on a traditional hopper-style feeder. We like that the wide roof will keep the seed dry, and the sides of this feeder are see-through so you’ll know when to refill it.
Check out the best-selling bird feeders of 2021.
Squirrel Buster Mini Bird Feeder
Brome makes some of the highest rated squirrel-proof bird feeders. They are a bit more expensive than other brands, but their Squirrel Buster feeders are high quality, effective and durable. Plus they come with a lifetime guarantee. This one is just the right size for small songbirds.
Check out the best birdhouses to attract more birds.
More Bird Double Suet Feeder
Add a suet feeder to your feeding station in fall and winter to attract a variety of suet eating birds. This affordable feeder holds two suet cakes at once, so birds can eat on both sides.
Perky-Pet Red Cardinal Feeder
Fill up this red bird feeder with black-oil sunflower seeds and watch the cardinals flock to your backyard! Cardinals will love the perching ring and the metal mesh deters squirrels from chewing.
Don’t miss the best cardinal bird feeders and birdseed.
Glass Hummingbird Feeder
This glass hummingbird feeder is simply gorgeous. And even though it looks fancy, the reviews report that it is still easy to clean and maintain. Your purchase includes and ant moat, hanging hook and cleaning brush. Because this feeder has perches, you may also attract orioles!
We found the best hummingbird gifts for any occasion.
Squirrel-Be-Gone Bird Feeder
This all-metal bird feeder has a weighted perch, so your pretty songbirds will be able to easily access the seed, but heavier squirrels and bully birds will not. We love that it holds up to 8 pounds of bird seed!
Check out the best blue jay bird feeders for peanuts.
Saucer Hummingbird Feeders
Two hummingbird feeders are better than one! You’ll attract more hummingbirds and the birds will be less territorial when they have some space. Saucer-style feeders are easy to clean, and it’s harder for bees and wasps to access the sugar water.
Try our favorite suet feeders for winter birds.
Perky-Pet Finch Feeder
Fill this large cylindrical finch feeder with nyjer thistle seed to attract goldfinches. Birds can cling right to the metal mesh surface, and air can flow through, unlike solid glass or plastic tubes. The wide sloping roof helps protect birds and seed from rain.
Next, don’t miss the best bird baths and fountains for attracting birds.
Kingsyard Bird Feeder
This charming feeder looks like a little rustic country house. A hanging hook is included, and the roof lifts off so you can easily refill it and clean the inside.
Don’t miss the best finch feeders to serve thistle seed.
Window Bird Feeder
If you want an up-close look at your backyard birds, this is the feeder for you. Just use the suction cups to stick the clear feeder right onto the glass. Add your birds’ favorite seed (the seed tray is split down the middle, so you can offer two kinds), then grab your camera and wait!
We found more window bird feeders to give you closer views of birds.
Platform Bird Feeder
Attract larger ground feeding birds like mourning doves, as well as squirrels, with a platform feeder. You can spear an apple, orange or corn cob on the center spike. The mesh bottom allows rain water to drain.
Psst—you’ll love these whimsical winter bird feeders.
What’s the Correct Term for Baby Birds?
According to birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, it’s fine just to call them babies, chicks or youngsters. To be more specific, a young bird that has just hatched out of the egg is a hatchling, one that’s still in the nest is a nestling and a young bird that has left the nest is known as a fledgling. Here’s a complete breakdown of the stages of a baby bird’s life.
Psst—This is the only bird nesting material you should put out.
A hatching is a baby bird after it hatches from an egg. It usually does not have feathers and its eyes are closed. However, some baby birds are born with feathers. Here’s what you should do if you find a bird nest.
A nestling is a bird developing in the nest. This bird is not yet ready to leave the comfort of the nest, cannot fly and needs to be fed by mom or dad. Check out super cute photos of baby birds.
Fledgling or Juvenile
A fledgling is a bird in its first coat of feathers that is capable of moving about on its own. Its feet can grip a branch and it has developed feathers. At this stage, a bird will venture out of the nest and start to learn how to survive without its parents. It has not reached full adult plumage, and the feathers are likely to be loose and soft. A bird in this stage often looks notably different from an adult. No need to be alarmed if you find a bird like this out of the nest—its parents are likely nearby. Psst—this is what a baby hummingbird looks like.
The term subadult describes a bird whose plumage is no longer juvenile but not quite adult. It starts to look less like a baby bird at this stage. Learn all about robin nests and robin eggs.
Any bird that isn’t an adult yet, including those with juvenile or subadult plumages, can be called immature. The term is commonly used to reference large birds like bald eagles and some gulls that don’t achieve full adult plumage until they are 4 or 5 years old.
Are There Different Kinds of Baby Birds?
Definitely! Scientists divide baby birds into two broad types. The first, altricial young, such as those of most songbirds and hummingbirds, hatch naked and with their eyes closed. Scrawny, pink and helpless, they can barely raise their heads at first. The other type, precocial young, such as those of ducks and chickens, are covered with down when they hatch. As soon as they dry off, often within a couple of hours, they are alert, active, and able to get up and walk around.
Next, learn how long baby birds stay in the nest.
Robin Nest Construction
In a robin couple, a male brings his female partner nesting material as she constructs the robins’ nest. The female builds the cup-like nest with mud as its foundation and lines it with grasses, twigs and other plant material before laying bright blue robin eggs.
“I’ve watched American robins start building nests. Sometimes they come to the bird bath with dry grass and dip it in the water several times. Why do they do that?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Leona Schroeder of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Mud is an essential part of robin nest architecture. The foundation is constructed of mud that holds the nest together like cement. The mud is typically gathered from a ready source, such as the edge of a puddle or earthworm castings. In drier years, robins have to be more resourceful and manufacture their own mud. They’ve been observed carrying dirt in their bills to a bird bath to soak, and splashing in a bird bath before flying to a spot of dust and shaking the water off. There’s a good chance that the birds you observed were soaking nest material to make mud.
Where Do Robins Build Nests?
Robins nest all across Alaska and Canada and in most parts of the lower 48 states, except for the hottest southern regions. They build nests on branches or ledges. Robins will also happily nest in planters, on windowsills, and in other nooks and crannies around a building. The birds may use flower petals or scraps of paper, string, or cloth on the outside of the nest. It may look like they are simply decorating, but these things serve as camouflage by breaking up the dark outline of the nest, helping it to blend in better with the patchy light and shadows.
Do robins migrate and fly south in winter?
When Do Robins Lay Eggs?
“In the Midwest, American robins start building nests when it is still cold, but warmer temperatures and food resources are available when the young hatch,” says Sarah Winnicki-Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in avian evolutionary ecology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Enjoy 15 cheerful robin bird pictures to welcome spring.
How Many Eggs Do Robins Lay?
Female robins lay only one bright blue egg per day and typically lay three or four eggs total, seldom a clutch of five. Robins raise up to three or more broods a year, especially in the southern part of the United States.
Don’t get confused! Learn the differences between robins and these 7 birds that look like robins.
“Usually robin nests in my yard have three eggs, but last year I saw eight. Is that normal or are multiple robins using the same nest?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Sommer Raines.
It’s unlikely that one robin produced all eight of those eggs. An American robin usually lays a clutch of three or four eggs. When a nest holds six to eight robin eggs, two females probably are laying eggs in the nest—perhaps competing for the site until one gives up. So what you’ve found is truly unusual, and it’s an example of the fascinating discoveries that come with careful observation.
What Color Are Robin Eggs?
With careful observation, you can identify bird eggs by color and size. Robin eggs are a deep, bright blue color without any spots or streaks.
How Long Does it Take for Robin Eggs to Hatch?
The female incubates robin eggs for about two weeks. If you find a bird nest, avoid disturbing it. Most birds only start incubating their eggs after they’ve laid their entire clutch.
How Long Do Baby Robins Stay in the Nest?
Caring for baby robins usually requires around 13 days in the nest and several more days after they leave or fledge. Both parents feed the young. A pair of American robins feeding a hungry family deliver 100 to 150 meals a day to the nest. Each baby robin may eat its weight in insects, worms and berries in a day.
What is a fledgling? Learn the five stages of a baby bird’s life.
What Do Baby Robins Look Like?
Baby birds often don’t resemble their parents, and baby robins are a classic example. They have dark-spotted breasts during their first summer, rather than reddish orange ones, and buff speckling along their backs and breasts. Watch as they scamper across the lawn, mimicking the adults as they hunt for worms and other insects. Baby robins eventually lose their spots as they grow up.
Learn more about what foods robins eat and how to attract them.
Robin Nest Timeline
Follow the journey of young robins.
- Day 1 Female robin begins building her cup shaped nest out of twigs and grass with a mud base.
- Day 8 Female lays first egg.
- Day 9 Lays second egg.
- Day 10 Lays third egg. Female may begin incubating.
- Day 11 Lays fourth egg. Female commits to incubating.
Next, learn the difference between a European robin vs an American robin.
You have a very small space, perhaps just a patio, yet you still want to grow shrubs. Or maybe you have a good-size yard, but it’s filled to the max. Your significant other has even made threats that start with: “If you buy one more plant, I’ll.…” Or perhaps you just like small shrubs because they’re so darn cute! It doesn’t matter what your story is: Nearly everyone can find a use for a small shrub. So many kinds are available that it may seem impossible to choose just one or two, but you’ll certainly have fun trying. Use our picks as your guide to the best small shrubs for small spaces.
Small Shrubs: Sapphire Surf Bluebeard
(Caryopteris x clandonensis, Zones 5 to 9)
Many perennials will outgrow this small shrub, which is just 2 feet tall. Grow it as an accent plant, or group several together for a bigger impact. Sapphire Surf Bluebeard blooms endlessly in full sun.
Why we love it: You can’t beat these blooms. The purplish-blue flowers are absolutely gorgeous.
Check out 10 dwarf flowering shrubs for containers.
(Cornus cericea, Zones 2 to 7)
Dogwood comes in many shapes and sizes, so consider adding a compact variety to your backyard. This Firedance cultivar is true to its name, with reddish-purple foliage in fall. It grows only 3 or 4 feet high and prefers full sun. This shrub is a good choice for moist soil, slopes and rain gardens.
Why we love it: In addition to those glowing leaves, its pretty white berries give it four-season appeal.
Don’t miss these blooming bushes that attract butterflies.
Coral Beauty Cotoneaster
(Cotoneaster dammeri, Zones 5 to 8)
With small fragrant white flowers in early summer, and coral berries in fall and winter, this low-growing small shrub shines for months. Coral Beauty (above) grows just 1 to 2 feet tall and has dense glossy, dark green foliage.
Why we love it: In addition to all that color, the birds will love the abundant berries.
A fireside ninebark shrub is a perfect choice for a small-space garden.
Love Child Sweetspire
(Itea virginica, Zones 6 to 9)
If you’re looking to save a lot of space, look for the Little Henry sweetspire cultivar, growing just 18 to 24 inches high. For a little more height and lovely fragrant blooms, go for Love Child (above). It grows 3 to 4 feet.
Why we love it: The shape of the flowers—long 3-inch panicles—is distinctive and delightful.
Psst—here’s even more pretty flowering bushes for your yard.
Summer Crush Bigleaf Hydrangea
(Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 4 to 9)
Some hydrangeas grow tall while others are compact, but all boast beautiful blooms. The pink Summer Crush hydrangea (above) has gardeners excited. Grow it in full sun to partial shade; this small shrub reaches between 18 inches and 3 feet tall.
Why we love it: A petite hydrangea with raspberry red blooms: Need we say more?
Psst—we found more breathtaking hydrangea species you need in your garden.
(Spiraea alba, Zones 3 to 8)
You can find a slew of compact spirea, but this Meadowsweet Spiraea (above) is one of our favorites. This upright, loose shrub grows 3 to 4 feet tall and features foliage that starts yellow-green then turns golden-yellow in the fall. It blooms white summer flowers that produce nectar and attract bumblebees.
Why we love it: Attracts birds, butterflies and bumblebees.
Love fall foliage? Check out the best fall shrubs to grow.
Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle
(Diervilla lonicera, Zones 4 to 7)
You won’t have to worry about disease or insect problems with this honeysuckle shrub. Look for the variegated cultivar Cool Splash (above). It’s very hardy, even in cold climates, and can take dry, sandy soils as well. It grows up to 4 1/2 feet tall, with variegated foliage and yellow flowers in the summer.
Why we love it: It’s similar to honeysuckle without invasive problems, and it’s a prolific summer bloomer that attracts butterflies.
Check out more alternatives to invasive shrubs.
Clethra Hummingbird Summersweet
(Clethra alnifolia, Zones 4 to 9)
This popular small shrub is known for its fragrance, shade tolerance and bright summer blooms. Most clethras grow 8 to 12 feet, but now you can have this beauty in your own small space with this compact version, which reaches only 2 to 3 feet.
Why we love it: It will tolerate some shade—ideal for gardeners with lots of dark areas in their backyard.
(Fothergilla gardenii, Zones 4 to 9)
Growing just 2 to 3 feet tall, these bushy, low-growing shrubs are striking when grouped together along a border in full sun or partial shade. Look for showy blooms in spring, green leaves in summer, and yellow, red and orange leaves in fall. Grow it in full sun to part shade, and in rich, moist, acidic soil.
Why we love it: You’ll get three-season appeal with this beautiful small shrub.
Check out the top 10 dwarf conifers for small spaces.
Lo & Behold Butterfly Bush
(Buddleia, Zones 5 to 9)
We love this dwarf noninvasive butterfly bush. Try cultivar Blue Chip. (above). It’s a very small shrub, growing only 2 feet tall and wide, making it a perfect choice for gardeners who love the blooms of butterfly bush but don’t have much space. Plant in full sun.
Why we love it: The lavender-blue flowers are heavenly, blooming from summer to frost.
Next, get expert tips on how to plant shrubs and bushes.
Question: Why does a hummingbird hum? Answer: Because it can’t remember the words! OK, that’s a pretty bad joke, but it addresses an interesting point. The humming for which hummingbirds are named isn’t a vocal sound, but one created by the rapid beating of their wings. This isn’t the only sound hummingbirds make. Let’s take a look at other hummingbird sounds you might hear.
Regular Hummingbird Calls
All hummingbirds make short, soft call notes. These are often useful for identifying species. In the West, for example, the soft teew of a black-chinned hummingbird is very different from the musical chip of a rufous hummingbird or the thin tic of a Costa’s hummingbird.
Aggressive Hummingbird Calls
Hummingbirds are amazingly feisty creatures, constantly sparring over choice flower patches and feeders. Their aerial battles are mostly just bluffing, but they pump up the effect with all kinds of chattering, squealing noises. When a large number of hummingbirds gather, most of the sounds that you hear will be these aggressive calls.
Hummingbird male vs female: Find out how to tell the difference.
Do Hummingbirds Sing?
Yes, some hummingbirds do sing! The champion singer among North American hummers is the male Anna’s hummingbird, which is very common along the Pacific Coast. He will sit on a high perch and sing for minutes at a time, a scratchy series of notes punctuated by a loud tzzip, tzzip! The bird above is singing, but as you can see, it doesn’t open its mouth very wide. In the desert Southwest, the male Costa’s hummingbird also sings, but with a thin, piercing whistle, instead.
Although many kinds of tropical hummingbirds have noteworthy songs, most of those in North America aren’t as accomplished as the Anna’s or Costa’s hummers. For example, what passes for song from the male ruby-throated hummingbird is just a monotonous series of calls, given mostly at dawn.
Hummingbird Wing and Tail Sounds
Many hummingbird sounds are produced by the feathers of the wings or tail vibrating against the air. The male broad-tailed hummingbird of the Rocky Mountain region has an especially impressive sound. You can always tell when an adult male broad-tail flies past, because of the high, metallic trilling of his wings.
Although the male ruby-throat’s wing sounds are not as obvious, the pointed outer feathers of his wings create a high-pitched whine during his flight displays, while shorter inner feathers make a rattling sound when he changes directions.
The male Anna’s hummingbird is famous for his song, but he also produces a remarkable sound with his tail feathers. His courtship display includes a zooming dive, in which he plummets toward the ground and then pulls up with a loud, explosive pop that can be heard from hundreds of yards away. Scientists used to debate whether this was a vocal sound, but studies have shown that it’s the outer tail feathers vibrating at the bottom of the dive making the noise.
Listen carefully the next time you see a hummingbird. Not only will you hear that familiar hum of the wings, but you could also hear these other fun hummingbird sounds.
Next, learn how fast a hummingbird’s heart beats.
Do you live in the desert or have an area in your garden where the sun just beats down relentlessly, making it hard for your plants to survive? Usually these areas are near a wall, which absorbs the heat from the sun, only to re-release it towards your plants making it very difficult for them to grow. Believe it or not, there are beautiful, flowering full sun desert plants that will thrive these areas with reflected heat. Working as a horticulturist, I have encountered many areas like this and have learned what plants will do well and those that don’t. So I thought that I would share some of my favorites that have done very well growing in the Sonoran Desert. Some of these plants can be used in colder climates as well. I have included planting zones and the lowest temperatures that they can survive.
For more picks, check out the top 10 heat-tolerant plants.
Bougainvillea grows very well in both tropical and semi-tropical climates. Hardy to zone 9 (20 degrees F), they will suffer frost damage, but will recover quickly in the spring once pruned back. The bright color ‘flowers’ aren’t really flowers at all – they are called ‘brachts’ and surround the tiny, cream-colored flower. Bougainvillea can be trained as a shrub or as a vine. They are drought- tolerant, but do best with supplemental water.
‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage
This beautiful flowering shrub is native to the Chihuahuan Desert and produces flushes of purple flowers throughout the summer and fall months. Hardy to zone 7 (10 degrees F), ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’), thrives in areas with hot, reflected sun. Landscapers tend to prune them into ‘balls’ or ‘cupcake’ shapes, removing much of the flowering buds. I recommend pruning back in early spring and then letting them grow into their natural shape.
Discover the desert birds of the Southwest.
Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is a beautiful succulent. The leaves look grass-like and in spring, coral colored flowers are produced. They are extremely low-maintenance and drought-tolerant and hardy to zone 5 (-20 degrees F).
Meet the pyrrhuloxia or desert cardinal.
This shrub is a huge favorite. Gorgeous orange/red flowers cover these large shrubs all summer long. Known by different common names, be sure to use the botanical name (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) to make sure you get the right plant. Hummingbirds can’t resist the flowers. Prune back to 1 foot in January. Hardy to zone 8 (15 degrees F).
Bright yellow flowers cover desert cassia (Senna nemophila) in the spring. This Australian native is well adapted for dry, arid regions. Prune back once flowering has ended in late spring. Hardy to zone 7 (10 degrees F).
Lastly, I would like to share with you one of my favorite full sun desert perennials.
Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) is often thought of as a wildflower although it is a perennial. Yellow daisy-like flowers are produced throughout much of the year. Hardy to zone 6 (-10 degrees F), Desert marigold is extremely drought tolerant and can often survive on rainfall alone when started from seed. Cut back twice a year to 6 inches to encourage more bloom. They are rather short-lived, but do self seed.
All of the plants mentioned need to be planted in full sun. No special soil amendments are needed. With the exception of the desert marigold, supplemental irrigation is needed. And so, if you have a bare, sun-baked corner in your garden, I hope you will try one of these sun-loving desert plants.