Grow a Gorgeous Fall Garden Your Birds Will Love

Updated: Oct. 10, 2022

Plan a fall garden that flourishes beyond spring and summer. Follow these tips to create a landscape you and visiting wildlife will love.

fall garden
Courtesy Ralph Graham
American goldfinch on black-eyed Susans

Keep Your Garden Growing into Fall

It’s time to think about extending your garden’s interest into fall. Discounted plants are abundant this time of year, and birds will certainly be thankful for additional sustenance and shelter that a fall garden provides. Plus, cool-weather landscaping can absolutely still be beautiful.

Check out the top 10 blooming fall perennials for your garden.

Combine purple fountain and feather ornamental grasses, goldenrod, asters and maple trees to create a bold autumn look.
Greg Ryan/Alamy Stock Photo
Combine purple fountain and feather ornamental grasses, goldenrod, asters and maple trees to create a bold autumn look.

An Eye for Fall Garden Design

After four decades of designing and installing gardens, Darryl Abraham of Naples, New York, appreciates options that aren’t just easy on the eyes but also on the back. “I’m on the naturalizing, low-maintenance side of things,” he says.

He also knows the value of working in layers and using a variety of plants—trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers and ground covers—for contrast in height, shape and texture. Some of his favorite fall plants include red twig dogwood, gray dogwood, Jerusalem artichoke, ornamental grasses, rose of Sharon, goldenrod, American bittersweet and milkweed.

Darryl is an advocate for autumn gardens thanks in part to his parents, garden authors and radio hosts George “Doc” and Katy Abraham. They grew lush landscapes that included hazelnut shrubs, apple trees, brambles and more—for their own enjoyment and to help sustain wildlife.

To design an outdoor space with lasting power, follow some of Darryl’s top fall garden recommendations.

Here’s why you should keep planting perennials in fall.

Some fall displays at the University of Minn. Landscape Arboretum. -- Fountain grass in the ornamental grass trial garden.
Star Tribune via Getty Images/Getty Images
Fountain grass looks lovely in fall

Gorgeous Grasses for Fall

Ornamental grasses peak after summer, when they reach their mature height and develop striking flower heads. Many turn an attractive buff color, which serves as a perfect backdrop for bright companions such as mums and sedums. And a few offer their own hues, like flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’), which turns a fiery red-orange.

Most grasses remain upright during the cooler months, adding extended interest. Darryl says, “They’ll go right through the winter, have kind of a brown tuft, and then you cut them back in the spring and get the new growth coming out. They’re fairly easy to maintain.”

Check out the top 10 perennial grasses for your garden.

mountain ash and cedar waxwing
Courtesy Kandie Diskin
Cedar waxwing eating berries from a mountain ash tree

Appealing Fall Fruits for Birds

Certain fruitful plants attract birds in autumn, including mountain ash, a favorite of cedar and Bohemian waxwings. Other seasonal picks that get a thumbs-up from Darryl include American bittersweet, blackberries, cotoneaster and sumac, with its beautiful burgundy leaves in fall and conical fruiting structures.

Meet 7 backyard birds that eat berries.

Black-crested titmouse in a bigtooth maple
Black-crested titmouse in a bigtooth maple

Standout Fall Shrubs and Trees

When it comes to adding trees and shrubs with flair, Darryl recommends viburnum and mock orange, which offer spring flowers and striking fall color. Rose of Sharon blooms from summer into early fall. And hydrangeas have large summer flowers that fade into attractive tones of pink and tan. Look to oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) for burgundy fall leaves.

As for trees, Darryl suggests red and sugar maples for brilliant fall foliage and northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) for its cigar-shaped seedpods.

We found the 9 best fall shrubs to grow this season.

A bumblebee visits a coneflower (also known as Echinacea)
Courtesy Melissa Beller
Coneflowers are a good source of nectar for pollinators and birds eat the seeds.

Favorite Fall Garden Flowers

While mums are a well-known seasonal standout, Darryl likes seed-bearing perennials that feed birds. “Black-eyed Susans are pretty tough,” he says. “Echinacea is another good one, and you can break the seed heads up and cast them around.” Other favorites of his include Joe Pye weed and asters.

Try these late summer and fall flowers that attract hummingbirds.

Western red cedar
Arterra/Getty Images
Grow evergreens such as this western red cedar to provide shelter for birds

Evergreen Beauties

“Birds pretty much like any kind of tree,” Darryl says, but he points out that they especially enjoy the shelter of evergreens. Good options include western red cedar (Thuja plicata), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) and blue spruce (Picea pungens).

Check out the top 10 dwarf conifers for small spaces.

ColorBlaze Newly Noir coleus, Toffee Twist sedge, ColorBlaze Mini Me Watermelon and El Brighto coleus, and Sweet Caroline Red Hawk sweet potato vine
Courtesy of Proven Winners -
ColorBlaze Newly Noir coleus, Toffee Twist sedge, ColorBlaze Mini Me Watermelon and El Brighto coleus, and Sweet Caroline Red Hawk sweet potato vine

Perfectly Potted Fall Plant Combos

Mix and match fall container plants. Here are a few reliable options to pretty up your front porch pots: 

Next, discover 5 essential fall butterfly garden tips.