Wildlife is essential for any planted area to thrive, but birds and bees are particularly useful to gardeners. Bees pollinate many of the plants we see in attractive landscapes, and birds help out by transporting seeds from one location to another. To encourage and attract these natural allies, gardeners can plant certain shrubs that are particularly palatable for birds and bees.
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Baja Fairy Duster
The Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), with its showy red powder-puff blooms, is an excellent choice for attracting birds, such as hummingbirds, finches and wrens. This evergreen bush produces 1- to 2-inch blooms nearly all year, provided that weather conditions are suitable. However, the shrub does get stressed during colder months if the temperature drops below -3.89 degrees C. Plant the Baja fairy duster in full sun with well-drained soil. At maturity, it will reach 4 or 5 feet tall and be just as broad.
Bird of Paradise
Bees and birds both enjoy visiting the brightly coloured bird of paradise shrub (Caesalpinia gilliesii). Planted in full sun and with moderate watering, this plant will grow 6 to 8 feet tall. The large flowers are yellow with bright red stamens -- both are colours that attract bees and birds. Although the bird of paradise is drought tolerant, long periods of no water will affect flowering. The shrub will bloom several times throughout the growing season, providing plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching. Be aware: The seeds are poisonous if ingested, so keep a close eye on children and pets in the vicinity.
As its name indicates, the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidiiis) attracts butterflies as well as birds and bees. The perennial shrub is very hardy, enduring bouts of overwatering and drought, but can become invasive if not kept in check. The bush's deep green leaves provide hiding places for birds, and its fragrant, colourful flowers -- ranging from white to red to purple -- lure hummingbirds and bees hungry for nectar. Plant the butterfly bush in a mostly sunny area with well-drained soil for best results.
The evergreen lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) grows 2 to 3 feet tall and exhibits grey foilage and purple flowers, although the colour may vary slightly depending upon the exact cultivar. The flowers retain their scent for long periods and attract birds and bees. To promote additional growth, cut back the plant in the spring and remove dead branches. Plant lavender in a dry, sunny location without adding extra nutrients to the soil, as the plant doesn't need them.
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- Arizona Cooperative Extension: Let a Fairy Dust Your Landscape!
- Hot Gardens: Plants to Attract Birds and Bees
- University of Oklahoma Department of Botany & Microbiology: Plant of the Week: Caesalpinia gilliesii -- Yellow Bird of Paradise
- Ohio State University: Buddleia davidii
- Michigan State University Extension: Lavandula angustifolia -- Lavender, Common Lavender