What’s a bird-food flower? A bird-food flower is a plant that’s tough, easy to care for and provides food for birds far into winter. 

It’s not all nectar and honey for our birds when the seasons change. They need high-calorie foods, preferably with protein and sugar, in order to survive here or prepare to leave. These easy-care plants end the summer season full of seeds and berries to bring an abundance of wildlife to your garden. Let's get growing!

A good bird-food flower is a tough plant that's easy to care for. Also, it feeds birds.



Helianthus annuus

A True Crowd-Pleaser
It won’t be just birds coming after your sunflower seeds. Be on the watch for small mammals, or the odd baseball player. With sunflowers, there’s plenty to go round. Some varieties reach 10 feet tall with flowers bigger than your head! All you need is sun.

GROWING GUIDE: Plant seeds directly in the ground in spring, or plant-out starts later on. Choose a full-sun location. Try to keep the soil from drying out and only water when you have to. Large varieties may need staking.



Echinacea purpurea

Penny-Pinching Pincushions 
This North-America native is a lean, mean, self-seeding machine. Every three or four years, dig up a clump and separate it for new growth. Coneflower seeds are also a favorite food of finches.

GROWING GUIDE: Plant in full sun. Coneflowers won’t fade in the heat and do well in dry locations. Cut the flowers off in summer to bring on more blooms. Near the end of the season, leave a final flush of flowers to be pollinated for pretty prickly pincushions—now there’s a mouthful.



Vitis labrusca

Bird Lovers Only
You’ll find more how-to-keep-birds-outta-vines articles than not, but if your main goal is good bird food plant American grapevines and let the birds have at it. The fast-growing leafy vines also make great screens or shade. Give it a few years to reach 30 feet (or more!) 

GROWING GUIDE: Sun. As with all fruit-makers, grapevines need plenty of sun. Young vines may take 2 to 3 years to settle in before blooming. American grapevines, unlike European species, tolerate cooler temperatures and can ripen in our Northwest clime.



Mahonia repens

Native Drama Queen

So long as you don’t require plants be huggable, creeping mahonia is a best-bet for year-round garden drama. Not the powdery-mildew-says-what kind of garden drama; the shiny, spiny, evergreen leaves turning red in the fall and quickly becoming a veritable bird buffet kind of drama. Did I mention it’s a NW native?

GROWING GUIDE: Plant in sun or shade. This species does especially well in dry shade and makes a good low-growing hedge or groundcover in small spaces. Water only when necessary and prune hard to rejuvenate.



Sedum spp.

Winter Wonder What’s for Dinner
Stonecrop, a large form of sedum, blooms late in the season and attracts butterflies and bees. By winter, the seeds are a favorite food of finches and chickadees. Be aware: Some varieties of sedum bloom sterile flowers and won't produce seeds. Be sure to check that plant tag! Try 'Autumn Joy' for a reliable and colorful option.

GROWING GUIDE: Sedums aren’t a “low-care” plant, they’re a no-care plant. Put them in hot, dry or hard-to-reach locations and worry ne’er again. Only the coldest of winters can take them down.



Ribes sanguineum

Some Kitchens Never Close
Red-flowering currants provide a reliable, native food source for various birds over many seasons. In early spring, pink/magenta flower poofs (officially: racemes) offer hummingbirds some of the first nectar feasts of the season. By winter those flowers become berries to feed robins, finches, woodpeckers and more. 

GROWING GUIDE: Choose sun or part shade. The shrubs aren’t picky, but they won’t thrive in hot or arid locations. Supplement natural rainfall when it’s been too long since rain.