The Colorful Perennial That’ll Keep Birds Flocking To Your Yard All Winter Long

The Colorful Perennial That'll Keep Birds Flocking To Your Yard All Winter Long

Attracting birds to your yard can be a great way to learn more about different bird species. Watching them through the window with binoculars and field guides can be an enjoyable pastime. But beyond the beauty and interest they bring, birds can also provide significant benefits to your landscape. They help pollinate your plants, eat unwanted insects such as grasshoppers and aphids, and even feed on weed seeds, keeping your backyard free from unwanted growth.

Fortunately, some birds stay around in the winter, which can provide a boost to the ecosystem and landscape. Common winter birds in four-season climates include the American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, and northern cardinal. To attract more birds to your garden year-round, you can plant a flower called the black-eyed Susan. This stunning flower is bright yellow with a brown center and blooms from summer to early fall. The stems grow to be about three feet tall, and the seeds from the spent flowers attract birds, providing them with food even in the winter.

The flower seeds provide food for birds in the winter

Black-eyed Susans

Alex Manders/Shutterstock

Often birds that do not migrate adjust their diet to survive the winter months and search for seeds to eat. The seeds provide a source of protein and fat that they might usually get from insects and fruit in the summer. In the case of the black-eyed Susan, the seed heads provide an excellent source of nutrition, particularly for birds that may be too shy to come to the feeder. Just one flower head can produce hundreds of seeds.

As far as what you need to do to overwinter your black-eyed Susans, it’s quite simple. It is recommended to leave pruning for spring and let the seed heads die on the stems over winter. Seed heads are the dried flowering part of the plant containing the seeds. Although your flowers will look lifeless and kind of dull starting in fall, the seed heads will greatly benefit birds. Smaller birds tend to perch on them to collect food, while larger birds will look on the ground where the seeds fall.

Seeds can be stored and used in your bird feeder year-round

cardinal and titmouse at feeder

Barb Elkin/Getty Images

Another method that still gives you the benefit of attracting birds, is to cut your spent flowers before winter and collect seeds from them that you can use as bird food throughout the year. In this case, wait until fall to clip the seed heads of your plants with spent flowers. Next, you will want to lay the seed heads out to dry for a couple of weeks. Once they are dry, there are a couple of methods to get the seeds out. One includes placing the dried seed heads in a closed glass jar and shaking the jar with your hands –- you will notice the tiny black seeds will start to fall out, and you can collect them. The seeds can be stored for a couple of years for bird food or you can use them to plant in your garden too – just be sure to store them in a dry cool place.

Black-eyed Susans are stunning and attract birds to your yard that you can enjoy year-round. They also attract beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees and butterflies in the summer months. If you plan to add the daisy-like flower to your backyard this spring, here’s everything you need to know before planting them.

✿ Read More About Flowers.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.