Planting to Benefit Wildlife

I grew up loving animals and wildlife. My parents taught me to respect them as well. When it came time for us to move in together (my Dad’s health was failing) we wanted a big place. We found a house with a half-acre yard that was mostly barren save for the many mature trees. We decided to do some landscaping and planting to benefit wildlife.

Planting to Benefit WILDLIFE IN THE SUBURBS

It’s amazing how much wildlife there is in the suburbs. We immediately began to see deer, wild turkeys, geese, woodpeckers and raccoons to name a few. Mom set up several bird feeders and we put up bird baths. Then we started planting. We had a lot of shade so we set out several hydrangeas, salvia, hostas, daylilies, lilac bushes, rose of Sharon, and sedum. I planted a holly bush so the birds would have berries to eat.

Mom had a wildlife book and when she saw a bird that she didn’t recognize she would look it up. That book still has multiple book marks that Mom left when she looked up a new bird.

Planting to Benefit Wildlife

Zinnias are great flowers for butterflies and bees. Image credit: G Gamble

CERTAIN FLOWERS ATTRACT WILDLIFE

I began to see why Mom and Dad loved specific flowers. I discovered that bees love globe thistles, coneflowers, hostas, and sedum. Butterflies love salvia, zinnias, marigolds, lilies, and cosmos. Mom loved bleeding hearts so we set one out. It attracted the hummingbirds as well as butterflies. Our planting to benefit wildlife was fun and made our yard a showplace!

Planting to Benefit Wildlife

Here’s the new spruce tree I planted after our other one died. Image credit: G Gamble

TREES AND SHRUBS MAKE GREAT REFUGE FOR BIRDS

When we moved in there was a huge, beautiful spruce tree on the east side of the house. The birds loved it in the winter time.  We could stand on the back porch and hear the loud chirping of the birds. It was like they were discussing what they were going to do that day. Sadly, bores killed our spruce and we had to cut it down. Soon after that, I planted a new spruce tree on the west side of our property. It is now big enough for some of the birds to call it a winter home. Our hydrangeas, rose of Sharon, and lilac bushes have also made great gathering places for the birds year around.

Planting to Benefit Wildlife

Goldenrod is a great plant to sustain wildlife. Image credit: Sue Sweeney

GOLDENROD IS VERY BENEFICIAL TO WILDLIFE

Recently I found out that goldenrod is a favorite of butterflies. Although it has been blamed for making many of us sneeze, goldenrod has pollen that is too heavy to be carried by the wind. Goldenrod relies on animal pollinators. Native to North America, there are 100 different species of goldenrod. Goldenrod can benefit wildlife in your backyard. Monarch butterflies feed on the nectar to help them through their long migration. Studies have shown that over 100 species of butterflies and moths get their food from goldenrod. Birds eat the seeds when the blooms are gone and many species of bees actually feed on goldenrod. Planting goldenrod benefits wildlife in many ways.

THERE ARE SMALL THINGS YOU CAN DO

If you don’t have the space to plant but want to draw wildlife to your yard you can do small things to attract wildlife even if you live in an apartment. Bird feeders are easy to hang and maintain. Hummingbird feeders are also easy to care for. Don’t buy the hummingbird food with red dye. You can make it yourself. Just put one part cane sugar to four parts water. Heat it on the stove stirring occasionally until it boils then remove it and cool to room temperature. Your hummingbird food is ready to use.

Planting to Benefit Wildlife

Wildflowers are a favorite of butterflies and bees. Image credit: G Gamble

Planting to benefit wildlife can be as simple as buying a can of mixed wildflower seeds and planting them in a sunny spot. A flower box full of colorful flowers will draw butterflies. Hanging flower baskets can also bring butterflies to your home. We live in a world that depends on a variety of ecosystems and these pollinators are an important part of those food chains. Planting to benefit wildlife also benefits us in many ways.

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