Plant for wildlife
You can create habitat for wildlife by planting a variety of plants of different sizes and flowering/fruiting seasons. To attract specific wildlife groups and species, include plants specific to their needs.
Birds. Design planted areas that include canopy cover, small understory trees and shrubs, and grasses or flowers. Let grasses and flowers produce seeds that will serve as food for birds. Allow a few pests, another essential food source.
Hummingbirds. They are attracted to colors like red, orange and pink. Plant tube-shaped flowers such as trumpet honeysuckle, penstemon and salvias. Feeders filled with sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) also attract hummingbirds – no red food coloring needed.
Butterflies. A combination of grubs (caterpillars) and nectariferous plants will attract a variety of butterflies. Nectar plants have trumpet-shaped flowers or large, flat heads of small flowers.
The caterpillars. Each butterfly species lays its eggs on a preferred host plant. A caterpillar eats large amounts of vegetation before forming its chrysalis. They often strip entire plants, so expect some damage in a butterfly garden.
Consider interplanting larval and nectariferous plants in the same bed or use other plant combinations to disguise damaged ones.
Alabama’s wildlife populations are threatened by increasing urban development. Like us, wildlife needs food, water, shelter and a healthy environment. Designing our yards with wildlife in mind can provide beneficial habitats.
Food. Add native plants that bear seeds, fruit, foliage, or flowers that you’re willing to share with adult birds, caterpillars, or butterflies. Berries, fleshy fruits, nuts and acorns are delicacies for many wildlife species. Native prairie grasses benefit certain species and add a graceful touch to your landscape.
Remember that insects are a valuable food source for birds.
Running water. The sound of running water attracts birds to your garden. This sound can come from a natural element or from a fountain. Even a simple birdbath will work. Empty and scrub the birdbath with a brush every few days to prevent mosquito breeding and bacterial contamination.
Shelter. These can be as simple as adding a nest box, mason bee box or bat house. You can change a few species of plants in your garden, create a lightly piled brush pile, or leave certain areas of the yard less maintained, as this provides habitat for many species.
Reduce the use of insecticides. Whenever insecticides are used, they reduce insect populations, a vital food source for birds. Always know the pest you are targeting, stay on target, and apply control thoughtfully.
Bees are the workhorses of all pollinators. They pollinate about a third of the plants we eat. Multiple factors have caused a decline in honey bee and native bee populations. Learn how to help all bees thrive.
Provide nesting sites. These are important for attracting and keeping bees in your area. Brush piles, clumps of moss, patches of bare ground, and rotting logs are some examples of native bee nesting sites.
Grow plants that bloom during the seasons when bees are active, from early February through October.
Grow good nectar and pollen plants. Bees are generally attracted to yellow or blue flowers and those with sweet scents. Flowers that attract bees have small, narrow floral tubes to accommodate the length of their tongues. Many feed on specific plants that have co-evolved with them.
Some shrubs include blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), capsicum (Clethra alnifolia), and American holly (Ilex opaca).
Favorite native wildflowers are indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and asters (Rudbeckia and many others).
Non-native flowers include oregano (Origanum vulgare), verbena (all species), lemon balm (Monardo spp.), and speedwell (Veronica spp.).
Avoid areas planted with flowers that attract bees if you are allergic to insect stings.