Serve Your Birds a Feast of Native Plant Seeds

As summer blooms fade, it’s tempting to tidy up.


Cutting off flower heads is like emptying the pantry before Thanksgiving. Birds depend on seeds and berries to survive the fall and winter.

Grasses provide birds with food as well as cover from blustery winds. The leaves in your garden have been converted into winter homes for many insects including butterflies in various developmental stages.

So, wait to prune and rake your flower beds till spring. Let the birds and other wildlife enjoy your garden while you stay inside.

Here are some native plants favored by birds for their seeds or berries:

Asteraceae, probably the largest plant family, are a major food source for birds:

Asters (same scientific name)

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

Blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella

Coreopsis (same scientific name)

Daisy, Bellis perennis

False or oxeye sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Gayfeather, Liatris

Goldenrod, Solidago

Green and gold, Chrysogonum

New York ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis

Purple cone flower, Echinacea purpurea

Spotted Joe Pye weed, Eutrochium maculatum 

Sunflower, Helianthus

Other favorites perennials, shrubs and trees food sources for birds:

American beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana (bush)

American cranberry bush viburnum, Viburnum trilobum

American holly, Ilex opaca (tree)

Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis (tree)

Black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa (bush)

Dogwood tree, Cornus florida

Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana (tree)

Red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia (bush)

Serviceberry, Amelanchier, (shrub or small tree)

Sumac, Rhus (bush or small tree)

Winterberry, Ilex verticillate (bush)


Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum

Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium

To see other grasses native to Maryland’s Piedmont region, go to

A website from the USFWS BayScapes Conservation Landscaping Program

Don’t Prune Shrubs or Trees in the Fall Either!

Bushes and trees should not be pruned in the fall unless a branch is diseased or dead.

Trimming stimulates growth. If you prune between August and October, the new growth will not have time to harden off and survive the winter.

The University of Maryland Extension provides the complete scoop on pruning:

Pining to prune?

There are some plants that should be pruned. Deadhead irises; lilies, lilium; bee-balm, Monarda didyma; bellflower, Campanula; and pincushion flower, Scabiosa.  Laura


2 thoughts on “Serve Your Birds a Feast of Native Plant Seeds”

  1. Just pruned several large lower branches on my redbud before I read this article about NOT pruning in the fall. They were not attractive and were hanging very low over a hosta garden. Hopefully nothing bad will come from this pruning mistake.

  2. Redbuds are hardy trees (and deer resistant). I wouldn’t worry about your pruning but if you get rainspouts or other unwanted growth, prune the tree in the winter when it is dormant. I find pruning a complicated but rewarding art. I used to prune with wild abandon but the more I learn, the more cautious I am.
    Cass Turnbull wrote an excellent and very commonsense book: Guide to Pruning: What, When, Where and How to Prune for a More Beautiful Garden.

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