10 of the Best Indigenous Plants to Grow to Attract Birds to Your Garden.
Almost all indigenous plants will in some way help to attract birds to your garden; after all they and the birds and other wildlife have all evolved together. Plants help provide birds with food with food in the form of flowers, nectar, fruit and seeds and by attracting insects. Then they also provide many birds with roosting and nesting sites. They also provide some birds with perching site from which they hawk insects and other prey.
Planting nectar rich plants like Aloes will certainly attrack Sunbirds to your garden.
Selecting just 10 plants was very difficult, as there are so many more that are also suitable. We have chosen these 10 because besides attracting birds, will enhance your garden with their attractive flowers, berries, texture or structure and form, or a combination of these attributes.
Here is our list of ten indigenous plants that will certainly help to attract birds to townhouse, and small or large, gardens:
Halleria lucida flowers are borne on the older stems and amoungst the leaves.
The Tree fuchsia or Notsung is a small evergreen tree that will grow up to 4 or 5 metres tall by 3 or 4 metres wide. Provides nectar and fruit as well as attracting insects for insect-eaters. Also provides nesting sites. Cold hardy but likes regular water, run your shower or bath water to your Halleria.
We recommend planting another nectar rich plant like Tecomaria capensis or Leonotis leonurus with exposed flowers close by. These will attract sunbirds flying over your garden into it, and they will then discover the Halleria’s hidden flowers.
A large perennial shrub, Wild Dagga or Wildedagga, will grow up to 2 metres by 2 metres spread. Very attractive orange flowers can be found most of the year, but are most prolific in autumn; a showy white form is also available, as well as a rather insipid yellow form. The nectar rich flowers are much fovoured by sunbirds and nectar feeding birds.
Plants will benefit from a harsh ‘haircut’ each spring, it keeps the plants shape and prevents the plants becoming woody and lanky.
Leonotis leonurus is best grown in a sunny position.
Besides attracting fruit-eating birds, the fruit and sepals of Ochna serrulata add colour to gardens.
The Carnival Bush, Mickey Mouse Bush or Fynblaarrooihout, is a stunning, deciduous garden subject that will eventually reach about 1.8 by 1.5 metres. It bears a profusion of bright yellow flowers early in spring, followed by red sepals with black berries. The new leaves are a lovely shiny bronze. Will grow in full sun or in dappled shade beneath other trees.
The fruit is eaten by many different birds, including, surprisingly, Red-eyed Doves.
The various Thorn trees of Africa are iconic trees that were till quite recently classified as Acacias. There are several different types that grow to different sizes, so there should be at least one to suite your garden.
This group of trees are some of the best wildlife friendly garden plants. For security reasons, their thorny branches make them very popular choice for nesting sites for many different bird species. Their flowers are considered by some birds as delicacies and their seeds are eaten by among other birds Seedeaters, Canaries and Parrots. For many years there was a pair of Brown-hooded Parrots and their offspring that visited our old nursery in Broadacres when the Vachellia karroo, Sweet Thorn and Combretum erythrophylum trees were fruiting to eat the seeds. Birds, butterflies, monkeys and children enjoy the sweet gum that leaks from wounds. Many butterfly and moth larva feed on their leaves, attracting insect eating birds.
Sunbirds, like this male Amythist Sunbird, cannot resist visiting Aloes for their nectar.
5 Aloe species and hybrids.
Aloes are available in a large range of sizes, shapes, flowering times and colours. Aloes are typically low maintenance, water-wise garden plants that do best in full sun. Visit Sunbird Aloes to see the amazing selection of hybrids that are available.
Aloes are a very important food source to many birds, providing nectar to sunbirds, orioles, bulbuls and many other birds; many birds also eat the flowers. Larger plants also favoured for nesting sites.
Commonly called the Crossberry or Kruisbessie because of the 4-lobed fruit. A shrub or small tree, it is usually evergreen and will grow up to 3 by 2 metres. It will grow in full sun or in dappled shade. It has lilac-pink flowers followed by miniature ‘hot cross bun’ shaped fruit that may stay on the plants for months.
Birds visit these blants for the tasty fruit and insects that also visit the plants. Because the fruit remains on the plant for extended time it acts as a pantry for fruit-eating birds.
The Cape honeysuckle or Kaapse Kanferfoelie is a very attractive and colourful garden subject, even if it were not such a valueble wildlife friendly plant. There are many colour forms which also have different growth forms, from a scrambler/creeper to a smallish (1.5 metre) neat, rounded shrub. They will scramble to the tops of trees if grown underneath trees. They will tend to be more bushy when grown in full sun and are spectacular when mass planted.
The flowers attract nectar eating birds and insect, which in turn attract insect eating birds.
Carissa macrocarpa has attractive and tasty fruit that will attract fruit eating birds to your garden.
8 Carissa macrocarpa
The Big Num-num or Amatungulu) is another desirable, evergreen garden subject that will also attract birds to your garden. It may grow up to 3 metres tall, but can be pruned to keep it smaller or even turn it into a hedge. It has shiny, dark green leaves, white fragrant flowers that are followed by tasty, red fruits. The plant has sharp spines that make Carissa a good boundary security plant.
The tasty fruit are favoured by many fruit eating birds and the dense foliage and thorny spines make these plants popular with smaller birds for nesting sites.
Typically, the Bushveld Bluebush or Bosveldbloebos is a largish, rounded bush about 2 by 2 metres in full sun, when grown amongst other trees it may become a lanky tree of up to about 4 metres. It is deciduous and very hardy against cold and drought.
It bears tiny, fragrant flowers that attract insects and insect eating birds. Female plants then develop edible, round berries that often turn showy red as they ripen. The fruit are relished by a variety of birds and animals, as well as children of all ages. (Do not eat too many at a time, the fruit has a laxative effect.)
Pappea capensis is a well shaped medium tree that gets tasty edible fruit that is sought after by fruit eating birds.
The Jacket-plum or Doppruim is one of many South African’s favoutite indigenous trees. It becomes a medium sized, well-shaped tree with a rounded crown. They may or may not drop their leaves in winter. It can be planted with other trees or onits own as a feature shade tree. Protect young trees from the cold. Drought hardy.
These trees provide nesting sites and tasty fruit. This tree is also a larval host to at least 3 butterfly species in Gauteng, including the Pearl-spotted Charaxes, which will attract insect eating birds.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2018