Garden Spaces: Attract Birds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Garden Spaces

This garden is designed to draw visitors of the avian persuasion. To see a detailed legend of the plants in this garden, click on the Image Gallery.

Illustration by Gayle Ford

Content Tools

• Design Plans: Entice Birds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds To Your Garden.

Your late-summer garden, with its riotous beauty and relaxed, sprawling shapes, is a fragrant, soothing alcove. Perhaps, like many, you think of your herb garden as a sanctuary or retreat. Why not let it be a sanctuary for the many beautiful winged creatures that also are drawn to its color and fragrance?

The garden illustrated here was designed to entice birds, butterflies and hummingbirds and provide for their needs. Given this colorful haven, your guests will want to stay awhile, come back often, spread the word and provide for you a constantly busy, musical and even raucous backdrop of twittering and flittering.

Know your hostess duties and provide the creature comforts of food and drink; a place to rest and nest; and a refreshing bath. Keep all parts of your yard organic to ensure that the environment is hospitable for them.

Get a good field guide for the birds of your region so you can learn to identify them, and keep your camera handy. Research online the butterflies that migrate through your territory, the nectar plants they seek and the host plants they use to lay their eggs on and feed their young. The interrelations of the natural world are an endless source of pleasure and learning for the gardener.

Draw Them In

Provide open areas for your guests to sun themselves in the afternoon, as well as shaded areas for the shy or weary. A bird bath becomes a social gathering spot for birds on a hot day, and trays at ground level, where water collects, become puddle clubs for butterflies. Add nesting boxes and bird houses suitable for the creatures you’re trying to attract.

Grow masses of the bright tubular flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies like to sip from, including cardinal flower and any of the salvias, as well as groupings of the flat-faced flowers they also like to visit, such as purple coneflowers and passionflower. Plant them in clusters so they’re easier for the birds and insects to find.

Include host plants, such as fennel, dill and parsley, for the swallowtail caterpillars; artemisia for the painted lady; milkweed for the monarch; violets for the fritillary. Include some shrubs or trees with berries that the birds feed on and branches to shelter them.

When your parsley is chomped to nubs by a colorful, almost clown-like caterpillar, know that the beautiful swallowtail will follow, and just plant more for yourself. There are enough herb and flower choices to satisfy everyone; the list that follows is just a starting point.


Kathleen Halloran is a freelance writer and editor who lives and gardens in beautiful Austin, Texas.