With bird watching becoming an increasingly popular hobby, it’s no surprise that wildlife gardens would increase in popularity, too. Although you can always enjoy leaving the comfort of your home to view the wildlife, why not plant a garden to bring the wildlife home to you? Having a wildlife garden isn’t just a relaxing treat to watch, it’s helpful to the wildlife that uses it. Here are some ideas for planting a wildlife garden in Southern California.
Should it be any surprise that one of the few insects that people like to invite into their yards are butterflies? Not only do these beauties complement the color of the garden’s beautiful flowers, they also help to pollinate them, too. In San Diego county, you’ll probably encounter American Snouts (Libytheana carinenta), Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor), Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui), American Ladies (Vanessa virginiensis), and, of course, the ever-famous Monarchs (Danaus plexippus). You might even come across Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos), Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia), Variegated Fritillaries (Euptoieta claudia) or Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta).
If you’re planning on making your garden butterfly-friendly, try planting some Marigolds (Tagetes lucida), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) and Zinnias, as those will likely attract all the butterflies mentioned above. Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora), Lantana, Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Aster (Symphyotrichum sp.) and Sage will also help give butterflies a potpourri of plants to partake of pollen from.
Plants with Avian Appeal
While you’re already attracting wildlife, why not plant some flowers for the hummers? Not only are hummingbirds adorable, they help to pollinate flowers, too. They amaze and entertain in ways that no other bird can, and here in San Diego you’ll most likely encounter an Anna’s (Calypte anna) or Allen’s (Selasphorus sasin) Hummingbird. If you’re really lucky, you might even see a drifting Xantus’ (Hylocharis xantusii) or Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris), though you’ll probably have a better chance of seeing a Rufous (Selasphorus rufus) or Costa’s (Calypte costae) instead. To increase your sighting chances, plant some Fuchsias or Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.) in your garden. Jasmine, Wisteria, Red Buds (Cercis canadensis) and Pandorea rosa will also bring in these beguiling buzzing birds.
If bigger birds are your preference, try planting with the intent to provide food and good nesting materials for bigger birds. Birds love to eat seeds from Cotoneasters, Sunflowers, Pyracantha and Duranta, though Sumacs and wild roses might bring in some California Towhees (Pipilo crissalis) or Thrushes (Catharus spp.). Consider planting some palms, as Orioles (Icterus spp.) love to use the strings from all kinds of palm trees for their nests. Don’t forget the Floss Tree (Chorisia speciosa), which produces a cotton-like substance that birds like to use for their nests.
You’ll likely find these plants, as well as some cool palm trees for sale at your local nursery. Make sure to go to a nursery with expert staff who can help provide you with tips and advice on how to make your wildlife garden the best it can possibly be.