Favorite Annuals for Wild Birds
Annuals are so fast and easy to grow that everyone should plant at least a few in their garden. If you don't want to bother planting annual seeds, just visit your local garden center. The colors and scents of annual flowers are a season-long delight. When you grow annuals, you can cut beautiful blossoms for indoor bouquets. The bright colors of annual flowers draw hummingbirds and butterflies. Dozens of songbirds flock to the plants to hunt for insects or to feast at the seed heads.
Seeds for Winter Feeding
Annuals become even more attractive to birds as summer ends. When cosmos and zinnias go to seed, they become a feeding station for many beautiful birds. Goldfinches will hang from the tips of cosmos, stretching to nibble the slim black seeds.
An old fashioned annual called love-lies-bleeding has unusual dangling "ropes" of deep pink flowers that look like fat lengths of fuzzy yarn. After the flowers mature, they yield thousands of tiny oil-rich seeds that native sparrows and finches adore. Bachelor's-buttons attracts finches, buntings, and native sparrows when its flowers go to seed. Because they mature at different times, you're apt to see goldfinches and other birds foraging for seeds even while the plant is still blooming.
When the garden season ends, don't be too quick to cut back your annuals. Leave them standing in the garden during the winter. Juncos and native sparrows will scratch beneath them, gleaning leftover seed that has dropped to the ground.
Planting Annuals for Birds
Plant annuals densely, because birds feel more at home in thick growth. You can plant transplants or sow seeds directly in the garden. To plant seeds, first scratch the soil surface with a claw-type hand tool, then scatter the seeds and crumble a few handfuls of soil over them. Annuals sprout quickly and grow rapidly, but you'll need to keep the seedbed moist until the seedlings are established.
Mulch for annuals with compost before they start to grow. This will give them an extra boost of nutrients to stimulate flowering and will cut down on the need to weed and water. Don't spend a lot of time fussing over weeds, or tending the plants, because birds prefer to visit an undisturbed garden.