Plants for birds

Life is a garden filled with a healthy population of permanent and visiting bird species, so why not entice these lovely creatures into your garden this summer by planting the plants they love?

A garden without birds is unthinkable; their song, constant comings and goings, feeding patterns, and most important of all their activities as a genuinely organic pest control brigade make their presence an essential part of a garden's life.

It is not that difficult to increase the number of birds that reside in or visit your garden. The first step is to grow the plants that provide sustenance in the form of food, shelter and nesting sites. The second is not to kill the insects in your garden. South African farmers who are now using softer chemicals on their crops are finding that the birds are coming back in great numbers into their orchards, vineyards and fields.

The following is a short list of indigenous plants that will ensure there is bird life in your garden:

Aloe species

The flower spikes of aloes are loved by sunbirds. These succulent plants should be planted in sun in well composted soil.

Buddleja auriculata (weeping sage)

(4m x4m) Placed in the sun, this plant's beautiful deep green glossy foliage perfectly offsets the spikes of sweetly scented cream, orange or lilac flowers. The weeping habit makes it a most attractive shrub. Whilst providing food for nectar loving birds it also provides good nesting sites.

Bauhinia galpinii (pride-of-De-Kaap)

(3m x4m) Evergreen with bright green leathery leaves and bright orange flowers, this shrub is not fussy about soil but does much better if planted with plenty of compost. Occurring in woodlands, it is a natural for nesting sites and nectar feeding birds.

Carissa macrocarpa (big num-num)

(3m x 2m) Fast growing and perfect for coastal conditions, this plant has green foliage and star-shaped, scented white flowers. The large red fruits are rich in vitamin C and much loved by fruit-eating birds.

Cassinopsis ilicifolia (orange thorn)

(4m x 4m) This is another shrub that the fruit-eating birds enjoy. It is a thorny, scrambling shrub that has a moderate growth rate. It thrives in light shade under trees and has attractive glossy foliage and bright orange fruit.


Tecoma capensis

Halleria lucida (tree-fuchsia)

(4m x 2m) This plant forms a shrubby tree with bright green leaves and red/orange flowers that grow directly on the branches. The flowers are full of nectar which draws many insects, sunbirds, white eyes and weavers. Later the berries which are black, sticky and sweet are irresistible to the fruit eating birds. 

Orthosiphon labiatus (pink sage)

(1.5 m x1.5m) This is a fast growing shrub with soft, hairy leaves and pale pink-mauve flowers. It is suitable for use as a ground cover in the shade. Bees and many other insects enjoy the nectar which in turn delights the insect eating birds.

Plectranthus verticillatus (gossip plant)

(10cm x 50cm) A fast growing ground cover with dark green and maroon foliage and white purple marked flowers, it does very well in the shade. Most Plectranthus species are host plants to an amazing number of butterfly larvae which are relished by many birds.

Halleria lucida

Orthosiphon labiatus

Acacia karroo

Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)

(1.5m x 2.5m) This sprawling shrub is a fast grower with tubular shaped flowers that range in colour from yellow to salmon to orange. Not fussy about soil, it makes a good hedge plant as it is quite happy to be clipped. This plant should be placed in a sunny spot. The showy flowers are sought out by the nectar-eating birds.

Acacia species (thorn trees)

It is very worthwhile planting a variety of the indigenous Acacia species in your garden. Trees with thorns are very attractive to birds for nesting sites; the thorns deter predators and provide good foundations for nests. Acacias also provide food for birds in the form of worms, as a variety of butterfly larvae feed on their leaves.

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