Southeastern Bird Plants

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As William Cullina mentioned in his article on avian plants, the sad reality is that songbirds are disappearing: “Since 1970, habitat loss, pesticides, and subsequent The decline in insect populations in North America has resulted in a 25% to 30% reduction in North American songbirds.”

But gardeners can help, and only need to buy new plants! By growing more plants that help support local bird populations, you can do your part. Look for bird plants in the southeast below, and find more bird plants in William’s article, Native plants of birds.


1. Berry Poppins® Winterberry

Berry Poppins Winterberry
Photo: JC Raulston Botanical Garden at North Carolina State University

name: holly ‘Farrowbpop’

area: 3–9

size: 4 feet tall in seven years

situation: Full sun to partial shade; average to moist soil

Native range: Eastern North America

Our local deciduous holly is an important food source for birds, and winter berries are their first stop when cedar wax wings pass through town. Direct plants can grow very large, but this option has large, bright red berries on compact plants. I find it to be one of the most reliable fruit forms I grow, with a large harvest every year. Like all holly trees, it needs a male to ensure a good set of berries. Plan to plant a Mr. Poppins® winter berry (I. Verticillium ‘Farrowmrp’, Zones 3-9) Every three to five Berry Poppins® plants. The best results are in full sunlight, but the plant will tolerate some shade.

2.’Scarlet O’Hara’ Hardy Sinningia

Scarlet Ohara Hardy Sinningia
Photo: JC Raulston Botanical Garden at North Carolina State University

name: Sinninia “Scarlet O’Hara”

area: 7–10

size: 3 feet high and 2 feet wide

situation: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrids

Few plants can attract hummingbirds as hardy relatives as African violets. Its felt leaves grow on upright burgundy stems, from early April to frost, full of 2 inches of red tubular flowers. As a reward, the deer seemed to ignore the fuzzy leaves. Every summer, I move the used flower stems to the leaves several times to organize the display and keep the plants blooming. I find that hardy sinningia performs best in full sun, but it will tolerate some shade. However, well-drained soil is a must.

3. “Golden Arrow” Arrowwood Pod

Golden Arrow Pod
Photo: millettephotomedia.com

name: Viburnum “Golden Arrow”

area: 3–9

size: 8 feet high, 8 feet wide, 10 years

situation: Full sun to partial shade; average to moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

For birds and lush gardens, what is better than the bright golden leaf native viburnum? The selected leaves of this arrowwood were discovered by plant worker Jon Roethling and introduced through the JC Raulston Botanical Garden, showing a bright golden color and maintaining its color in summer. I found that if there is enough moisture, it is very fast to the sun, but it will grow happily in more shade, where it can act as a bright beacon. In late spring, clusters of flat white flowers bloom with clusters of blue-black berries that are beloved by birds.

4.’Royo’ Eastern Red Cedar

Royo Oriental Red Cedar
Photo: millettephotomedia.com

name: Juniper ‘Royo’

area: 3–9

size: 3 to 4 feet long and 8 to 10 feet wide in 10 years

situation: Full sun; average to dry, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

This low, widely distributed form of our native red cedar is an eye-catching display of vivid, frosty blue needles with long, filamentous branch tips. Although it needs male plants to produce large amounts of blue fruit, this species is so ubiquitous in most parts of the south that male plants are likely to grow somewhere nearby. According to the National Wildlife Federation of the United States, juniper is one of the top ten wild animal plants, providing winter food and very warm nesting sites for birds. It has been suggested that “Royo” may be a hybrid, which can explain its unusual growth habits, but in any case, its toughness, beauty and practicality are unmatched. Avoid planting it in a place where the ground remains moist for a long time.


Mark Weathington is the director of the JC Raulston Botanical Garden at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.



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