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WILDSCAPE TO ATTRACT WILDLIFE TO YOUR LANDSCAPE
Wildscape is a xeriscape or low-water-use landscape that has a special emphasis on attracting wildlife. The most desirable wildlife to attract to your landscape in San Antonio are butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds.
Butterflies are attracted to landscapes that have blooming plants 12 months of the year plus foliage plants for caterpillars. This summer zinnia, vinca, lantanas, and verbena are good butterfly plants. The wildflowers like coreopsis are good spring bloomers. Use coneflowers and fall asters for the autumn. In the winter dianthus, stocks, and alyssum work well. For foliage plants parsley, passion vine, dill, and butterfly weed are good choices.
Hummingbirds feed on nectar just like butterflies. They like zinnias and lantanas as much as butterflies do. The tubular blooms are most attractive to hummingbirds. Salvias of all kinds provide nectar from early spring to late fall. Cape honeysuckle and firespike are late fall bloomers that attract the birds. Firebush is one of the most popular hummingbird plants for the summer. Grown in the garden or in a container in full sun, it will be the prize sought by the toughest hummingbird in the neighborhood. Firespike thrives in deep shade and is almost as desirable to hummingbirds as firebush. Use it in a container or in the shade garden. Turk’s cap and shrimp plant also bloom in the shade. They attract hummingbirds all summer and are not readily eaten by deer. Esperanza and Poinciana are heat-loving plants that attract hummingbirds (and butterflies, too). Even the Oriental hibiscus on the patio are good hummingbird plants.
Hummingbirds nest in small trees. Every wildscape needs plants at every level in the landscape. Use vitex, desert willow, redbud, loquat, and Mexican plum for small trees. Redbud, loquat, and Mexican plum have a relatively high tolerance for shade. Use them on the edge under the large shade tree.
Many songbirds are attracted to the perennials, annuals, and small trees that are important for the butterflies and hummingbirds. They seek the insects that feed on the blooming plants and/or the seeds they produce. Ground-feeding birds like the white-throated sparrows, Lincoln sparrows, and towhees scratch in the plant litter looking for seeds. Grow sunflowers in a sunny corner of the yard for lesser goldfinches and the cardinals.
Some of our best shade trees such as live oak, red oak, Chinese pistache, and cedar elm produce seeds and berries that are good songbird food. Hackberries, mulberries, and ligustrum rarely rate as best shade trees but they are premiere sources of bird food. The mulberries are so popular in the spring that the trees get stripped by cardinals, mockingbirds, and others before they even ripen. Hackberries provide the staple food for many songbirds in South Texas in the summer and autumn. Neighborhoods with ligustrums are visited every winter and early spring by wintering cedar waxwings.
Shrubs are important for food, nesting cover, and habitat to hunt insects. Shrubs with winter berries are obviously important. Pyracantha, hollies and nandinas have berries. Pyracantha are usually eaten first, hollies second, and nandinas are the least favorite. Thick hollies like Burford or Nellie Stevens are especially desirable because of the cover they provide in addition to berries. Cardinals often nest in large hollies.
The viburnums have attractive spring blooms and then produce blue berries that are quickly eaten in early summer. Viburnums are also shade tolerant and, in some neighborhoods, do not seem to be eaten by deer. Pomegranate is another large shrub for wildlife except for deer. The deer do not seem to eat the shrub, but the showy orange flowers attract hummingbirds and the fruits are a good fall food for larger birds that can tear open the tough skin.
A blackberry thicket is a favorite nesting site for birds and provides a desirable spring berry. The good news is that a variety like Brazos will provide plenty of berries for your table as well as the birds.
Use an assortment of the plants mentioned in this article and you will be amazed at the variety of butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds you will attract. The key is to include cover and nesting sites along with a long season of blooms, berries, and seeds. Include a birdbath year-around, a hummingbird feeder in the summer, and feed sunflower seeds and thistle in the winter and the wildlife will entertain you and your family all year. For more information on wildscape obtain the free SAWS bulletin by calling 704-7354.