For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
Let’s not be in a hurry to cut down plants that have interesting seed heads in the fall. The birds fully appreciate having a smorgasbord of seeds to choose from—and we love watching them feast! Listed here are 12 plants that have great seed heads for birds.
While bird feeders are always nice, wild birds like to forage for their own “bird food.” Plants with seed heads not only provide nourishment, but also nesting material. Leave them standing through the winter!
Flower arrangers and florists also know the value of dried seed pods and berries for winter arrangements, but instead of cutting them to bring indoors—and add to the clutter and dust catchers—I just let them stand. It gives me an excuse to wander around the yard and see how they are doing.
12 Plants With Seed Heads for Bird and Winter Interest
Winterberry is the brightest draw in the garden at this time of year. It is a native American holly that is a favorite among migrating birds. I try to add another bush to my collection every fall when they go on sale.
Lunaria shakes its papery silver dollars in the slightest breeze. They are a little fragile and will end up as tattered wrecks by the New Year.
Crabapples seem to last the longest on the trees—until the robins finally swoop in and eat them in early spring.
Clematis seed heads look like cheerleader pom-poms. I think they could have inspired some Dr. Seuss characters, too!
Chinese paper lanterns are still fairly bright, but eventually, the papery covering will lose color and be reduced to just a skeleton.
Belamcanda is called the blackberry lily for its fat, blackberry-like seeds. The stalks are sturdy enough to stand tall through most of the winter unless a heavy wet snowfall takes them down early.
Nigella, also called love-in-a-mist, has a round seedpod that looks like a blowfish! An heirloom plant, its seeds were crushed and used to get rid of freckles. What’s so bad about freckles?
Teasel is another antique plant. It was grown commercially to be used for “teasing” or raising the nap on woolen cloth. The prickly seedpods look lethal, but birds are able to wrestle the seeds out from between the spikes.
Coneflowers have dropped their petals, but the seed-laden central cones are still standing—much to the delight of the birds.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ has wide, flat flower heads that age in color from pink to burgundy to deep copper. They tend to be top-heavy, especially when they have caught an inch or two of wet snow.
Agastache has the strongest architectural presence in the garden, still towering over me. Birds can perch on their bristly seed heads and chow down, while also keeping a bird’s-eye view of the garden.
Asclepias tuberosa is a cousin to the common milkweed. It is only about 2 feet tall and forms smaller seedpods, but they still break open when ripe to release their seeds to the wind.
Check out our video for more plants with interesting seed heads.
Winter is on the doorstep. Time to take a walk on the seedy side and celebrate the seasons of nature.
You just might find a hidden treasure, like this robin’s nest that was nestled in our magnolia tree.