The Northern Cardinal, with its radiant feathers and melodic calls, is a prized guest in many backyards. But what plants lure this magnificent bird closer to our homes?
Creating a cardinal-friendly garden is not only about beauty—it’s about forging a space where nature’s rhythm thrives.
Dive into a botanical guide crafted to bring the allure of the Northern Cardinal right to your doorstep.
Northern Cardinals are drawn to plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting materials. Sunflower and safflower plants offer seeds that cardinals favor. Additionally, fruit-bearing shrubs like dogwood, serviceberry, and mulberry entice them with their berries. Dense shrubs and evergreens like Eastern red cedar and spruce provide shelter and nesting sites, while tall grasses offer nesting materials. Incorporating these plants in your garden will likely attract and support these vibrant red birds year-round.
|Plant Type||Name||Description||Reason Cardinals Are Attracted|
|Trees||Dogwood||A medium-sized tree that produces red berries in the fall.||Berries are a food source during colder months.|
|Eastern Red Cedar||Evergreen tree with bluish fruits.||Provides shelter and berries for food.|
|Shrubs||Serviceberry||A shrub or small tree producing edible berries in the summer.||Cardinals eat the berries and seek shelter.|
|Sumac||A shrub with dense clusters of fuzzy red berries throughout the winter.||Berries serve as a winter food source.|
|Vines||Virginia Creeper||A climbing vine with small berries.||The berries are a food source.|
|Flowering Plants||Sunflowers||Large, yellow flowers that produce edible seeds.||Cardinals love sunflower seeds.|
|Coneflowers||Tall plants with large, daisy-like flowers that produce seeds in their center.||Seeds are a favorite food of cardinals.|
|Grasses||Switchgrass||A native prairie grass that produces seeds.||Seeds provide food, and the grass offers shelter.|
Plants That Attract Cardinals
Flowers that Attract Cardinals
|Flower||Description||Benefits to Cardinals|
|Sunflower||A tall plant with large, bright yellow flowers.||Provides seeds that cardinals love to eat.|
|Coneflower||Also known as Echinacea; it has a tall stem with a large, daisy-like flower head, usually purple or pink.||Seeds are a favorite among many birds, including cardinals.|
|Black-eyed Susan||Bright yellow petals surrounding a dark, central cone.||Produces seeds that are a food source for cardinals.|
|Aster||Small, daisy-like flowers that come in a variety of colors, but often seen in purple.||Provides seeds in the late season.|
|Goldenrod||Bright yellow flowers that grow in clusters. They bloom in late summer to fall.||Attracts insects which cardinals sometimes feed on and also produces seeds.|
|Sedum||Succulent plants that have clusters of tiny flowers. Varieties like Autumn Joy are particularly attractive.||Late-season blooms provide seeds.|
|Zinnia||Brightly colored flowers that can range from pink and red to yellow and orange.||They produce seeds that cardinals will feed on.|
|Coreopsis||Often golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers.||Seeds are an additional food source for cardinals.|
By planting a combination of these flowers, not only will your garden be colorful and vibrant, but it will also attract Northern Cardinals and other birds that appreciate these plants for their seeds and the insects they attract.
Seed-Bearing Plants for Cardinals
|Plant||Description||Why It’s Good for Cardinals|
|Sunflower (Helianthus)||Large, bright flowers that produce abundant seeds.||Sunflower seeds are a favorite of cardinals due to their size and nutritional value.|
|Millet||Grasses that produce small, round seeds on tall spikes.||Millet seeds are a natural food source in the wild for cardinals.|
|Safflower||Thorny plants with bright yellow or orange flowers that turn into seed-filled pods.||Cardinals love safflower seeds, and many squirrel species don’t, making it an excellent choice for bird feeders.|
|Corn||Well-known cereal plant that produces kernels on large ears.||Crushed corn or corn kernels are readily eaten by cardinals.|
|Goldenrod (Solidago)||Plants with bright yellow flowers that grow in clusters.||Beyond attracting insects, the seeds of the goldenrod are also consumed by cardinals.|
|Coneflower (Echinacea)||Plants with large, daisy-like flower heads, usually purple or pink.||The seeds in the cone of the flower are eaten by many birds, including cardinals.|
|Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)||Bright yellow petals with a dark, central cone.||The seeds of this plant are a favorite of many birds.|
|Sorghum||Cereal grain with tall stalks that produce grain heads similar to millet.||The seeds are another natural food source for cardinals.|
|Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)||Tall perennial grass native to North America.||Produces seeds in the late season, providing a winter food source for cardinals.|
|Amaranth||Ancient grain with a bushy structure and usually red or purple flowers.||Produces tiny seeds which are readily eaten by cardinals.|
Plants for Nesting Materials for Cardinals
When aiming to create a habitat that supports cardinals’ nesting needs, a diverse selection of these plants can make a garden or landscape more appealing to these birds. Offering them plenty of choices for their nesting material and sites enhances their chances of successful summer breeding season and rearing of young.
|Plant/Material||Description||Why It’s Good for Cardinals’ Nests|
|Clematis||A climbing vine with white, pink, or purple flowers.||Provides strong support for nests and offers shelter with its dense growth.|
|Forsythia||A shrub with bright yellow flowers in early spring.||The dense branching structure offers support and concealment for nests.|
|Thicket-forming shrubs||Shrubs that grow densely, like hawthorns or privets.||Offer protection and concealment from predators and harsh weather.|
|Honeysuckle (Lonicera)||Vining or bushy plants with tubular flowers.||Dense foliage provides cover, and their vining nature offers support.|
|Grapevines||Woody vines that produce grapes.||Strong vines offer structural support for nests.|
|Dogwood (Cornus)||Trees or shrubs with distinctive flowers and colorful stems.||Branches and twigs are often used in nest construction.|
|Evergreen trees||Trees that retain their leaves year-round, like pines, spruces, or firs.||Provide consistent cover and protection throughout the year.|
|Cedar trees||Evergreen coniferous trees with aromatic wood.||Offer shelter and good nesting sites.|
|Mosses||Non-vascular plants that grow in damp or shaded locations.||Sometimes used to line nests for added comfort and insulation.|
|Grasses and plant stems||Many types of grasses and slender-stemmed plants, both tall and short varieties.||Used for nest construction, especially the outer layers.|
|Fine twigs and small branches||Twigs from a variety of trees and shrubs.||Serve as primary materials for constructing the nest’s foundation.|
Do’s and Dont’s of Planting To Attract Cardinals to your Backyard
Creating Shelter for Cardinals
Providing shelter is an essential aspect of creating a cardinal-friendly backyard. Shelter not only offers cardinals a safe place to rest and seek refuge but also encourages them to return to your yard year after year. By understanding the importance of shelter and adopting strategies to provide it, you can create an ideal habitat for cardinals in your backyard.
Importance of Shelter
Shelter plays a vital role in the overall well-being of cardinals. It provides protection from harsh weather conditions, predators, and potential threats. By offering a safe and secure shelter, you can help cardinals feel more comfortable and at ease in your backyard, allowing them to thrive and flourish.
Nesting Shelves as Alternative
While cardinals do not nest in birdhouses, they may use nesting shelves as an alternative. Nesting shelves offer an open design that cardinals find appealing, and they can be placed in areas with adequate cover. These shelves provide cardinals with a platform to build their nests, ensuring they have a suitable place to raise their young.
Open Design for Nesting Shelves
When selecting or creating nesting shelves for cardinals, it’s crucial to choose an open design. Unlike enclosed birdhouses, cardinals prefer nesting shelves with open sides and minimal obstructions. This design allows them to enter and exit easily and provides an unobstructed view of their surroundings, helping them feel safer and more secure while nesting.
Placing Shelves in Covered Areas
To further enhance the suitability of nesting shelves for cardinals, it’s recommended to place them in covered areas. This could be under the eaves of a porch, a covered patio, or in the dense foliage of trees or shrubs. By providing coverage, you create a visually protected area that male cardinals will find more attractive and conducive to nesting.
Maintaining a Suitable Environment
Once you have created a cardinal-friendly backyard, it’s important to maintain a suitable environment to ensure the ongoing presence of these beautiful birds. By providing consistent food and water supply, regular cleaning and maintenance, and monitoring cardinal activities, you can continue to attract and care for cardinals in your yard.
Consistent Food and Water Supply
To keep cardinals coming back, it’s crucial to provide a consistent supply of food and water. Fill bird feeders with cardinal-favorite foods such as sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.
Consider planting native plants that bear fruits, seeds, or nuts as natural food sources for cardinals. Ensure you have a reliable water source, such as a birdbath or shallow fountain, and keep it clean and filled with fresh water.
Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
Regular cleaning and maintenance of feeders, birdbaths, and nesting shelves are essential for the health and well-being of cardinals. Clean feeders and bird baths regularly to prevent the buildup of mold, bacteria, and parasites.
Replace any damaged or worn-out items that may pose a safety risk to cardinals or other wild birds. By keeping your backyard clean and well-maintained, you create a welcoming and safe environment for cardinals to enjoy.
FAQs on What Plants Attract Cardinals
What flower attracts cardinals?
While cardinals are more attracted to plants that provide seeds and berries, flowering plants like sunflowers are a favorite due to their seeds, which cardinals readily consume.
What is the cardinals favorite plant?
Cardinals have a particular fondness for sunflower and safflower plants because of the seeds they produce. Additionally, they are attracted to berry-producing shrubs like dogwood and serviceberry.
What flowers attract red cardinals?
Sunflowers, with their bright petals and nutritious seeds, are among the top flowers that attract red cardinals.
What kind of trees do cardinals nest in?
Cardinals prefer to nest in dense shrubs, thickets, and small trees. They often choose locations in evergreens or deciduous trees like dogwood, hawthorn, and elderberry, which provide good cover.
What can I put out to attract cardinals?
To attract cardinals, put out feeders filled with their favorite seeds such as sunflower and safflower seeds. Additionally, providing a consistent source of fresh water in birdbaths and ensuring dense shrubbery or small trees are available for shelter and nesting will help draw them in.
What habitat do cardinals prefer?
Cardinals prefer habitats with dense thickets, shrublands, forest edges, gardens, and suburban areas with plenty of cover and a consistent food source. They thrive in a variety of environments as long as there’s adequate cover and food availability.