Tall, sturdy plants to provide wildlife habitat

nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)May 16, 2014

The back of my property butts up against a farmer's field, and in order to make it more enticing to wildlife I've been planting in a long hedge of fruiting and flowering shrubs (plum, cherry, chokeberry, rugosa rose, junipers, hazel, etc).

However, it will be a few more years before these shrubs bush out and attain decent size, as they were mostly bought from the county conservation office as 2-yr bareroot saplings, and spaced 5-6 ft apart from each other.

In the meantime, what can I plant between them that will provide some structure and wildlife habitat? Right now I'm looking at sunflowers, datura, and ornamental corn because they are both tall enough for roosting, and will provide flowers and seeds for the birds and insects to enjoy.

Any other suggestions would be welcome. Thanks!

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Zinnias provide nectar all summer for butterflies and other beneficial insects. Any native perennial plants could be beneficial. I'd plant monardas, which can grow tall, in some cases, but also provide nectar. They are loved by hummingbirds and bees. New England asters provide autumn nectar. Mexican Sunflowers are very tall and are another great nectar plant. Milkweeds will get tall and are host plants for Monarch Butterflies. Their nectar is also a favorite of all nectar-loving creatures. Fennel, dill, parsley and Rue will attract Black Swallowtails to lay eggs. The Rue might attract Giant Swallowtails, also. I could go on, but I don't know which butterflies are common in your area. I'd google your area butterflies and their host and nectar plants for more specific guidance.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:10AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am having a hard time understanding how any annual ... can provide a roosting place ...

but then i probably dont understand what you mean by that ... something that will hold up chickens all night long ... crikey.. thats a big annual ..


    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 5:27PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Echinacea provide seeds for birds over the winter. Different varieties of asclepia provide nectar for monarch butterflies. Borage and bronze fennel are food sources for caterpillars here. Try Googling MN Native plants which may give you details on the plants as well as which animals/insects will benefit.

Here is a link that might be useful: MN DNR

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 11:41PM
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nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)

Roosting might have been the wrong word, as I don't expect them to actually nest in it.

But we have lots of goldfinches, bluebirds and sparrows around here, and they can land and rest for a bit on even the tiniest branches on our yard trees. That's basically what I meant, a place for them to sit between trips to the bird feeder and bird bath.

Hence why my first thoughts were annuals with really thick stems like corn and sunflower.

Hmmm, I recall my dad planted sorghum grass every few years on the farm as silage for the cattle, and that was very large and tall. I wonder if that might work too.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 3:37PM
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I just thought of another one. Ipomopsis rubra (Standing Cypress). Its a biennial that forms a 6ft column of red flowers that hummingbirds just flock to. Plant seed in fall. They come up real easy, once you grow them, they will always come back each year and you can cluster them together for a stunning effect of screaming red.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 11:05PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Seems to me roosting was the perfect word. It doesn't imply nesting, just resting up for the night. And most birds do it, not just chickens. Anything with close stems and good cover is useful for small birds. Vines too.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 11:50AM
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You could probably set up temporary trellises. Use bendable wood (branches) or other wood to make it fit more in line with your goals.

Once you have these, then any kind of annual or fast-growing vine, including flowering vines, would quickly cover up those trellises and provide shelter and housing or rest areas.

Such a trellis could be as simple as having 3 sticks in a teepee formation, stuck in the ground, or a little more elaborate if you want to provide more nooks and crannies for the bird population.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 11:59AM
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Hollyhocks, another tall annual.

Necessary for many varieties of wildlife:
Indian Grass (if its dry)
Bushy Bluestem (if its wet)
Big Bluestem
Sideoats Grama
Little Bluestem

Those I listed are the classic tall grass prairie varieties.
4" pots sizes available at Santa Rosa Gardens along with many other choices of grasses, both native and non native. They are gorgeous, provide texture, movement and glow when the panicles catch the late afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 3:02PM
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Joe-Pye Weed will give you height, flowers and attracts butterflies, honey bees, and humming birds. A really stunning "weed".

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 3:09PM
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