If you want to see birds in your yard, you must provide food, water, shelter, and places for birds to rear their young. Bird houses, birdbaths, and brush piles are the easy ones to check off the list, but to provide a fine dining smorgasbord for your feathered friends, you should consider planting native plants that attract insects and plants that produce nectar, seeds and fruit. Three easy to grow and beautiful plants that are sure to bring in the goldfinches and hummingbirds are purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), and standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra).
This colorful and wildlife friendly combination is an easy one to grow by seed, to maintain, and it will reward the gardener with many blooms and seeds. If there are any seeds left by the birds, you can harvest the rest and pass along to your friends.
Purple coneflower adds color to a flower border, can be dead headed to encourage more flowers, and when left to go to seed, it feeds the birds and it self sows easily.
Evening primrose is a true biennial. Basal leaves will persist through the first year, and during the second year, a stalk will grow tall and produce many buds in clusters, sometimes for more than a foot. The stalk will sometimes branch so you will have a three or four-in-one plant. Flowers open sparsely but in succession for long lasting blooms. Flowers will give way to capsules which house many tiny seeds. The capsules then dry out and are ready for harvest. Goldfinches will land on the stalk, force their beaks into the ends of the capsules and pry them open as they gulp down the seeds. What is left is a stalk full of star-shaped empty shells.
Silvery green and dense rosettes of finely dissected leaves of standing cypress emerge soon after sowing and stay low for the first year. In the following year, a single spike shoots up to reach heights of 5-7 feet. By summer, many red trumpet flowers blooms along the spike. Harvest seeds when they mature.