Garden Tip: Leave up your plant stalks all winter to help wildlife

When you leave up plant stalks like grasses, perennials, woody plant blooms, you provide winter interest and allow wildlife (like birds and bees) to use the parts of the plants that they need for survival. All of my advice is for in and around zone 4. If you need help finding your gardening zone, take a look at this map: HERE.


A short list of birds that stay in Minnesota:

Northern cardinals, several grouse and owl species, four of our common woodpeckers (downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated), the white-breasted nuthatch, northern cardinal, house sparrow, and ring-necked pheasant. Blue jays, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed chickadees, House, Purple finches, American goldfinches, Evening and Pine grosbeaks, Gray, Steller’s jays, nuthatches, crossbills, titmice, and many more.

Lesser Goldfinch in winter


Perennials and Shrubs I suggest that provide for birds, insects and “Winter Interest” are:

-Red Twigged Dogwood (beautiful red stems in winter, native plant)

-Little Bluestem Grass (Birds eat the seeds, looks pretty standing in winter)

-Karl Forester Grass (Looks pretty standing in winter, provides habitat)

-Prairie Dropseed Grass (Birds eat the seeds, provides habitat)

-Purple Coneflower (Birds eat the seeds)

-Black Eyed Susans (Birds eat the seeds)

-Meadow Blazing Star (Birds eat the seeds)


Cardinal on Winterberry Bush

Berries are an important food source for winter birds.  Consider planting trees, shrubs or vines that produce berries. Plant native trees, shrubs and vines that hold onto some of their berries in the winter, such as:

-American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens L.)

-Wild grape Vine(Vitis riparia)

-Hawthorn Trees(Crataegus)

-Black Chokeberry (Aronia)

– Mountain ash Tree (Sorbus Americana)

-Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

When leaving up plant material, you may get a little kickback from neighbors. I would inform them, that you are protecting our native wildlife and that it is critical to leave up plant material all winter to provide for birds and bugs to nest. We have wildlife and bugs going extinct at an alarming rate, and this is an easy thing to do to provide for them.

Stay strong ya’ll and keep gardening organically!