What to plant for birds, bees & butterflies

The next time you pick out a new plant baby, choose a variety that will feed our native insects, feathered friends and perhaps provide a snack for you too.

Plant parenting is very on-trend, but Adelaide has a rich history of nurturing nature.

June 20 is South Australia’s Arbor Day, better known as tree planting day, where thousands of seedlings and young trees are planted throughout the country each year. This celebration kicked off in 1889 in the Adelaide Park Lands where children planted 757 trees including Moreton Bay Figs and River Red Gums in Victoria Park / Pakapakanthi.

This one day of the year is responsible for some of our city’s most majestic trees and has spectacularly shaped and improved our environment. The cumulative effects of our planting choices have dramatic effects for the future, so rather than picking up another Fiddle Leaf Fig the next time you’re at a nursery, choose to secure the next 130 years by planting to support our wildlife.

Whether you have room for a small pot or a towering tree, you have space to plant a meal for a native bird or insect.

The Adelaide Gardens Planting Guide recommends a list of native plants and we’ve selected the ones that are a cut above the rest.

Kunzea pomifera

Beautifully fragrant and extremely tasty, muntries are appearing on menus and jam labels all over Australia. This hardy shrub has fluffy flowers which contrast beautifully against its purple fruit which are also loved by native birds and insects.

Planting information

Muntrie julie burgher flickr
photo-icon Julie Burgher, via flickr

Enchylaena tomentose

This evergreen shrub is a flowering and fruiting plant that can live in a pot on your porch or in the ground. It’s hardy and produces tasty fruits which will have all the native birds, lizards and hipsters forming a queue to your porch.

Planting information

Ruby saltbush julie burgher flickr
photo-icon Julie Burgher, via flickr

Billardiera cymose

Forgetful owners rejoice, this climber handles drought so even if you neglect it in summer it’s unlikely to join your graveyard of houseplants. This plant that produces flowers and small fruit with a sweet aniseed taste which attracts native insects and birds… unless you eat all the fruit first.

Planting information

Myoporum parvifolium

If there was ever a plant that does it all, this is it. Not only did it make the SA Country Fire Service list of fire-retardant plants, it also attracts lizards, birds and butterflies! If that’s not enough to woo you then it also acts like living mulch and weed suppressor and has lovely white flowers.

Planting information

Creeping boobialla julie burgher flickr
photo-icon Julie Burgher, via flickr

Allocasuarina verticillate

Rich in cultural significance, this tree can grow in a pot or as a grand tree in your garden. This conical has been used by Aboriginal groups across generations for everything from structural to medicinal use. The flowers and fruit attract native birds, butterflies and bees.

Planting information

Thomasia petalocalyx

This purple and pink flowering shrub is a favourite among bloom-lovers. Although it will be tempting to pick all the star-shaped flowers, leave them in place to attract a huge array of butterflies, birds and native insects.

Planting information

Paper flower julie burgher flickr
photo-icon Julie Burgher, via flickr

You may not find these plants at just any nursery. We recommend phoning the Diggers Garden Shop in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The friendly staff  there will often be able to special order native plants at very reasonable prices.

If you’re getting serious about gardening, the City of Adelaide‘s green waste recycling and mulch centre is a great place to pick up high quality mulch and compost. Much of the green matter is collected from the Adelaide Park Lands – perhaps it has the leaves of the trees planted 130 years ago in the mix!

All information in this article is accurate to the best of our ability but we’re not botanists so please discuss your plant purchases with staff at your local nursery.

All photographs of plants in this article are credited to Julie Burgher via flickr.