Finches are small, thick-beaked songbirds. Their conical, heavy beaks are especially adapted for cracking seeds, their main food source. Although finches are predominately seed eaters, they also consume insects and berries. Flowering perennials, ornamental grasses and cultivated annuals are all important food and habitat sources for finches. If it is possible, grow several plants to provide them with food for all seasons.
Flowering perennials produce the seeds finches love, while attracting the beneficial insects, bees and butterflies that are vital to a healthy, robust garden. Let the flower heads dry out on the stems after they're done blooming in order to provide the finches with the seeds.
Michaelmas daisy (Aster novi-belgii) grows up to 4 feet tall, blooms from late summer to fall and comes in a wide array of colors. Tickseed (Coreopsis) is an easy-care member of the sunflower family with bright yellow summer-blooming flowers. As well as providing seed, this perennial also attracts bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Goldenrod (Solidago) is a hardy plant which blooms abundantly every fall. Finches love the seeds and goldenrod also attracts bees, butterflies and moths.
Grasses produce seeds to feed finches, while their foliage offers the birds nesting material, shelter and protective cover from predators. Millet, fountain grass (Pennisetum) and pampas grass (Cortaderia) are good choices for finches. The birds prefer the species plants better than cultivated varieties, as species plants generally produce more seed. Dwarf varieties are available if garden space is limited.
Finches and other songbirds flock to the insect-rich blooms and the dying seed heads of flowering annuals. As with perennials, don't remove the spent blossoms--let them dry on their stems and go to seed.
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) has drooping tassels of tiny red flowers that appear throughout the summer into early fall. Cosmos is a summer-blooming annual with flowers resembling daisies, available in many colors. Cosmos self-seed freely, producing new plants the following year. Zinnia is another favorite and has colorful, rounded flowers in shades of white, yellow, orange, red and pink throughout the summer and into early fall. These annuals also attract beneficial insects, hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.
Plants to Avoid
As a general rule, it is best to use plants that are native to your area supplemented with cultivated summer annuals. Non-native species can become invasive and overwhelm the naturally diverse plants that attract finches, while not producing the seeds or fruit that the birds require to thrive. You can usually find a species that occurs naturally in your region that will support birds and other wildlife better than its exotic counterpart.