Everyone needs a home and desert wildlife such as quail, hummingbirds, sparrows, and butterflies are no different. An emerging trend in urban gardening is a return back to our desert roots through the use of native plants and sustainable landscape practices that are done in a way that would encourage these pollinators to visit our gardens. Here are some easy ways to attract wildlife to your garden:

Food

Wildlife need food to survive. They are accustomed to and depend on plants found in their natural environment for food. When providing food sources, choose native plants. These plants can boost the look of the landscape by bringing pops of color, diverse shapes, and adding fragrant aromas to your space. Some native plants of the Sonoran Desert are Brittlebush, Saguaro Cactus, Globe Mallow, Velvet Mesquite, and Ocotillo. Add diversity to your garden by choosing native plants with different blooming seasons. This will ensure your garden visitors are fed all year long.

Water

Wildlife need clean water for drinking, bathing, and staying cool. You can be creative in the ways you choose to provide water for wildlife. Some options include traditional bird baths, rocks with concave surfaces, and rain gardens.

Building a rain garden is relatively simple and will make your plants happy. Rain gardens utilize basins, or depressions to capture rainwater. When designing your rain garden, you want to plant native plants near basins where rainwater will soak into the root zone. Just imagine … receiving one inch of rainfall from a 1,000-square foot roof can provide 600 gallons of water!

If providing water for wildlife, make sure water is cleaned out every few days to prevent mosquito breeding grounds and spread of diseases.

Shelter & Space to Raise Offspring

Shelter allows wildlife to hide from predators, people, and weather. Places for shelter often serve as spaces for wildlife to raise offspring. When designing the perfect shelter, think about the types of wildlife you want to attract to your yard and use that as a guide for plant selection and placement.

An important tip is to grow plants naturally. Over-pruning limits shelter options and exposes wildlife. Create points of refuge and escape routes by placing plants in clusters.

Wildlife not only need to find space to raise offspring, but require the materials to do so.  Support spaces to raise offspring by leaving the appropriate nesting materials in your landscape such as twigs, leaves, tree limbs, and brush piles.

Check out the City of Glendale Water Service Department – Conservation & Sustainable Living Division’s “Welcoming Wildlife to Your Garden” guide for more information. The guide was funded by an Arizona Department of Game & Fish Heritage Fund Grant.


Anne Stahley is a water conservation specialist with the City of Glendale Water Services Department, one of 18 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs.

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