Cosmos Advantages: Planting to Attract Wildlife

When you want a plant that will not only look beautiful in your garden, but will attract birds and butterflies as well, cosmos does both. The beautiful varieties of colors in the nectar rich flowers attract butterflies including monarch and pink ladies. When Cosmos go to seed in the fall, birds are provided with a feast.

Most Common Species

There are two common species most often available. One is the Cosmos binpinnatus, which blooms in pink, white, purple and red. Its foliage is fernlike and depending on the variety they can grow from 1 foot to 6 feet tall. The Cosmos sulphureus is the other one, and only blooms in shades of yellow, orange or red. They usually grow from 2 feet up to 4 feet tall. The Cosmos suphureus can handle a little more pampering than the Cosmos binpinnatus, but not much more.

What They Need

Both species need full sun at a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day. They are annuals that are planted by seed either in the fall or spring. The seeds need a consistent temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate effectively. The plants need well drained soil that isn’t too fertile. Providing too much shade, water or overly fertile soil and your cosmos will produce more leaves and fewer flowers, resulting in attracting fewer birds, butterflies and other wildlife


When you plant seeds in the spring, they will usually germinate within 7 to 10 days. Then flowering usually occurs 60 to 90 days after germination. You can keep your plants flowering all season by dead-heading or cutting off spent flowers. Stop dead-heading in the fall, when the flowers have gone to seed, if you want to attract more birds. These flowers have are known to re-seed themselves year after year. Keep on eye on cosmos because they can reseed themselves right out of control if you let them.


This plant, once germinated, is fairly drought resistant. It is an ideal plant in the southern states and other places that get very little rain fall in the spring or summer. Cosmos have hardly any trouble with insect damage or diseases. They come in a variety of colors to match your gardening theme or palette. Not only do the flowers attract many beautiful butterflies, but the seeds from the flowers feed many different varieties of small birds. Which birds it will attract depends on the birds that reside and migrate through the area you live in.

Planting cosmos flowers will enhance your garden with their lovely colors. The added benefit is they will also attract moving color in the form of butterflies and birds. They provide food for some of nature’s delicate winged creatures. Cosmos need minimal care once germinated, and love to be neglected. They are the perfect plant for those sunny areas in your yard where you would like to see color and wildlife.