If you live east of the 100th meridian, you might see the red flash of cardinal feathers often, but in the West, cardinals are quite uncommon. Their range in the western U.S. extends only from west Texas to extreme southern New Mexico to south and central Arizona. Like their namesake NFL franchise, cardinals find the desert a fine place to call home. Bring them close with plants they like to eat. Here are a few of the best:
The desert hackberry, one of our native shrubs, makes an excellent natural-looking hedge. But the plant also produces numerous orange berries that are excellent cardinal food. The semi-evergreen plant reaches 8 feet high by 10 feet wide, so allow enough room. You can get an idea of the size from the photo of the plant in habitat.
Another densely branched large shrub that grows into great cardinal habitat is the wolfberry (Lycium fremontii). This 10-ft-high shrub sports small, gray leaves; lavender flowers; and bright-red berries cardinals love. Like the desert hackberry it is a good naturalistic hedge. The berries are tasty--if the birds leave you any.
If the native shrubs don't cut it for you, resort to the cardinals' favorite food: sunflower seeds. You can either get a feeder or grow your own. The variety shown here is an heirloom variety, 'Hopi Black Dye'. While you wait for the seeds to mature, you get to look at the fantastically cheerful blooms of the sunflower.