What are some native plants that attract wildlife to my garden?


The advantages of growing native plants to attract and support wildlife are many. This is not to say that non-native plants cannot also be useful but that, on the whole, native plants are preferred.The main advantage of native plants is that they are adapted to a particular region and support the wildlife of that region.

In choosing which species of native plants to grow in your garden there are several points to consider: (i) what is the climate like? Check the USDA zone your location; (ii) what kind of soil do you have - sandy or clay, acidic or alkaline? Chose your plants accordingly or amend the soil; and (iii) do you wish to attract a particular kind of wildlife, e.g. birds or butterflies. It is probably true that any native species will be useful for one or other species of wildlife but some species will support a wider range of wildlife.

Here is a partial list of plants that will attract and support a large variety of species of wildlife:

Herbaceous perennials

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - provides nectar for insects and seeds for birds in fall..

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) - host for monarch butterfly larvae, Goldfinches use fiber for nests.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Sunflower (Helianthus spp.)

Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

Blazing star (Liatris aspera) - excellent for attracting many species of butterflies.

Shrubs and vines

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) - host for swallowtail larvae.

Button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) - good for hummingbirds

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) - fruits are eaten by birds

Service berry (Amelanchier laevis)

Bearberry (Arcostaphylos uva-ursi)


Oak (Quercus spp.) - host for many insects which, in turn, are eaten by many birds.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Willow (Salix spp.)

And many others. 

There are a few NYBG guides that you may find helpful including Butterfly Gardens, Creating a Bird Garden and Natural Habitats: Gardening with Native Plants.

The following websites can be consulted for further information --




www.beecityusa.org/.../1/2/.../gardening_for_butterflies_in_dc_and_virginia_area.pdf.  (This provides a comprehensive list of plants for the Washington D.C. area but is generally applicable to the New York City area also; check that plants are viable in your USDA zone before selecting).

Book: D. W. Tallamy Bringing Nature Home. Timberland Press, Portland, OR (2007). This book has a useful list of native plants for all locations and garden types.

Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service


  • Last Updated Apr 02, 2018
  • Views 161
  • Answered By Anita Finkle

FAQ Actions

Was this helpful? 1 0

Ask a plant expert

Send us an email or use the question form below.

Submit a question

Before submitting your question, try searching our Plant and Gardening FAQ page and Help Guides. Still need help? Fill out the form below and a plant expert will answer your individual plant and gardening questions. We will respond to questions in the order we receive them.

Your Question
Your Info
Fields marked with * are required.