Flowers and vines for wildlife

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Native plants contribute to a backyard wildlife habitat in the best possible ways. They evolved over hundreds of years in lockstep with other living things in a balanced native ecosystem, so they require less maintenance, less fertilizer, less water. They present a naturalized look and feel to a backyard, and many have beautiful flowers. Most importantly, they provide exactly what urban wildlife clamors for — nectar, berries, seeds and cover.

If wildflowers are just a bit too wild-looking for your taste, then mix them in groups among hybridized species or even plant them behind tamer-looking varieties. Above all, don’t leave them completely out, they’re vital sources of nectar and pollen for butterflies, bees and other insects; nectar and seeds for birds; and fruits and seeds for other animals.

Wildflower plants and seeds are available through many sources: Garden centers carry them (although choices are usually limited). Local farmers’ markets often have sellers of homegrown plants and seeds. The internet has many wildflower nurseries listed. Local native plant clubs exchange seeds and plants. If you’d like to take seeds from the wild, be sure to collect them responsibly

The following list isn’t complete — there are many more native species that do well in a backyard environment. Check with your County Extension Service or garden center for a list of best native plants for your location. 

  *Wildlife value: F= fruit; S = seeds; N= nectar; H= host plant for butterfly larvae

Perennials, unless otherwise notedSome suggested species,
common name
Latin nameWildlife Value*
AsterNew York, Smooth, AromaticAster spp.S, N, H
Beebalm (aka Bergamot)Scarlet Beebalm, Eastern Beebalm, Wild Bergamot, Purple BergamotMonarda spp.S, H
Blazing Star (aka Gayfeather)Tall, Rough, Dwarf, Summer, DenseLiatris spp.S, N
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosaN, H
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis N, H
ColumbineEastern Red, Golden, Colorado BlueAquilegia spp.S, H. N
Honeysuckle (vine) Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirensN, H
Coreopsis (aka Tickseed)Threadleaf Coreopsis, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Common TickseedCoreopsis sppS, N 
ConeflowerPurple, Yellow, Topeka, SmoothEchinacea sppS, N
Desert Marigold (biennial) Balleya multiradiata

Dutchman’s Pipevine (vine) 

 Aristochia macrophylla

N

Gayfeather (aka Blazing Star)

Narrow-leaf, Spiked, SharpLiatris spp.

S, N


GoldenrodCanada, Drummond’s, Ohio, Giant, Nuttall’s Solidago spp.S, N
Indian Pink Spigelia marylandicaN, H
Ironweed Veronica noveboracensisN
MilkweedCommon, Swamp, White, Sullivant’sAsclepias spp.N, H
Monkeyflower Mimulus ringensN, H
Passionflower (vine) Passiflora incarnataF, N, H
Penstemon (aka Beardtongue)Smooth, Foxglove, Scarlet BuglerPenstemon spp.N, H
Phlox Blue, Prairie, Summer, CarolinaPhlox spp.N
Rose Mallow  Hibiscus moscheutos N, H 
Salvia (annuals, perennials) Scarlet Sage, Purple Sage, Blue Sage, Mountain Sage, Hummingbird SageSalvia sppN, H 


Scarlet Glovemallow Sphaeralcea coccineaF, N 
Spotted Jewelweed  Impatiens capensis
Summer Grape (vine)  Vitis aestivalis F
Sunflower Helianthus spp.S, N, H 
Trumpet Vine (vine)  Campsis radicans H
Verbena  Verbena canadensisN
Virginia Creeper  (vine) Parthenocissus quinquefoliaF, N
White False Indigo  Baptisia leucanthaN, H
Wild Bergamot (aka Beebalm) Monarda fistulosaN, H
White False Indigo  Baptisia leucanthaN, H


Wild Geranium Geranim maculatumS, N
Wild Strawberry Fragaria virginiana H
Wood Vetch Vicia carolinianaS, H
 
*Top photo: CC by 2.0
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