Flowers and vines for wildlife


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 noted) Some suggested species
Latin name Wildlife Value*
Aster New York, Smooth, Aromatic Aster spp. S, N, H
Beebalm (aka Bergamot) Scarlet Beebalm, Eastern Beebalm, Wild Bergamot, Purple Bergamot Monarda spp. S, H
Blazing Star (aka Gayfeather) Tall, Rough, Dwarf, Summer, Dense Liatris spp. S, N
Butterfly Weed   Asclepias tuberosa N, H
Cardinal Flower   Lobelia cardinalis  N, H
Columbine Eastern Red, Golden, Colorado Blue Aquilegia spp. S, H. N
Honeysuckle (vine)  Coral Honeysuckle  Lonicera sempervirens N, H
Coreopsis (aka Tickseed) Threadleaf Coreopsis, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Common Tickseed Coreopsis spp.  S, N 
Coneflower Purple, Yellow, Topeka, Smooth Echinacea spp.  S, N
Desert Marigold (biennial)   Balleya multiradiata

Dutchman’s Pipevine (vine) 

  Aristochia macrophylla


Gayfeather (aka Blazing Star)

Narrow-leaf, Spiked, Sharp Liatris spp.

S, N

Goldenrod Canada, Drummond’s, Ohio, Giant, Nuttall’s  Solidago spp. S, N
Indian Pink   Spigelia marylandica N, H
Ironweed   Veronica noveboracensis N
Milkweed Common, Swamp, White, Sullivant’s Asclepias spp. N, H
Monkeyflower   Mimulus ringens N, H
Passionflower (vine)   Passiflora incarnata F, N, H
Penstemon (aka Beardtongue) Smooth, Foxglove, Scarlet Bugler Penstemon spp. N, H
Phlox  Blue, Prairie, Summer, Carolina Phlox spp. N
Rose Mallow    Hibiscus moscheutos  N, H 
Salvia (annuals, perennials)  Scarlet Sage, Purple Sage, Blue Sage, Mountain Sage, Hummingbird Sage Salvia spp.  N, H 

Scarlet Glovemallow   Sphaeralcea coccinea F, 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 canadensis N
Virginia Creeper  (vine)   Parthenocissus quinquefolia F, N
White False Indigo    Baptisia leucantha N, H
Wild Bergamot (aka Beebalm)   Monarda fistulosa N, H
White False Indigo    Baptisia leucantha N, H

Wild Geranium   Geranium maculatum S, N
Wild Strawberry   Fragaria virginiana  H
Wood Vetch   Vicia caroliniana S, H
*Top photo: CC by 2.0