Some Suggested Native Plants for Wildlife

Perennials for "Shady" Flower Bed

Note: because these are shade-tolerant plants historically adapted for woodland conditions, they need moist, loamy soils containing good organic matter! Amend the soil with shredded leaves or leaf compost. Locate these plants underneath trees or close to a building, such as on the east or north side of the site, where the plants will be shaded from the afternoon sun; otherwise they'll cook in summer. When installing a garden under trees, use small size plants so as not to disturb tree roots too much. Stay at least 3'-4' away from tree trunks and large roots. If soil amendments will be added, use no more than 2" of organic matter or mulch over tree roots. Any more than 2"-3" of material total will smother the tree's fine feeder roots, and the tree will decline over time.

Plant Scientific Name Height
Eastern columbine Aquilegia canadensis .5' - 3'
American or tall bellflower Campanula americana 1.5' -6.5'
White turtlehead Chelone glabra 1.5' - 6.5'
Black snakeroot Cimicifuga racemosa 2.5' -8.5'
Dwarf larkspur Delphinium tricorne .5' -3'
Squirrel corn Dicentra canadensis .5' - 1'
Dutchman's britches Dicentra cucullaria .5' - 1'
Wild bleeding heart Dicentra eximia 1.5' - 2'
Wild geranium Geranium maculatum 1' - 2'
Alumroot Heuchera americana 1' - 3.5'
Twinleaf Jeffersonia diphylla .5' - 1'
Virginia bluebells Mertensia virginica 1' - 2.5'
Wild blue phlox Phlox divaricata 1.5'
Mayapple Podophyllum peltatum 1' - 2'
Solomon's seal Polygonatum biflorum or P. pubescens 1' - 3.5'
Heart-leaved aster Aster cordifolius 1' - 5'
Golden Alexanders Zizia aurea 1' - 2.5'
Mistflower Conoclinium coelestinum or Eupatorium coelestinum 1' - 3.5
Foamflower Tiarella cordifolia .5' - 1'

Groundcovers for moist shade:

Plant Scientific Name
Wild ginger Asarum canadense
Green-and-Gold Chrysogonum virginianum
Partridgeberry Mitchella repens
Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis
Allegheny spurge Pachysandra procumbens

Avoid planting English Ivy or Periwinkle, as these are invasive exotics that will spread to naturalized areas and eventually become a monoculture, which means low biodiversity — not good for wildlife! Just look around at some old woodlots…

Perennials for Hot, Dry, Sunny Areas

(Soil amendments still welcome!)

Plant Scientific Name Height
Common milkweed Asclepias syriaca 2' - 6'
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa 1' - 3'
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea 1' - 3'
Smooth blue aster Symphotricum laeve var laeve or Aster laevis 1' - 5'
Threadleaf coreopsis Coreopsis verticillata .5' - 3.5'
Black-eyed Susans Rudbeckia hirta 1' - 3.5'
Eastern or northern blazing star; tall gayfeather Liatris scariosa 1' - 3.5'
Moss phlox or moss-pink Phlox subulata groundcover

Ornamental "Small" Trees

(They're only small relative to a forest canopy!)

Plant Scientific Name Height
Eastern redbud Cercis canadensis 25'-35'
Flowering dogwood Cornus florida 20' - 50'
Downy serviceberry Amelanchier arborea 15' - 25'
White fringetree Chionanthus virginicus 20' - 35'
Witch hazel Hamamelis virginiana 15'-30'
(actually a shrub but can look like a tree)


(These need a fairly sunny site for maximum flower/berry production-at least 6 hours of sun per day)

Plant Scientific Name Height
Sweet pepperbush Clethra alnifolia 6' -12'
Silky dogwood Cornus amomum 6' -12'
Inkberry Ilex glabra 6' -10' (can be used as a hedge)
Virginia sweetspire Itea virginica 6' -10'
Black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa 3'-6' (can be used as a hedge)
Red chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia 2' -13'
Common elderberry Sambucus nigra or S. canadensis 6' -12'
Lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium 1' -2'
Highbush blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum 6' -12'


Excellent shrubs for birds in particular because they love the berries — thrashers, mockingbirds, and cardinals, to name a few!

Plant Scientific Name Height
Maple-leaved arrowwood Viburnum acerifolium 3' -6'
Southern arrowwood V. dentatum 10'-15'
Possumhaw viburnum V. nudum 6.5' -20'
Blackhaw V. prunifolium 12' -24'


Plant Scientific Name
Trumpet honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Trumpet vine Campsis radicans (be sure this has a lot of space and a strong support)
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Carolina jessamine Gelsemium sempervirens - an evergreen
Crossvine Bignonia capreolata (large and spreading, needs good support)

Tall Native Grasses

For large, wide-open spaces or fields (not next to buildings or in small yards). However, you could use a clump of 3 of these as an accent or focal point in a large flower bed. These grasses tolerate dry conditions and need full sun.

Plant Scientific Name Height
Indiangrass Sorghastrum nutans 2.5' - 8'
Little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium or Andropogon scoparius 1.5' - 4'
Bushy bluestem Andropogon glomeratus or A. virginicus var abbreviatus 1.5' - 5'
Switchgrass Panicum virgatum 3' - 6'
Redtop or purpletop Tridens flavus 2' - 6.5'