Five Native Plants to Add to Your Garden

Spring will be here before you know it. Gardeners everywhere are itching to get outside and start planting. As you’re planning your garden and waiting for the weather to warm up, consider including a few (more) native plants. They’re the best choice when it comes to creating a wildlife-friendly garden, and the good thing is that there are many beautiful natives commercially available.

I asked Peggy Anne Montgomery of the American Beauties Native Plants for some recommendations. Here are five of her favorite native wildflowers for wildlife.  Click through to the detailed descriptions to find out the native range of these species to see if they are a good fit for your area.

Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata
This lovely milkweed offers nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and is host plant for monarch butterflies caterpillars.

Asclepias incarnata, courtesy American Beauties.
Asclepias incarnata, courtesy American Beauties.
One of the most beautiful native perennials with clusters of upturned pink flowers on 4-5’ stems in June and July. The leaves of the red milkweed are a preferred food source of Monarch caterpillars. Preferring moist soils, this is a great plant for naturalizing and for use in rain gardens. No butterfly garden is complete without milkweed!

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis
The gorgeous scarlet flowers are a tremendous nectar source for hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies.

Lobelia cardinalis, via American Beauties.
Lobelia cardinalis, via American Beauties.
Brilliant red spikes set against green and purple-bronze colored foliage. Each individual spike of scarlet flowers opens from bottom to top and stays in bloom for several weeks. Hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies love the nectar. Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar, for pollination.


Anemone canadensis
The white flowers of this hardy, native groundcover is highly desired by native woodland pollinators.

Anemone canadensis, courtesy American Beauties.
Anemone canadensis, courtesy American Beauties.
Pure white, single flowers bloom above deep green foliage. A strong groundcover for moist, shady sites. Combines well with other spring-blooming perennials such as Polemonium, Sisyrinchium and Mertensia. Adds a fresh pop of color to shady areas of the garden.

Mexican Hat Plant

Ratibida columnifera aka ‘Red Midget’

Native insects and butterflies flock to this native cultivar.

Ratibida columnifera, courtesy American Beauties.
Ratibida columnifera, courtesy American Beauties.
Mounds of fine textured green foliage give rise to masses of stems bearing flowers that feature long, prominent cones surrounded by reflexed petals in shades of deep reddish-brown, orange and yellow. This dwarf selection is perfect for the front of a sunny border and loves hot, dry conditions.

Black-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta
This classic garden wildflower provides nectar for butterflies and seeds to feed the birds.

Rudbeckia hirta, courtesy American Beauties.
Rudbeckia hirta, courtesy American Beauties.
Black Eyed Susan is the quintessential plant of prairies and meadows. It provides an extravagant floral display to the delight of butterflies and other beneficial insects. In late summer the seeds will attract finches and other birds. Fantastic show when planted in groups. Easy to grow and quite drought tolerant once established.

Plant your own natives

Check out the American Beauties Native Plants website to find more great natives for your area.

Become a Wildlife Gardener with National Wildlife Federation. It’s free and you’ll get great wildlife gardening tips and learn how to certify your garden as an official habitat.