Top 4 native plants for a wildlife-friendly garden

EEdgar September 10, 2023 9:31 AM

When it comes to creating a wildlife-friendly garden, there's no better way than incorporating native plants. These local species have co-evolved with our native wildlife, serving as a vital food source and habitat. They bring more than just the beauty of flowers and foliage; they invite birds, bees, butterflies, and more species into your backyard, turning it into a vibrant, living ecosystem. Here are the top 4 native plants to consider for a wildlife-friendly garden.

1. Milkweed (Asclepias)

No wildlife-friendly garden is complete without milkweed. Not only is it a vital food source for butterflies, particularly the endangered Monarch, but it also provides shelter for a variety of insects.

Key features:

  • Species: There are various species of milkweed, with Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias tuberosa being the most common.
  • Height: Ranges from 1 to 5 feet depending upon the species.
  • Bloom time: Summer.

Benefits for wildlife:

  • Butterflies: Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and the caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed leaves.
  • Insects: Other insects also benefit from milkweed, including beetles and bees.

2. Coneflower (Echinacea)

The coneflower is another native plant that's great for attracting wildlife. Its large, colorful blooms invite a variety of pollinators, and birds love its seeds.

Key features:

  • Species: The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is the most popular, but there are many other varieties.
  • Height: Typically 2 to 4 feet high.
  • Bloom time: Summer.

Benefits for wildlife:

  • Birds: The seed-filled cones of this flower attract finches and other birds in the fall and winter.
  • Pollinators: Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators love the nectar and pollen the flowers produce.

3. Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

Serviceberry, also known as Juneberry or Shadbush, is a multi-season plant that offers a host of benefits for wildlife. Its fragrant flowers attract pollinators in the spring, and its berries are a favorite for birds.

Key features:

  • Species: There are about 20 species of serviceberry; some are trees, others are shrubs.
  • Height: Depending on the species, serviceberries can range from 6 feet to over 20 feet tall.
  • Bloom time: Spring.

Benefits for wildlife:

  • Birds: The berries are a favorite of many bird species, including robins and cardinals.
  • Pollinators: The flowers are a nectar source for bees and butterflies.

4. Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium)

Joe-Pye Weed is a tall, showy native plant that's a magnet for butterflies. Its large flower clusters provide a bounty of nectar.

Key features:

  • Species: There are several species, with Eutrochium purpureum and Eutrochium maculatum being the most common.
  • Height: Generally between 4 to 7 feet tall.
  • Bloom time: Late summer and fall.

Benefits for wildlife:

  • Butterflies: It's one of the best plants for attracting butterflies.
  • Bees: Late-blooming, it provides a valuable nectar source for bees when other food sources are dwindling.

In conclusion, incorporating these native plants into your garden not only creates a visually pleasing environment but also contributes significantly to local biodiversity. Give them a try and enjoy the wildlife show in your backyard.

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