Using native plants – plants that were found in our region prior to European settlement – in your home landscape protects biodiversity, supports wildlife by providing food and shelter, and preserves our natural heritage. Being adapted to our local environment they are drought tolerant, over-winter well, and come back year after year. They can help reduce the time and energy you spend mowing, are low-maintenance once established, can add reliable blooms to problem areas and replace invasive species on your property. Learn more about how to garden with native plants in this section.

Why Garden with Native Plants?

As human communities spread, they have tended to replace native plants with non-native ones. In parts of the Eastern United States, including Ohio, these non-native plants cover a majority of the landscape. Because plants are the foundation of the food web, his leads to changes throughout the local ecosystem.

About two-thirds of our insects are generalists, which mean they rely on a particular plant or a closely-related family of plants for part of their lifecycle. When those plants are lost from an area, so are the insects that rely on them. A well-known example of this is the declining monarch butterfly population. Although adult monarch butterflies will feed on a variety of plants, they will only lay eggs on members of the milkweed family. Without milkweed, monarchs can’t reproduce, and species that feed the caterpillars and adult butterflies, including birds, decline as well. Widespread efforts are underway to restore milkweed populations, but this is only one example of a plant-insect partnership that is disrupted by the replacement of native plants with non-native ones. Many of our insects, including some that pollinate our food supply, are at risk. Reintroducing native plants is an important solution.

Suggested plant lists

Not sure where to start? We considered bloom period, color combinations, and winter interest in selecting these plants to get your native plant garden off on the right foot.

For a Prairie Garden


Baptisia australis, Blue false indigo
Echinacea purpurea, Purple coneflower
Eryngium yuccifolium, Rattlesnake master
Helianthus mollis, Ashy sunflower
Monarda fistulosa, Wild bergamot
Oligoneuron rigida, Stiff goldenrod
Ratidibda pinnata, Grey-headed coneflower
Schizachyrium scoparium, Little bluestem
Silene regia, Royal catchfly
Sporobolus heterolepsis, Prairie dropseed

For a Bee, Bird & Butterfly garden


Bouteloua curtipendula, Side-oats grama grass
Echinacea purpurea, Purple coneflower
Elymus hystrix, Bottlebrush grass
Liatris spicata, Spiked Blazingstar
Monarda fistulosa, Wild bergamot
Oligoneuron rigida, Stiff goldenrod
Penstemon digitalis, Foxglove beardtongue
Ratibida pinnata, Grey-headed coneflower
Silene regia, Royal catchfly
Symphyotrichum cordifolius, Heart-leaved aster

For a wet woodland

These plants will work well in a part- to full-shade wet site, such as a woodland fen:

Chelone glabra, Turtlehead
Lobelia siphilitica, Great blue lobelia
Penstemon digitalis, Foxglove beardtongue
Rudbeckia fulgida, Orange coneflower
Senna marilandica, Southern wild senna
Zizia aurea, Golden Alexander

For a rain garden

Rain gardens are shallow depressions that temporarily hold stormwater so it can infiltrate the ground, reducing downstream flooding and erosion. These plants can tolerate dry conditions and the periodic inundation of a rain event:

Asclepias incarnata, Swamp milkweed
Aquilegia Canadensis, Wild columbine
Eupatorium maculatum, Spotted Joe Pye weed
Hibiscus laevis, Halberd-leaved rose mallow
Liatris spicata, Dense blazingstar
Iris Versicolor, Northern blue flag
Dasiphora fruiticosa, Shrubby cinquefoil
Rudbeckia fulgida, Orange coneflower
Verbena hastata, Blue vervain

Plants that the deer do not enjoy

Deer love to snack on your plants? Here are a few good starter plants they don’t tend to favor:

Aquilegia Canadensis, Wild columbine
Asclepias spp., Milkweeds
Baptisia spp., False indigos
Echinacea purpurea, Purple coneflower
Eryngium yuccifolium, Rattlesnake master
Eupatorium spp., Bonesets
Monarda fistulosa, Wild bergamot
Pycnanthemum spp., Mountain-mints
Rudbeckia spp., Coneflowers
Solidago spp., Goldenrods
Veronicastrum virginicum, Culver’s root

Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud
Dasiphora fruiticosa, Shrubby cinquefoil
Lindera benzoin, Spicebush
Prunus Americana, American plum
Viburnum prunifolium, Black-haw

Check out these resources that share what, how and where to plant native trees, bushes and flowers, build a pond, and bring birds to your yard!

National Wildlife Federation Keystone Native Plant Listing

Where to buy native plants:

Creating a wildlife habitat garden in your yard to attract birds, butterflies, and other neighborhood wildlife is fun, rewarding, and makes a big difference.

Interested in certifying YOUR habitat with the National Wildlife Federation?

Click here for more info. Click here for a checklist to help you get ready for certification