Alternative Plants

Native plants are plant species that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved in. Native plants are necessary for preserving biodiversity in the ecosystem. They can reduce water runoff and flooding. They can also provide shelter and food for wildlife and support pollinators such as bees and birds. Native plants can also attract butterflies and birds, and they can provide habitat and food sources for a multitude of wildlife species.

Check out the native plants below that can be planted instead of invasive species!


Redbuds (Cercis spp.)

These trees typically grow to be 15-30 feet tall and have a rounded crown. They bloom in the springtime and have fragrant, pink flowers in tight clusters along the stems and branches. The leaves are smooth and heart-shaped. These trees are valuable to native bees and may provide nesting materials for bees. Birds and mammals will consume seeds as well.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Blue False Indigo is a busy, robust perennial that can grow up to 3-5 feet high. The flowers bloom between April to July and are blue-purple in color. The leaves are divided into three leaflets that turn silvery-gray in the late fall.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

This bushy, perennial plant will bloom from May to September. It has yellow-orange or bright orange flower clusters that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This plant is also the larval host of Grey Hairstreak butterflies, the Monarch butterfly, and Queens. The leaves are linear, oblong, or lanceolate, and the bottom of the leaf is a lighter green color than the top of the leaf.

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)

This 1-3 feet tall annual plant has a yellow bloom that is present between June and October. The leaves are pinnately-compund and have many small, yellow-green leaflets. Partridge pea attracts birds and butterflies and is the larval host for the Cloudless giant sulphur, the orange sulphur, and sleepy orange butterflies. This plant is beneficial to wildlife and is used by nectar-bees, nectar-butterflies, granivorous birds, and nectar-ants.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)

Serviceberry is a shrub that can grow 15-25 feet tall. It has white flowers in terminal clusters that attract birds and bees before the leaves appear. Flowers are followed by sweet summer berries that turn from red to purple or nearly black and are rich in iron and copper. The leaves can turn orange or red in the fall. These fruits provide food for some birds and small mammals.

Alder (Alnus spp.)

Alder is small tree 20-35 feet tall. It has multiple crooked, leggy trunks with a bent, wide curve at the base. Blooms occur between March and May. Alders are important species for songbirds, waterbirds, and some mammals. Alders have swellings or root nodules that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Dogwood (Cornus spp.)

Dogwoods are small trees that can grow approximately 20-35 feet tall. The blooms are wide, flat-topped clusters of fragrant, white to cream colored flowers that bloom in May and June and become clusters of reddish-purple berries. The berries are not edible by humans, but they consumed by wildlife species such as grouse, pheasants, wild turkeys and squirrels. Deer will browse on the leaves as well.

Side-Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)

This deep-rooted, warm-season grass is a native plant that produces high quality, nutritious forage throughout the summer and fall for deer. It remains relatively palatable into the winter as well. Wild turkeys will consume the seeds as well. Side Oats Grama is recognizable by its wide leaves and distinct inflorescent, zigzag stalk with small, compressed spikes dangling from the stalk at even intervals. The spikes give the plant its name, since they are only located on one side of the stalk. While in the vegetative state, this grass has long, evenly spaced hairs attached to the margins of the leaf near its base which can help in identification.

Big and Little Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii and Schizachyrium scoparium)

These two plants are warm, seasonal bunchgrass that have blue-green stems that turn a maroonish-tan color in the fall. Big Bluestem grows to be approximately 4-8 feet tall, while Little Bluestem grows only 1-3 feet tall. These species provide cover for at least 24 species of songbirds and is used as a nesting site for some other birds. The seeds are eaten by some sparrows, and it attracts birds and butterflies.

Oaks (Quercus spp.)

Oaks are very important hardwood trees in the Northern Hemisphere. They can grow anywhere between 35 to over 100 feet tall. Red oaks and white oaks are the two major oak groups. White oaks have leaves that lack bristles on the lobes or leaves while red oaks have bristles at the tips of lobes of leaves. Both groups are good producers of acorns. Acorns provide a food source for many wildlife species including deer, squirrels, chipmunks, black bears, and some bird species. Raccoons, foxes, and opossums will utilize acorns as well.

Hickories (Carya spp.)

Many hickories are important for wildlife, since the nuts are consumed by many wildlife species such as squirrels, black bears, chipmunks, and wild turkeys. Squirrels prefer hickory nuts over other food sources. The nuts are produced in the early fall, and some hickory species produce nuts every year. A few species provide niches for tree frogs and bats beneath the loose bark. Shagbark hickory is especially important in providing cover for Indiana bats.

Not sure what plant you’re looking at? Try searching for it here on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website!

Check out this website for more native plants in your location!