Planting Native

As a result of human expansion and development, birds have lost vast amounts of habitat. Planting native trees, bushes, flowers, and more is recommended to help restore some of the resources birds have lost. Be careful when planting; each climate has different native plants. For those not in the US, information for other nations can be found under the "Invasive Species" and "Plant Databases" sections.

Also, consider planting native beyond your backyard. Many people have front lawns—however, grass takes a lot of water to maintain and doesn't have the same benefits as native plants, like providing resources for wildlife. Consider something such as a beautiful wildflower garden instead!

Native Plants

Versus Invasive Plants, Non-Native Plants, and Lawns

Water Pollution

Non-native and/or invasive plants can promote erosion and the use of fertilizers and pesticides, all which impair water quality. As runoff drains into larger bodies of water, like ponds, lakes, or rivers, fertilizers and pesticides are taken with, contaminating the water.

Water Use

Less water is needed to maintain native plants. Native plants have adapted to the amount of water their climate naturally provides, whereas non-native and/or invasive plants may require more water to live in the same place.

Lawns require a lot of water to maintain.

Runoff fertilizer promotes algae growth in nearby lakes and ponds. Algae depletes the water of oxygen, making it harder for other organisms to survive. @MPCA Photos, Flicker, used through CC BY-NC 2.0.


Native plants can reduce erosion while invasive plants can promote it. This is because of their roots; native plants often have large, deep root networks that help “hold” the soil together.

Some invasive and/or non-native plants often have small roots, and they aren’t able to hold the soil in place, leading to increased erosion. Through erosion, invasive plants also promote decreased water quality.

Air Pollution

Mowing your lawn contributes to air pollution; in fact, 5% of air pollution in the United States is from gas-powered gardening tools, according to EMSWCD. Some lawn mowers emit more pollution than a new car!

Obviously, having native plants in your yard would lessen this pollution. Native plants also remove carbon from the air, replacing it with oxygen.

While pesticides may prevent insects from damaging a plant, they are also potentially toxic to the environment and humans.


Native plants are less susceptible to pests since they are better adjusted to the area.


Non-native plants may require more fertilizers and pesticides to keep them healthy. Pesticides can be toxic to the environment, and fertilizer can decrease water quality by promoting algae growth. Where algae grows, there is less oxygen in the water for other creatures, harming aquatic wildlife.

On the other hand, native plants require less fertilizers and pesticides to grow.


Native plants increase biodiversity, which is the variety of organisms living within a certain space. These plants can provide food and shelter, while lawns don’t provide either, and, depending on the type, neither do some invasive plants.

Specialization is where two species have a special relationship; they interact in a way that is unique to the species involved. For example, the Monarch Butterfly depends entirely on milkweeds to lay their eggs. Some native plants help other native animals thrive through these special relationships. If the native plants were removed, these animals would struggle to survive.

And so, native plants are integral to maintaining a large variety of other species and native animals and insects.

The greater variety of plants, a greater number of organisms can be supported. Plants are integral to maintaining other animals, especially threatened and endangered species. @Geoff Holland, used through CC BY-SA 2.0.

Quick Planting Tips

  • Check and check again that you’re getting plants native to your area.

  • To attract the largest variety of birds, plant a variety of trees, shrubs, bushes, and flowers.

  • Don’t want a big project? Even one tree can help!

  • For bigger projects, consult a landscaping specialist and/or your local garden store. They will help you select native plants while tailoring your yard to your taste.

Common Natives in the US by Region




Rocky Mountains

Pacific Northwest


Invasive Species Around the World

An invasive plant is a plant that isn't naturally occurring in a certain area, yet it spreads in that area at the expense of other organisms. These plants compete with native plants for resources and, eventually, push native plants out of their own ecosystem! Without native plants, an ecosystem can quickly degrade, unable to support native animals and becoming unrecognizable.

It is very important to check that you aren't planting invasive species. Invasive plants are sold in gardening stores, so please do your homework. Invasive species are not only harmful to native plants and animals, but they will spread in your yard, becoming a big problem.

Here are a few quick lists of invasive species in certain regions/countries. Avoid planting these species! (Note: these aren't full lists of the invasive plant species in each area.)

United States:

  • Purple loosestrife

  • Jasmine

  • Japanese honeysuckle

  • Japanese Barberry

  • Pampas grass

  • Glossy privet

  • English Ivy

  • Norway Maple

  • Kudzu

European Union:

  • Kudzu

  • Common Milkweed

  • Water Hyacinth

  • Groundsel Bush

  • Hogweeds

  • Chilean Rhubarb

  • Bush Clover

  • Japanese Climbing Fern

  • Stiltgrass

  • Fountain grass


  • Canada thistle (not from Canada despite name)

  • Autumn olive

  • Dog-Strangling Vine

  • Common Tansy

  • European Buckthorn

  • Japanese Barberry

  • Garlic Mustard

  • Glossy Buckthorn


  • African Bedding Grass

  • Boxthorn

  • Weeping Lovegrass

  • Alligator Weed

  • Black Locust

  • Bitou Bush

  • Blackberry

  • Creeping Yellow Cress

Your country/region isn't listed or want to know more? Try the Global Invasive Species Database by clicking here.

Database not working for you? Ask your local garden store!

A Planting Native Story

The benefits of planting native can be seen through this story about Anna's family and their backyard:

When my parents bought our current home in 2000, they knew that it would take a lot of work to get the place in shape. Not only did they have to replace red carpet and paint over pink walls, but the backyard was a field of dirt. Not even weeds grew.

Unfortunately, the original photos of the backyard can't be found. After a year or so of work, the backyard looked like this:

So, as you can imagine, the backyard was a dustbowl before any modifications were made, with little to no wildlife visiting. In the photos above, my parents planted all the trees seen there, along with encouraging patchy grass from the soil, in about a year. It wasn't the largest of beginnings, but it was a start.

The picture below is the same backyard.

Any backyard can be transformed into suitable habitat, just like our backyard. You can design a beautiful backyard that suits your needs, including how much work it takes to maintain. The key to is to start small. Plant a few trees in the summer. Next summer, add some bushes and a birdbath. Although it won't happen over night, your backyard will grow into paradise before your eyes.

If you need any more convincing about why you should plant native, consider this. Before, little to no birds visited our backyard when it was a dustbowl. After years of changes, this is the full list of birds spotted in the backyard:

  • Black Capped Chickadee

  • Dark-Eyed Juncos

  • Western Tanager

  • American Goldfinch

  • Lesser Goldfinch

  • Downy Woodpecker

  • Northern Flicker

  • House Finches

  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler

  • Yellow Warbler

  • White-Crowned Sparrow

  • Wilson’s Warbler

  • Cooper’s Hawk

  • Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Mallard

  • American Robin

  • Bluejay

  • Mourning Dove

  • Ring Necked Pheasant

  • Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

  • Bushtit

  • Hermit Thrush

  • Spotted Towhee

  • Lazuli Bunting

  • Red Winged Blackbird

  • Common Grackle

  • White Breasted Nuthatch

  • Red Breasted Nuthatches

  • Scrub Jay

  • Song Sparrow

  • Black-billed Magpie

  • Pigeon

  • American Robin

(The backyard is also a favorite spot for bats because all of the plants attract a lot of insects!)

The header photo of this website was taken in

our backyard on a rainy day in May.

Plant Databases

NOTE: it may be more effective to visit a local gardening store and ask about plants native to your area.

United States:

  • Audubon's Native Plant Database: here

  • Native Plant Finder: here

  • California Native Plant Society: here


  • Find Your Ecozone: here

  • Designing Your Own Habitat with Cornell Lab Canada: here


  • Plants for Australia: here

  • Australian Plant Database: here


  • List of Native Tress and Shrubs: here

  • Plants and Fungi Database, including Vulnerable Native Species: here


  • Global Invasive Species Database: here

Note: once you have clicked the link, click "Advanced Search Options." Under the "Location" tab on the left, check your global region. Then press the red "Search" button on the right.

The results are alphabetical by country/region.