Small Wildlife Garden Ideas

The first rule of wild flower gardening is to grow what is native to your region. The flowers featured here are native to the Eastern Deciduous Forest Region, which consists of the East Coast, extends into the Midwest and excludes the Coastal Plains.

Although you’d probably rather kill weeds than cultivate them, you can actually create a beautiful garden with wild flowers.

Learn how to distinguish your beard tongue from your evening primrose and the best flowers to plant in spring, summer and fall.

Desert Bloom

Wildlife Garden Design

Early Spring Blooming Wildflowers

The following flowers are best planted in early spring when the first hints of warm weather reveal themselves.

BEARDTONGUE: A dozen or more species of beard-tongue dot the Eastern Forest region in various places, mostly in the south and west. This is a smooth, shiny plant with lavender flowers that arise in pairs or clusters near the tops of the branches. There is a pair of small leaves below each cluster. These perennials require full sun and average moisture.

BLUE PHLOX: This perennial - recurring on a yearly or continual basis - is adorned with beautiful blue flowers. It is native to rich, moist, deciduous woods throughout the region. It can spread by seed or by stolons (a horizontal branch from the base of the plant that produces new plants). Plant in a partially shaded area that receives average moisture.

BULBOUS BUTTERCUP: Perhaps the showiest of the buttercups, this flower carpets low fields, meadows and pastures with pure golden yellow. Bulbous buttercups grow wildly in mountainous areas, but are easy to introduce to the garden. They are one of the earliest to bloom and need full sunlight and average moisture.

DEVIL'S BIT: The small, white flowers of devil's bit, or blazing star, are clustered in showy spikes, and unlike other members of the lily family, have male and female flowers separated on different plants. Interestingly, this plant was once used medicinally for separate male and female ailments. Be sure to specify male plants for your wild flower garden, as they have the more attractive flower clusters. Devil's bit needs full shade in a mild climate that receives average moisture.

GOLDEN RAGWORT: The long, leafy stems of golden ragwort, another spring member of the aster family, may be two or more feet tall, and bear many small but colorful heads of yellow flowers. These are excellent plants for early color in the woodland garden. Plant in a fully sunlit area that receives above-average moisture.

SHOOTING STAR: With its fleshy basal leaves and cluster of white flowers at the end of a long, flowering stem, this is an easily recognized inhabitant of rich, moist woodlands with basic or neutral soils. Easily cultivated, shooting star can provide a stunning addition to a spring wild flower garden where moisture is average and there is semi-shade.

VIOLET WOOD SORREL: Although some violets are rather weedy, this one with its bright 1/2-inch violet flowers provides colorful patches to the spring garden. The three-lobed, shamrock-like leaves are easily recognizable in spring, and again in the fall, when a second minor flowering period occurs. The violet wood sorrel needs partial shade and average moisture.

Attrack Garden Wildlife

Wild Autumn Beauty

About half of all fall wild flowers belong to a single plant family - aster. This family has two kinds of small, specialized flowers that occur in clusters of various sizes, shapes and forms. About a third of fall wild flowers are annuals (completing their life cycles within a year) that can be grown from a seed, making them easy to cultivate in your garden.

EVENING PRIMROSE: Closely related to sun-drops, which bloom in early summer, the biannual evening primrose is taller and blooms in fall or late summer. As the name implies, the flowers of evening primrose usually open after sunset. These easily cultivated plants require full sun and average moisture.

FIREWEED: The bushy plants of fire-weed have slender stems, narrow leaves and small, pale blue or pale pink flowers. They are somewhat hard to see if there is a lot of other vegetation. However, they are often the first thing to come up in an area after a fire and are then quite conspicuous. These cosmopolitan plants are known around the world in northern latitudes. In the Appalachians, they are found as far south as North Carolina. Plant in full shade that receives average moisture.

SPOTTED JEWEL WEED: Each tuliped flower of this plant dangles on a slender stalk and is pollinated by hummingbirds whose long beaks and tongues can reach the nectar in the sharply bent spur at the base of the flower. The yellow-orange flowers can add quite a splash of color to your garden. If the brown skin of a ripe seed is peeled away, it reveals a turquoise blue, which accounts for the plant's name. This plant requires partial shade and a moist environment.

CARDINAL FLOWER: This plant, with its bright crimson flowers, is pollinated by hummingbirds and is one of the showiest wild flowers. It thrives in moist open areas, especially throughout Eastern North America and is easily grown from seed. Plant it in a fully sunlit area that is exposed to above-average moisture.

COMMON MORNING GLORY: This plant - with its large, heart-shaped leaves - typically has big purple flowers, but can have pink, white and blue ones as well. A weedy, naturalized annual, the common morning glory apparently escaped from cultivation in early Colonial times. It is now a common sight in all cornfields, gardens and along roadsides throughout the region. Plant in a completely sunlit area that takes in average moisture.

OBEDIENT PLANT: The closely flowering spikes with showy colors of white, purple and rose have made this a popular garden plant for many years. The name comes from the way the individual flowers can easily be bent and arranged. This plant needs full sunlight and average moisture.

AGERATUM: The perennial ageratum, or mist flower, has long been cultivated as a garden flower. A distinctive characteristic of this type of flower is the absence of petals. Its long flower heads contain only light blue disc flowers, but is a beautiful addition to a garden. Plant in a partially shaded area that has exposure to average moisture.