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House with native plants and animalsGoing Native: Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants
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How To Go Native

With a little planning and careful selection of plants, anyone can have a native plant landscape that works in harmony with the environment, provides a haven for native wildlife, and is attractive in the most urban of settings. Going Native can be done in small steps; you don’t have to replant your entire yard all at once.  Instead, you can start small by replacing an exotic tree with a native one, by making a small area of your yard into a native plant garden, or by replacing a section of turf with a bed of native plants.  Any piece of your property that you maintain in native vegetation or convert back to native plants can help offset the habitat losses from development and the spread of invasive plants. 

Getting Started

Planning is important when creating a native plant landscape with wildlife in mind.  By following the steps listed below, you will find that you can design an attractive, native plant landscape that works well for you and for wildlife.


A northern parula eats insects found on oaks and other tall trees.

Step One - Identify Wildlife Needs – All wildlife have basic requirements for food, water, and cover.  If you want to attract a diversity of birds or butterflies to your property, you’ll need to understand their basic needs for food, water, and cover.

Step Two - Map Existing Site and Vegetation – Before you start planting, you need to determine what plants you already have.  Are they native or exotic?  Should you keep them or replace them?

Blackgum in Fall
Native plants like blackgum should be retained in a landscape.

Step Three - Design a Native Plant Landscape – The design process takes into account the needs of wildlife and your needs as a landowner.  Meeting wildlife needs can require specific plant diversity, careful arrangement of plant types, and the addition of feeders, nest boxes, and water features.

Step Four - Implement a Native Plant Landscape – Once you’ve made your plan and selected the native plants you want to use, you’ll need to find and buy plants and make sure they’re planted correctly.

Much of the information from this website is available in hard copy in the three publications entitled Managing Backyards and Other Urban Habitats for Birds, Butterflies in Your Backyard, and Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants.

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