10 Pretty Native Prairie Plants to Attract Birds and Butterflies

Bring fascinating wildlife naturally to your garden with these nectar-filled flowers that thrive in full sun.

Attracting winged visitors to your yard is easy when you landscape with birds and butterflies in mind. In the wild, native plants provide essential food and shelter for many different creatures. By growing plants that are native to your region, you'll attract the most birds and butterflies because they're familiar and accepted as food sources, shelter, and nesting sites. Native prairie plants are adapted to much of the United States, and many are very attractive to pollinators such as birds and butterflies. These plants are also beautiful and easy to grow. Here are the top native prairie plants for creating the most attractive habitat for birds and butterflies.

01 of 10

1. Milkweed

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on milkweed
Tandem Stock / Adobe Stock

A calling card for monarchs and other butterflies, milkweed is a nectar plant with large clusters of flowers that bloom from June to August. The leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). It's easy to create a no-fuss bird and butterfly garden with this showy native wildflower.

Name: Asclepias

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: Up to 30 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

02 of 10

2. Spiderwort

spiderwort
Greg Ryan

From May to July, the vibrant blue or purple flowers of spiderwort bloom and attract butterflies. Its pretty three-petal flowers are surrounded by grasslike foliage, which makes the plant ideal for the edge of a prairie garden. To encourage new growth and a possible fall bloom, cut it down to 12 inches from the ground in midsummer.

Name: Tradescantia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

03 of 10

3. Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master
Nathan Kirkman

A common plant of the tallgrass prairie, rattlesnake master has prickly, round flowers and smooth, blue-green, swordlike foliage. Butterflies seek nectar from its fragrant flowers, which have a honey-like scent. Take advantage of its sculptural appearance and year-round interest by planting it in a prominent place. The thistle-like flower heads can be left standing for winter interest and as a food source for birds.

Name: Eryngium yuccifolium

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Zones: 3-8

04 of 10

4. Fringed Loosestrife

lysimachia perennials
Kritsada Panichgul

Upright or sprawling, fringed loosestrife forms masses of foliage and yellow summer blooms. Naturally growing on wetland shores and in damp thickets, this perennial prefers wet conditions. It's named for its leafstalks that are covered in small hairs, which give the plant a fuzzy look. All sorts of pollinators are highly attracted to this plant.

Name: Lysimachia ciliata

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in moist well-drained soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

05 of 10

5. Native Roses

Pink Carefree Beauty Rose Rosa
Peter Krumhardt

Several species of roses are native to North America. For example, the climbing prairie rose (Rosa setigera) produces fragrant summer flowers that draw butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. These native roses also provide shelter and nesting sites for birds. The reddish hips (fruit) last all winter long and are usually small enough for birds like cardinals to eat. Climbing varieties' vigorous canes benefit from a trellis, fence, or wall for support, but shrub varieties of native roses can be planted as a low informal hedge.

Name: Rosa

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist well-drained soil

Size: Up to 12 feet

Zones: 5-9

06 of 10

6. Golden Alexander

An important nectar and pollen source for many insects including butterflies, golden Alexander blooms from late spring to early summer. Its leaves and flat-topped clusters of tiny yellow flowers are a favorite food source for black swallowtail caterpillars. Plant it in perennial borders and pollinator gardens and watch it weave its way through other plants.

Name: Zizia aurea

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-8

07 of 10

7. False Sunflower

Heliopsis flowers up close
Kindra Clineff

Radiant as the sun, false sunflower unfurls new blossoms all summer long. Commonly called oxeye sunflower, this sturdy native plant has blooms that make pretty cut flowers (and the more you cut, the more the plant will produce). Its nectar-filled blooms make it a perfect addition to a hummingbird or butterfly garden plan. Plus, its seedy flowerheads attract goldfinches and other songbirds to your garden.

Name: Heliopsis helianthoides

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

08 of 10

8. Starry Campion

Starry Campion
Nathan Kirkman

Fringed white petals on starry campion lend an airy look and make it perfect for softening bold stands of prairie grass all summer long. This perennial is a magnet for hummingbirds and bees. Large butterflies such as the black swallowtail are especially attracted to its flowers which open fully at nighttime and usually close at midday.

Name: Silene stellata

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to medium moist well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 5-8

09 of 10

9. Yarrow

Yarrow plant
Peter Krumhardt

Count on drought-tolerant yarrow to attract butterflies such as the painted lady and gorgone checkerspot to your garden. Its tiny, long-blooming flowers and ferny green foliage have a spicy herbal aroma. The blooms of yarrow also make long-lasting cut flowers that can be easily dried. Another common name for the plant is bloodwort, a reference to its historical use as a topical wound dressing.

Name: Achillea millefolium

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium well-drained sandy soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

10 of 10

10. Blazing Star

detail purple gayfeather liatris
Peter Krumhardt

From midsummer through early fall, attract bees, hummingbirds, monarchs, and other pollinators to your garden with blazing star. Birds love to eat the seeds from this plant's purple flower spikes that can grow up to 20 inches long. This perennial is also a good cut flower and holds its color well when dried. Be sure to add this plant to your perennial border, butterfly garden, cottage garden, or other sunny area of your yard.

Name: Liatris

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: Up to 5 feet

Zones: 3-9

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