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How to Create Wildlife-Friendly Landscapes

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culvar's root

Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), and bee balm (Monarda didyma) Image by Debbie Roos

With a little planning and careful plant selection, you can create an attractive native plant landscape that works in harmony with the environment to provide a haven for native wildlife. Including native plants in your landscape can help offset habitat losses from development and the spread of invasive plants. You don’t have to replant your entire yard all at once. Begin by replacing a non-native invasive plant with a native one or replacing a section of turf with a bed of native plants.

Getting Started

Follow the steps below to design an attractive, native plant landscape that is beneficial to both you and wildlife. Why landscape for wildlife?

Step One — Map Existing Site and Vegetation — Create a base plan and identify the plants you already have. Are they native? Do they provide food or shelter for wildlife? Should you keep them or replace them?

American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)  berries provide food for many songbirds, including the American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Purple Finch, and Eastern Towhee. The berries are also consumed by armadillos, foxes, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels. White-tailed deer are known to browse on the leaves in the summer and enjoy the fruits after leaf drops in the fall, Forest-and-Kim-Starr–CC-BY

Step Two — Identify Environmental Factors — Create a site analysis identifying what you have to offer plants. Map sun, wind, sight, sound, and drainage patterns.

Steps Three and Four — Identify Human and Wildlife Activities and Uses. All wildlife needs food, water, and cover, and specific types of wildlife have additional needs, including plant diversity, careful arrangement of plant types, and the addition of feeders, nest boxes, and water features.

Step Five — Design a Native Plant Landscape – Create a design with canopy, shrub, and ground-level habitat in mind. Develop a plant list.

Step Six — Installing and Maintaining a Wildlife-Friendly Landscape: This section covers where to get native plants, how to prepare the site, and how to install the plants, as well as essential maintenance strategies for sustainability.

This content was originally prepared by Dr. Christopher Moorman and Patricia Lindsay. The initial project was funded by the NC Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, Renewable Resources Extension Act, and North Carolina State University.

Additional Information

N.C. Cooperative Extension Publications

The Extension Gardener Handbook

Certification Programs