How Do I Start a Native Plant Garden?

How do I learn about native plant gardening?
During 2022, the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones is presenting a series of seven free introductory classes about how to garden with native plants.  Learn more.

What can I do to make my home garden friendly to pollinators, butterflies and birds?
Start small! Add a few native plants to your garden or plant a container with native plants.
Encourage your neighbors to do it too, so that pollinators start to notice your neighborhood.
Plant it, and they will come!

What is different about gardening with native plants?
Native plants have evolved to thrive in local environments.
Once established in the right location, they require no fertilizers and less water.

What should I plant?
Get started with a few native plants that are pollinator-friendly, easy-to-grow, and easy-to-find. Try these:

  • Milkweed (Asclepias) – host plant for monarch butterflies!
  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Aster (Symphyotrichium oblongifolium)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Coral Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera)
  • Rose Verbena (Glandularia canadensis)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago)

Don’t forget about trees and shrubs!
Native oak, hickory, maple & redbud trees
and buckeye & beautyberry shrubs are great choices.

 What else should I do?

  • Avoid pesticides. They can weaken or kill pollinators.
  • Provide a water source. Birds and butterflies need a drink!
  • Leave the leaves. Many pollinators over-winter in leaf litter. Decaying leaves add nutrients to your soil. Leaves are natural (and free!) mulch.

Where can I learn more?
Here are some helpful downloadable documents and brochures to help you start your own native plant garden:

Native Plant Garden Design for Chattanooga

Visit the Wild Ones Native Garden Designs website.  It provides practical, educationally-sound information on native landscaping developed specifically for first-time native plant gardeners looking for help getting started.  The site also features a growing number of free, downloadable native garden designs created by professional landscape designers for multiple ecoregions in the United States, taking into account various light, soil and moisture conditions.  A plant list accompanies each design and provides a quick preview of the diversity and beauty of the native plants incorporated in each design. Both the designs and the plant lists are printer-friendly.


Go Native – A New Native Plant Gardener Guide

Whether you are new to native plants or a long-time gardener, chapter Past President Lisa Lemza’s guide has important information for everyone.



Wild for Monarchs!
Information about how to plant a native butterfly garden or Monarch Waystation.



Create Your Own Monarch Waystation
Including a planting plan and plant list suited for the Tennessee Valley.



Best Practices for Pollinator Gardens
Tips for how to attract pollinators to your garden.



The Dark Side of a Green, Weed-Free Lawn



Over-the-Counter Garden Products That Are TOXIC to Pollinators