21 Native Plants For New York Gardens

Looking for a few native plants to line the beds of your New York garden? There are many different options to choose from, depending on which part of the state you live in. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at some of her favorite New York native plants!

Native Plant to New York Blooming With Pink Flowers

New York gardeners have a tremendous variety of interesting plants to choose from. There are a great number of beautiful native plants that are well-adapted to the local climate, many more than we can list here.

These plants include varieties of native wildflowers, ferns, grasses, shrubs, and trees. You can find native plants that are ground covers or vines, compact plants for small spaces, or sprawling plants that will naturalize in larger wild areas. You can create themed garden plantings, such as a wildlife garden, pollinator garden, or rock garden.

Whether you live in the city or in a rural area, you can grow native plants. Native plants are those naturally occurring in a particular area. These plants are well-adapted to the local environmental conditions and are likely to provide the best food sources and nectar sources for wildlife. Native plants will be better adapted to local pests and diseases than non-native plants.

If you are just getting started with native plants or are already a seasoned gardener, we hope you find this list useful. Here, we have assembled an assortment of 21 fantastic native plants for gardeners in New York and surrounding northeastern states. Let’s dig in!

Bearberry

Close up of a bush with tiny red berries clusters on red branches, surrounded by small green pointy leaves.
This native plant thrives best in areas with harsh winters, preferably in zones 2 to 7.
botanical-name botanical name Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
plant-type plant type Broadleaf evergreen
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 0.5 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2 to 7

Bearberry is a versatile leathery-leaved evergreen plant. It is tolerant of harsh winters and does not like warmer locations with hot and humid summers. It grows best in open sunny spots but also tolerates some shade.

Bearberry does well in average quality, well-drained soils, and would be a great choice for a rock garden planting, herb garden, or for a low-growing shrubby border.

This native plant is an attractive little shrub that is very appealing to wildlife. Birds and small mammals enjoy the fruits, which ripen and turn red in early fall. Clusters of tiny white to pinkish bell-shaped flowers bloom in the spring and the leaves turn a bronzed red color in the fall, giving bearberry year-round appeal.

Blazing Star

Close up of a tall purple flower with clusters of tiny, straight, purple petals and straight pointy leaves.
The Blazing Star is very hardy, and beautiful but will also provide food for pollinators, birds and other important insects.
botanical-name botanical name Liatris spicata
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

If you are looking for a showy native perennial wildflower that’s beautiful, hardy, and beneficial for wildlife, blazing star is a great option. This plant grows with tall, erect stems lined with thin straight leaves.

Flower heads develop as spikes at the terminal ends of the stems, bursting into bloom with dense, feathery purple flowerheads. The flowers attract many insect pollinators and the subsequent seedheads attract seed-eating birds.

Blazing star occurs naturally in prairies, meadows, and other open sunny areas. This plant is an excellent choice for a pollinator garden, wildlife garden, or any sunny area with moist soil. The spent flowerheads are long-lasting and make an interesting visual display in the winter garden. They also make excellent cut flowers, both fresh and dried.

Blue Flag Iris

Close up of a beautiful blue flower with three larger petals that fan away from the three lobed petals in the center. Each petal has dark purple veining and a yellow spot in the center.
The Blue flag Iris does particularly well in areas that tend to have consistently wet soil.
botanical-name botanical name Iris versicolor
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 2.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

It can be difficult to find plants that grow well in wet soils. If you are looking for a plant that loves medium to wet soil, blue flag iris is a very good option. Use this iris flower to plant around ponds or streams, near a marsh or other wetland, or use it in a rain garden.

Blue flag iris does well in full sun or partial shade. It will readily naturalize to form a slowly-spreading colony. Colonies can be easily divided if necessary, or if you want to spread them around to other areas.

Large showy purple flowers bloom in late spring to early summer and the tall, thin, erect leaves are showy throughout the growing season but die back in winter.

Canada Anemone

Field of tall, skinny stems with small white flowers. Each flower has five oval shaped petals and a bright yellow center.
Also known as ‘Windflower’, the Canada Anemone is a fast growing plant that is best suited in large ares.
botanical-name botanical name Anemone canadensis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

The Canada anemone, also known as windflower, has a wide native range that includes the northeastern United States. This plant is tolerant of a variety of environmental conditions but prefers a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil.

Canada anemone can grow quickly and spread quickly and is best suited for a larger area where it can spread and naturalize, such as near wetlands or along stream banks.

Canada anemone produces an abundance of showy white flowers in the springtime. Leaves are deeply cut and provide interesting garden patterns and texture during the growing season. Large colonies of anemone make a beautiful display, but plants can be thinned if they grow too aggressively and become overgrown.

Christmas Fern

Close up of long leaf stems that are lined with smaller stems, lined with long skinny leaves with jagged edges.
The Christmas Fern is perfect for those shady corners of your garden and will also tolerate cold weather.
botanical-name botanical name Polystichum acrostichoides
plant-type plant type Fern
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

There are a limited number of plants that truly grow well in a shade garden, but ferns are always a good option. The Christmas fern grows very well in shady corners of the landscape, or in a dedicated shade garden.

Christmas fern is quite hardy and tolerant of not only shade, but cold temperatures, poor-quality soil, rabbits, and deer.

Ferns are non-flowering plants but have beautiful foliage that stays green from spring through late fall. Even after other vegetation dies back after a frost, fern foliage will remain green. By the end of winter, fern fronds will have turned brown and fallen, soon to be replaced by fresh green spring fiddleheads.

Columbine

Close up of a light red flower that is drooping downward from its stem. Each petal is a light red color that fades into yellow with long yellow stamen peeking out from the center.
The Columbine is know to be fairly versatile and can grow in full sun to partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia canadensis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Columbine is a beautiful native wildflower that is easy to start from seed. There are several colorful cultivars available, but the native variety has flowers of a pale reddish color that fades to yellow. Flowers are unusually shaped, drooping gracefully downward. Flowers bloom in the springtime and are favored by hummingbirds.

Columbine is fairly versatile and can be grown in full sun to partial shade. It prefers medium-moisture, well-drained soil, but tolerates some dry soil as it becomes established.

In sunny spots or warm locations, leaves may die back by mid-summer. If foliage dies after blooming, don’t worry, just prune it to the ground and the plant should regrow the following spring.

Flowering Raspberry

Close up of a plant with delicate pink flowers and large five pointed leaves. Each flower has five, rounded, paper like petals with a round spiky yellow center.
This native plant produces delightful, fragrant, dusty pink flowers with golden stamens.
botanical-name botanical name Rubus odoratus
plant-type plant type Deciduous shrub
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 6 feet

Flowering raspberry is a flowering shrub that has fragrant showy flowers that bloom in the springtime. It does produce fruits, but they are not the sweet tasty raspberries like you might find in a store. Birds, however, will be interested in the berries, and butterflies are attracted to the pinkish-purple flowers.

Plant your flowering raspberry in a location with moist, well-drained soil. These plants tolerate full sun but actually prefer a bit of afternoon shade.

This would be a good plant to add to a shrub border or shade garden. Give them plenty of space to grow as they tend to spread over time. Prune back extra growth as needed.

Great Blue Lobelia

Tall flower with clusters of purple, trumpet shaped, flowers clustered around the top of the stalk.
Also known as the ‘blue cardinal flower’, these flowers are an ideal target for many different pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Lobelia siphilitica
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Great blue lobelia, also called blue cardinal flower, displays very showy blue flowers. It produces large, bold spikes of tubular, light purple flowers. The flowers bloom from mid-summer until early fall and attract both hummingbirds and butterflies.

This would be an ideal plant for an area with consistently moist soil and partial shade. Great blue lobelia is a good plant for a rain garden, wildflower garden, or planting along a pond or wetland area. It grows readily from seed and spreads over time. Large clumps can be easily divided as needed to control growth.

Highbush Blueberry

Close up of a branch that has clusters of small dark purple and light green berries.
The Highbush Blueberry shrub produces these delicious edible berries followed by delicate, bell-shaped flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium corymbosum
plant-type plant type Deciduous shrub
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 6 to 12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 8

If you are looking for a shrub that is attractive, produces tasty fruits, and attracts birds and butterflies, highbush blueberry is a good choice. This plant grows best in acidic soil (with a pH between 4.8 and 5.2) that is moist and well-drained. Blueberry plants typically grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

Highbush blueberry blooms in the spring with clusters of tiny pinkish-white, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers attract butterflies and bees. Fruits develop by mid-summer and are good to eat if the birds don’t get them all first! In addition to spring flowers and summer fruits, you will enjoy their showy red fall foliage.

Blueberry bushes grow best with some regular pruning and can be used as part of an edible landscape, wildlife garden, or in a shrub border.

Joe Pye Weed

Long red stalk with smaller red stems growing out form it that have clusters of small pink flower buds.
The Joe Pye Weed produces flowers that are known to attract butterflies and other pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Eutrochium purpureum
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 5 to 7 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Joe Pye weed is a tall perennial wildflower that, if you have the space for it, offers a lot of benefits. From mid-summer to early fall, Joe Pye weed blooms with large clusters of pale pink-mauve flowers. The flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators and are quite showy in a somewhat non-traditional way.

Joe Pye weed likes moist soils in full sun to part shade. This perennial plant is low-maintenance but will spread. It’s best to grow in a location where it can naturalize as it looks rather spectacular in large clusters. Larger clumps can be divided as needed to control unwanted growth.

Limber Honeysuckle

Close up of two tall stems with long oval shaped leaves, one round leaf at the top and a small red berry-like flower bud in the center.
The Limber Honeysuckle is native to the eastern United States and will reach about 10 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Lonicera dioica
plant-type plant type Deciduous vine
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to shade
height height 3 to 10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

The limber honeysuckle is a variety of honeysuckle that is native to the central and eastern United States. It is a relatively short vine with upright woody growth habits, making it appear more like a small shrub. It grows in dry to moist soils, and is not picky about light intensity, growing well in both sunny and shady locations.

Limber honeysuckle produces clusters of tubular red flowers at the terminal ends of its branches. The flowers are highly favored by hummingbirds and also attract bees and other pollinators. This would be a good plant to incorporate into a pollinator or wildlife garden, or as part of a shade garden.

Little Bluestem

Tall grassy bush with long, skinny sprays of green grass topped with a a light maroon fluffy top.
Little Bluestem is a lovely ornamental grass that can provide texture and variety to your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Schizachyrium scoparium
plant-type plant type Ornamental grass
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

Ornamental grasses can be a valued addition to the native plant garden. They provide year-round interest, add a touch of fall color, and add variety to the mix of leafy vegetation.

While many ornamental grasses are nonnative species, little bluestem is native to the eastern United States and is both hardy and well-adapted to local conditions.

Little bluestem is a clump-forming grass, developing clusters of tall medium-green stems tinged with maroon. In fall, fluffy white seeds appear, and the grass becomes pinkish in color before fading to brown for the winter. Foliage may remain standing through the winter months. Cut vegetation to the ground in late winter or early spring to make room for fresh growth.

Mapleleaf Viburnum

Close up of a pale green leaf with three points and a jagged edge. In the center of the leaf there is a cluster of tiny dark blue berries.
The Mapleleaf Viburnum prefers well-drained soil a bit of shade and plenty of space to spread out.
botanical-name botanical name Viburnum acerifolium
plant-type plant type Deciduous shrub
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Mapleleaf viburnum is an attractive understory shrub that grows well in locations with some shade. Soil should be well-drained but generally moist.

Mapleleaf viburnum will slowly spread by underground suckers, so it’s best grown as part of a woody hedge or another area where it can naturalize and have plenty of space.

This plant grows a series of sparsely branched, upright, woody stems. The leaves somewhat resemble maple leaves, hence its common name.

In the springtime, showy clusters of small white flowers attract pollinators, and birds will eat the round black berries in the fall. Beautiful fall foliage is a highlight of the mapleleaf viburnum, so you can enjoy this plant for the entire growing season.

Pale Coneflower

Group of tall stems with a round, spiky ball in the center surrounded by long, skinny, pale pink petals that are growing in a downward direction.
The Pale Coneflower Plants is easily grown from seed and will self-seed to reproduce.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea pallida
plant-type plant type Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 10

If you are familiar with the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), the pale coneflower looks similar, but with thinner, pale pink petals that droop dramatically downward. This is an excellent plant for a wildlife garden or pollinator garden, as the flowers are very attractive to butterflies.

If you don’t deadhead flowers after blooming, the seed heads will attract seed-eating birds. Plants can be easily grown from seed and will readily self-seed.

Pale coneflower blooms in mid-summer. In large numbers, these plants put on a spectacular display of blooms. Flowers are long-lasting in the garden and also make good cut flowers. Coneflowers grow best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. They also tolerate heat, humidity, dry soil, deer, and cold winters.

Smooth White Beardtongue

Long red stems with tiny red stems growing along it with pale pink, tubular flowers.
This native will thrive best in full sun and well-drained soil.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon digitalis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Smooth white beardtongue, also sometimes called foxglove beardtongue, is a very showy plant for your native perennial garden. Blooming in the springtime, clusters of showy, white, tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bees.

Given time, this perennial will expand to form a cluster of plants that bloom in the springtime with a large mass of white flower spikes.

Plant your beardtongue in a location with full sun. Soil should be average, medium moisture, and well drained. It would be a great addition to a native wildflower garden, pollinator garden, or prairie garden. Seedheads are long-standing at the end of the season, providing some structure and interest well into fall.

Sneezeweed

Close up of bright orange flowers with a dark brown and yellow bulbous center. Each flower has dozens of orange petals with three rounded prongs at the top.
The Sneezeweed with produce tons of showy, daisy like flowers that will attract a variety of pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Helenium autumnale
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1.25 to 1.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

This easily grown perennial wildflower is colorful and prolific. It forms mounding clumps of vegetation covered with bright orange and yellow daisy-like flowers. Flowers bloom in profusion from mid-summer into fall and attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Sneezeweed would be a great addition to a wildflower garden, butterfly garden, or even a rain garden, as it is tolerant of periodically wet soil conditions. Grow it in full sun with moist soil but avoid dry soils. Plants will spread over time and can be easily divided to maintain vigorous growth.

Swamp Milkweed

Tall green stem with a ball of tiny pink flowers clustered at the top.
These flowers will grow to be around 4 feet tall and will thrive in full sun.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias incarnata
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 6

Anyone wanting to attract butterflies to their yard should grow a milkweed plant. These beautiful perennials are the host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar, which feeds exclusively on milkweeds. Milkweeds also attract many adult butterflies and pollinators of various species.

The swamp milkweed does like moist soil conditions, but will also do well in average-moisture, well-drained soil. Plant it in full sun to enjoy a prolific display of pinkish-mauve flowers. These plants grow up to 4 feet tall and may spread over time, so give them plenty of space to grow and expand.

Woodbine

Close up of two spider-like, white flowers surrounded by small green leaves.
Also known as ‘Woodbine’, this vining flower will reach a height of 20 feet.
botanical-name botanical name Clematis virginiana
plant-type plant type Vine 
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 12-20 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Virginia virgin’s bower, also known as woodbine, is a native clematis vine that can be found in forests throughout the eastern United States. It grows well in full sun to part shade with medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

Because this is a climbing vine, give it a trellis, arbor, or fence to grow along. Be aware that there is a very similar-looking invasive species, the Japanese virgin’s bower (Clematis terniflora); avoid planting this species if possible.

Virginia virgin’s bower vines can grow vigorously, and it won’t be long before you have a densely-growing patch of vegetation. Virginia virgin’s bower vines grow compound leaves, each with 3 to 5 toothed leaflets.

Masses of fragrant white flowers bloom from late summer through early fall, followed by uniquely attractive seedheads. Plants will freely self-seed, so be prepared for some spread.

Wild Bergamot

Close up of light purple flowers with clusters of pale purple, tubular flowers that look spiky from far.
This native plant is a member if the mint family and will help keep deer and rabbits away from your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Monarda fistulosa
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

Wild bergamot is a member of the mint family and has distinctively fragrant leaves and flowers. Clusters of pale purple, tubular flowers bloom from mid to late summer. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and are quite showy, especially while blooming in large numbers.

This would be a good plant for an herb garden, pollinator garden, or naturalized meadow area. Deer and rabbits don’t bother these plants, and they are tolerant of poor soil conditions, including some drought. Thin plants as desired to keep them growing vigorously and control any unwanted spread.

Wild Geranium

Close up of two light pink flowers that have five, rounded petals that fade from pink to pale pink in the center. The foliage surrounding it are large, bright green leaves with five points.
This type of geranium is low-maintenance and can tolerate poor soil conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Geranium maculatum
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 1.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 8

Wild geranium, also sometimes called cranesbill geranium, is an attractive native perennial that would be at home in almost any garden setting.

Grow these with other perennials, borders, woodland gardens, or butterfly gardens. Showy pinkish-lilac flowers adorn the plants each spring and attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Plants grown in bright light will form attractive clumps, while those grown in shade may be more sprawling. They prefer medium-moisture, well-drained soil, but will tolerate less-than-ideal soil conditions. After flowering, the seed pod develops a long-pointed stalk, giving way to the common name, “cranesbill.”

Wild Ginger

Large heart shaped leaves growing low to the ground in a shady, wooded area.
Regardless of its name, the Wild Ginger plant is not edible but does gives off a light ginger fragrance.
botanical-name botanical name Asarum canadense
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 0.5 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 7

Wild ginger is an excellent ground cover for shade gardens and woodland gardens. Over time, this plant will form colonies of large, curling, heart-shaped leaves that seem to grow on stems emerging directly from the ground.

Flowers form in an unusual manner, at the base of the leaves, just at ground level. Flowers are inconspicuous, but showy for the curious people who seek them out. The flowers are cup-shaped, brownish-purple in color, with 3 triangular petals.

Wild ginger grows best in a shaded location, but it can tolerate a fair amount of sun as well. It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. Despite its name, wild ginger is not related to the more familiar culinary ginger and does not produce any edible parts, but the roots do have a slightly ginger-like fragrance.

Final Thoughts

If you are creating a native plant garden, you have a multitude of beautiful perennials, vines, grasses, ferns, and shrubs to choose from. The most important thing to consider when selecting your plants will be to choose those that are best adapted to your local conditions.

Pay particular attention to a plant’s requirements for sunlight, soil moisture, and available space. You can create a themed garden, such as a butterfly garden or prairie garden, or you can plant just a few select species in a smaller space. Regardless of your gardening goals, native plants have a lot to offer and will make a rewarding addition to any garden setting.

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