15 Easy to Grow Native Plants

Do you want native plants in your garden but fear long lists of growing requirements? Fear not! Many native plants adapt to your local ecosystem and require less care than non-native plants. Gardener Jerad Bryant selects 15 natives for their easy care requirements, their wide range of growth, and their willingness to adapt to new surroundings.

easy native plants. Close-up of a blooming Echinacea in a sunny garden. A small beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, sits on a flower. The coneflower flower consists of a cone-shaped copper-colored center surrounded by pink-purple petals.


The first native plant I planted in my garden was a tall Oregon grape. Each year, I give it little attention, yet it puts on a gorgeous display no matter what season. Native plants give a lot while requiring little.

On top of that, many natives are easy to plant and thrive on less care than non-natives in your garden. They invite local pollinators like bees and beetles, and they also provide living spaces for critters like lizards and snakes. Bugs that visit local plants invite local birds that prey on them, which in turn leads to more predatory birds making a home in your area.

Invite nature into your backyard with locally adapted plants. They are forgiving and overachieving when you plant them in a good spot, and some of them you can easily start from seed! Read on to discover easy native plant species you can foster in your landscape

Oregon Grape

Close-up of a flowering Berberis aquifolium plant, commonly known as Oregon grape, against a blurred background. The plant presents a striking appearance with its holly-like evergreen foliage, featuring spiny leaves clustered along arching branches. The leaves, glossy and dark green, provide a rich backdrop for the plant's vibrant yellow flowers, which bloom in clusters.
This charming, slow-growing shrub is native to the Pacific Northwest.
botanical-name botanical name Berberis aquifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Oregon grape is a slow-growing stunner with green spiny leaves and bright yellow blooms. This shrub is native to the Pacific Northwest and handles dry shade with ease. In warm locations, it benefits from shade, but it tolerates sunny locations in wet areas. 

This tall shrub performs well as a hedge material. Its leaves change colors from green to red in winter. For a smaller shrub two to three feet high, try the cultivar ‘Compacta.’ A fun new one is ‘Orange Flame.’ It is the same size as ‘Compacta’, but displays copper-colored new growth that turns deep red in the cold. 

Direct sow Oregon grape seeds during fall so that they can undergo stratification in winter. When spring arrives, a few seeds should sprout. Transplant seedling babies and water them well, or let them thrive where they germinate. You can also transplant this plant from nursery stock. Keep it moist for the first year, and next year, it will survive in the shade with minimal irrigation.


Close-up of Vaccinium plant in a salt garden. The plant is characterized by small, oval-shaped leaves that range in color from deep green to vibrant red. It produces clusters of small, round berries that are pale green with a slightly purple blush.
Loved for beauty and edibility, blueberry plants thrive in various settings.
botanical-name botanical name Vaccinium spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6 inches – 12 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

A longtime landscaping favorite, blueberry plants are beautiful and edible, and they provide for gardeners and wildlife with ease. Most blueberry plants are descendants of an East Coast native Vaccinium corymbosum. Species and hybrids make for excellent specimen plants, but they are also excellent as a hedge or border material. 

With blueberry breeding ramping up in recent decades, supermarkets now have plenty of options for blueberry varieties to eat, and nurseries have tons of varieties to grow. Similar to azaleas and rhododendrons, blueberries thrive with the same care as these woodland plants. They like acidic, free-draining soil and enjoy full sun with regular water during growing seasons. 

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From Alaska to Southern California and Maine to Florida, blueberry plants can grow in the garden. Look to local nurseries for species that thrive in your climate. In cold-winter areas, transplant blueberries in early spring after the danger of frost has passed. In mild-frost and warm-winter areas transplant in the fall before frost arrives.


Close-up of blooming Salvia greggii 'Mirage Salmon' against a blurred green background. The 'Mirage Salmon' variety is distinguished by its charming tubular salmon-pink blooms, which emerge in profusion atop slender stems.
With diverse species, sage offers drought tolerance and vibrant blossoms.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-10

Sage is a common name for the genus Salvia, of which there are around 900 species! It is the largest genus in the mint family Lamiaceae, and it has varieties native to most parts of the U.S. Plants range in size from small perennials to large shrubs, and all have lipped flowers that open when pulled apart.

Most sages are drought-tolerant and enjoy full sun. The majority are native to dry, Southwestern states, although a few, like prairie sage Salvia azurea grandiflora grow well in most states. For colorful flowers and superb cold-hardiness, try varieties of autumn sage Salvia greggii. Its flower color ranges from white to hot pink and from true red to dark purple. 

To grow sage from seed, scatter seed in early spring after the last frost date in your area. Keep seeds moist until germination, then water seedlings when the soil dries out. Established sage is drought-tolerant but requires deep watering once a month in dry-summer areas. If using transplants, plant them into the garden in free-draining soil in early spring. 


Close-up of Agave parryi, commonly known as Parry's agave. It presents a striking appearance with its rosette of thick, succulent leaves arranged in a symmetrical pattern. Each leaf is rigid and fleshy, featuring prominent spines along the margins and a powdery blue-gray coloration.
These succulents offer striking rosettes in landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Agave spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Adaptive and tough, plants in the Agave genus are architectural native beauties. Often having spiny, long, succulent leaves, agave plants form a rosette with their growth. Colors range from deep green to silver-blue, and sizes range from 10 feet wide to less than three feet wide. 

A stellar small species to try is Agave parryi. This agave is native to Arizona and Mexico, and it survives in cold areas where other agaves struggle. If you garden in zone seven or below, you can plant agave in a pot and take it into a garage or room in your house for the winter. Most agaves are cold-hardy. They simply cannot tolerate wet, cold weather and prefer to stay dry when cold temperatures arrive. 

To plant agave, identify a species or variety that performs well in your area. Plant transplants in the ground in zones nine and above and pots in zones seven and below. Ensure your soil has steep drainage. You can also easily grow agave from suckers that grow off of main plants. Propagate these by cutting them off at their base and planting them in pots with steep drainage. 

Prickly Pear Cactus

Close-up of Opuntia ficus-indica in a sunny garden. Opuntia ficus-indica, commonly known as prickly pear or Indian fig, presents a unique appearance with its flattened, oval-shaped pads adorned with clusters of sharp spines. The pads are blue-green in color. It produces edible fruits, known as prickly pears, which range in color from green to purple and are adorned with tiny glochids, hair-like spines.
Ornamental and nutritious, this plant offers colorful textures in gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Opuntia ficus-indica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10-15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

Like blueberries, prickly pear cactus provides both ornamental and nutritional value to your garden. Its green fleshy pads, yellow-orange flowers, and red fruits create a colorful palette of textures that is fun to look at. The best part of this plant is that its red, spiny fruits are edible (as well as the pads)! You may find these available at the grocery store with their spines cut off.

Plants in the Opuntia genus are drought-tolerant, full sun-loving, and cold-hardy in dry-winter areas. Like agave, this cactus grows well in containers. Bring it indoors for the winter in growing zones 1-7. Use soil with steep drainage for optimal growing success, and plant it on a hill or mound to increase its survivability. In super hot climates without rain, deep water once a month in summer seasons. 

Grow prickly pear from seed or propagated pads off of a mother plant. Seeds grow new offspring, and propagated pads create clones of the parent plant. To grow from seed, scatter seeds in free-draining soil in early spring. Water well until sprouts form, then cut back on watering until the soil dries. 

Pads are much easier to propagate. Simply cut a pad off, let its wound dry and callous, and place the pad in free-draining soil. Roots should sprout after a few weeks. Water pads after they root when their soil dries out.


Close-up of a flowering Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plant, commonly known as barberry, against a blurred background. The small, leathery leaves are glossy and dark green. It produces delicate pink or white bell-shaped flowers.
A resilient groundcover with striking fall contrast and native history.
botanical-name botanical name Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

A longtime favorite groundcover, kinnikinnik is a well-rounded plant that offers erosion control and drought tolerance in temperate areas. The red fruit and deep green leaves on this plant contrast beautifully in the fall. It has smooth, burnt-mahogany-colored bark. It is also a native plant with a long history of use on the East and West Coasts by native peoples.

In the garden, kinnikinnik is a tough plant for exposed areas where other plants struggle to grow. Once it establishes itself, it spreads up to 15 feet wide and forms a thick, impenetrable mat on the soil. For a small-leaved plant, try ‘Massachusetts,’ and for a more heat-tolerant plant, try the cultivar ‘Point Reyes.’

Seeds do not sprout readily and require some care, but most nurseries in zones two through eight carry kinnikinnik transplants. In some areas, nurseries may call it “bearberry.” Plant transplants in soil with good drainage in full sun, and water them well. Then, water once the soil dries out. The next year after planting, your ground cover will require less water, about once a month during growing seasons. 


Close-up of a flowering Cornus canadensis plant under sunlight. The oval-shaped leaves are glossy and dark green, forming dense mats on the forest floor. Delicate white flowers held close to the ground on short stems.
A charming ground cover with delicate flowers and vibrant fruit.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus canadensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 6-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-6

Did you know there is a dogwood ground cover? That’s right, Cornus canadensis is a flowering dogwood ground cover that grows well in shady landscapes! It struggles in warm climates but is an excellent choice for gardeners in cold zones. 

The beauty of bunchberry lies in its flowers and fruit. Typical of dogwoods, bunchberry grows white flowers with four bracts surrounding them in early spring. These flowers turn into bright red fruit in late summer. Bunchberry also has veined green leaves that resemble dogwood trees’ leaves. 

Some online sources say bunchberry only grows up to zone six. However, I have had luck growing it in the Pacific Northwest with extra protection. In warm summer climates, plants benefit from being in shady, wet spots with irrigation. Wherever ferns and rhododendrons thrive, bunchberry thrives.

This native ground cover grows from creeping rootstock, and it does not transplant well because of its sensitive roots. Avoid transplanting and sow seeds in the fall. They should sprout in the spring. In warm winter areas, stratify seeds in the fridge for three months, then plant the seeds in the spring. Keep them moist, cool, and shaded. 

American Self-Heal

Close-up of flowering Prunella vulgaris var. lanceolata in a sunny garden. This plant displays a charming appearance with its low-growing habit and lance-shaped leaves. The foliage forms dense mats of deep green, providing a lush backdrop for the plant's delicate spikes of small, tubular flowers. These flowers, which come in shades of purple, rise above the foliage on slender stems.
A native gem with vibrant blooms loved by local wildlife.
botanical-name botanical name Prunella vulgaris var. lanceolata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-20 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

You may have heard of self-heal, but what about American self-heal? Prunella vulgaris var. lanceolata is the native species lookalike of the invasive European self-heal Prunella vulgaris. Well-behaved, this native spreads less than the European species. 

This gorgeous groundcover has thin green leaves that are longer than they are wide. Each spring, its focal point is purple and pink flower spikes that rise above the foliage. These provide nectar and pollen for a multitude of local wildlife, like bees, caterpillars, and moths. 

American self-heal is one of the easiest plants to grow on this list. It spreads readily from its rhizomes, fibrous roots, and from seed. To grow this herbaceous perennial, plant seed in early spring on moist ground after the last frost date in your area. Water well, and expect to see seeds in a week or two. Once established, this plant can survive temperate summers with no extra irrigation.

Beach Strawberry

Close-up of a young Fragaria chiloensis plant with mulched soil. The leaves are trifoliate and serrated, forming dense mats. They are glossy green in color.
This coastal marvel offers erosion control and tiny, flavorful strawberries.
botanical-name botanical name Fragaria chiloensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6-12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

A coastal favorite, beach strawberry is a spreading ground cover that is one parent species of strawberry plants grown on farms today. This native produces strawberries, but they are much smaller and seedier than grocery-store strawberries. 

Where this plant truly shines is its erosion control and its wealth of nectar for local wildlife. Native to rocky, sandy, and salty areas in North America, beach strawberry spreads and covers difficult areas. Where it colonizes, it throws up sets of three serrated green leaflets and white flowers in the spring. 

This is a species of strawberry that grows true to type from seed. To plant seeds, cut them off of a mature beach strawberry fruit. Let them dry, then plant in moist soil in early spring. With continued irrigation, your seeds will sprout into baby strawberry plants. The next year they may put out runners that spread and further colonize your garden.

Ostrich Fern

Close-up of Matteuccia struthiopteris, commonly known as ostrich fern, in the forest. The plant presents a striking appearance with its graceful, arching fronds that resemble the plumage of an ostrich. Each frond is composed of numerous leaflets arranged in a feathery pattern, creating a lush and airy texture.
A classic woodland beauty, spreading gracefully with edible fiddleheads.
botanical-name botanical name Onoclea struthiopteris
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Want a fern that easily spreads? Try ostrich fern! This ancient plant is a North American native, and it spreads readily through rhizomes. For gardeners in northern climates, this fern is a selection of choice in a woodland or cottage garden. 

Like most ferns, ostrich fern grows long, airy fronds from its center. These fronds grow throughout summer, and in autumn, they have spores covering their undersides. Ostrich fern is deciduous, and each winter, after producing spores, the foliage dies back to the ground. In spring, edible fiddleheads emerge!

To grow ostrich fern, find starts at your local nursery and transplant them into a shady spot. You can also find an existing ostrich fern with spores and use fronds to scatter spores in a moist area of your garden. In spring, baby ferns emerge!

Lady Fern

Close-up of Athyrium filix-femina, commonly known as lady fern, in a sunny garden. It presents a delicate and graceful appearance with its finely divided, lance-shaped fronds.
A graceful native, spreading delicate fronds in shaded woodlands.
botanical-name botanical name Athyrium filix-femina
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Another hardy, deciduous fern is the lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina. It has more finely divided fronds than ostrich fern, and it often has multiple rosettes of fronds sprouting from a central rootstock. This native fern spreads readily once it establishes itself, and it covers woodland settings with ease. 

In spring new fronds emerge from this native’s woody rootstock. By mid-summer, fronds are four feet tall and three feet wide on mature specimens! Plant lady fern in an area where it can spread and roam. You can also easily grow them in containers on a patio garden. 

Lady fern loves shady areas of the garden. It can also grow in full sun with increased irrigation so that its soil remains moist. In shady areas, it is drought-tolerant. Grow lady fern from nursery transplants or from sprinkling spores off of a frond onto soil. 


Close-up of a flowering Asclepias tuberosa plant, commonly known as butterfly weed, in a sunny garden. It showcases a vibrant and eye-catching appearance with its clusters of bright orange, butterfly-attracting flowers and slender, lance-shaped leaves. The upright stems rise from a basal rosette, adorned with numerous flowers that create a striking contrast against the foliage.
The ‘butterfly weed’ bursts with vibrant orange blooms, inviting fluttering visitors with nectar-rich allure.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

The United States has a wealth of milkweeds that are native, and there is one in your area that grows well in your garden. East Coast and Midwest gardeners have butterfly weed and swamp milkweed, and West Coast gardeners have showy milkweed. These different species vary in water needs. Here is a short breakdown of four popular native milkweeds:

  • Asclepias incarnata “swamp milkweed”
    • This species grows in swamps and bogs and likes regular water.
  • Asclepias purpurascens “purple milkweed”
    • A tough, drought-tolerant milkweed, plant it in free-draining soil.
  • Asclepias speciosa “showy milkweed”
    • A west coast favorite, showy milkweed likes dry, open conditions. 
  • Asclepias tuberosa “butterfly weed”
    • Orange flowers adorn this drought-tolerant milkweed. 

All milkweeds are ecologically beneficial in their native range, and they provide ample nectar and foliage for surrounding wildlife. To grow milkweed in your garden, plant seeds in early spring. Water seedlings well until they sprout and establish themselves. Milkweeds are hardy perennials; they die back in winter but return in early spring. 


Close-up of a blooming Lupinus under sunlight in a garden. Lupinus, commonly known as lupine, displays a striking appearance with its tall spikes adorned with densely packed clusters of vibrant, pea-like pink flowers. The palmate leaves are composed of several leaflets, adding a lush backdrop to the colorful blooms.
A resilient beauty with colorful spikes thriving nationwide.
botanical-name botanical name Lupinus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Lupinus is a tough genus of plants with hundreds of types native to the U.S. Like milkweed, this plant’s native types vary, and all prefer slightly different growing conditions. Generally, lupines appreciate free-draining soil, full sun, and regular water. There are hardy perennial and annual types that thrive throughout the country.

Lupine has finely serrated leaves from a central point that grow profusely at its base. It grows tall spikes of flowers that resemble pea flowers. Hybrids at garden centers range in color from bright blue and yellow to deep maroon and white. There are tons of varieties to choose from! 

Grow lupine from transplants at nurseries or from seed. Plant in an area with full sun and ample drainage from fall to spring. You can grow lupine from seed throughout these seasons as well. If seeds do not sprout readily, try soaking them in water before planting. This helps speed up the germination process. 


Close-up of blooming Aquilegia in the garden against a blurred background. Aquilegia, commonly known as columbine, presents a charming appearance with its delicate, bell-shaped flowers that hang gracefully from slender stems. These flowers are white with contrasting purple spurs. The foliage is composed of lobed or divided leaves, forming an airy and attractive backdrop for the colorful blooms.
A native delight with star-shaped flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-48 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

Like milkweed, columbine is a native wildflower with a huge variety of species and hybrids! With a wide range comes a wide variety of conditions, and that is true for all plants in the Aquilegia genus. They have dainty leaves and epic flowers. 

Their flowers have a star shape with spurs extending out behind them, and they are sometimes two contrasting colors. Spurs have nectar in them, and hummingbirds love to fly up and drink it. Native species and hybrids present beneficial nectar and food for wildlife, and both are equally stunning.

This short-lived perennial may die after a few years. Let flowers remain on the plants so that they form seeds. Seedlings grow from seeds and slowly spread throughout the garden. These plants appreciate regular water during dry summers, but many of them otherwise thrive in shade.  


Close-up of flowering Echinacea plants in a garden. Echinacea, commonly known as coneflower, presents a striking appearance with its large, daisy-like flowers featuring prominent raised centers surrounded by colorful petals that come in purple. These vibrant blooms are held atop sturdy stems rising from a basal rosette of lance-shaped leaves.
Whimsical blooms in a spectrum of colors enchant gardens effortlessly.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1-4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Native to the East Coast and central North America, coneflowers are colorful wildflowers with whimsical flower heads. Ranging from purple to green and orange to red, these flowers delight in the garden when planted en masse. All appreciate full sun, ample drainage, and regular water during the hot summer months. 

Echinacea species are perennials, although they also readily sprout from seed. A wildlife favorite is purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea. Bees and flies love the pollen and nectar of this species, and finches favor its seeds in the fall and winter. 

Grow coneflowers from seeds after your last frost date. You can also find them readily available at most nurseries across the U.S. Situate plants in full sun with ample drainage or in containers and borders. Mature plants slowly grow to spread an area and eventually reach two to three feet wide!

Final Thoughts

Natives are awesome! They outperform themselves again and again, and they delight growers with the local wildlife they invite. Easy-to-grow native plants are an excellent choice as they require less care than most other species, and they give you more time to enjoy the garden you’ve planted.

With perennials, annuals, and cacti native to the U.S., there are options on this list for every gardener, from Alaska to Florida. Start expanding your landscape to be a part of the local ecosystem, and plant one of these easy-to-grow plants today! 

A serviceberry tree with ripe blue fruits on a shady day.


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Close-up of a Ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from orange zinnia flower blooming in the garden. Zinnia is one of the favorite bird plants, especially for the hummingbird. The male sports a brilliant emerald-green back, while his throat, as the name suggests, shines with a stunning iridescent ruby-red hue, creating a striking contrast. The wings are translucent and move rapidly in a blur.

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Close-up of Autumn Joy Sedum plants in bloom in a sunny garden. Autumn Joy Sedum is a striking perennial plant with thick, fleshy, blue-green leaves that form dense mounds. The plant produces flat clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers ranging from pale pink to deep pink.


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