19 Fun Plants Named for Animals

Are you hoping to have a little fun with your garden? Try growing some of these fantastic plants named after animals! There are all sorts of beautiful, lively, and easy-to-grow plants for just about any gardening style. Have a look at these 19 animal-themed plants that you can use to start your own plant-based menagerie.

A close-up bursts with vibrant color, showcasing a cluster of snapdragon flowers in a garden. Pink, yellow, and purple blooms unfurl their unique pouch-like shapes. Soft green, fuzzy leaves and stems frame the vibrant display.

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Do you love plants? Do you also love animals? How about combining the two and growing some plants named after animals? There is a huge assortment of plants with animal-inspired names. You can find annuals, perennials, houseplants, shrubs, and even trees named after everything from insects and ocean creatures to birds and large mammals.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live in or travel to exotic locations to grow these plants at home. You will, however, want to choose the best plants for your landscape. If you are adding perennials to your garden, be sure to check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map to identify your zone. This will help you choose plants that will be hardy in your region. Then, you’ll want to match your sun and soil conditions with the appropriate plants. 

You’ll be able to find animal-themed plants to suit just about any gardening style, such as a prairie garden, rock garden, or woodland garden. You’ll find some fast-growing plants to start from seed, bulbs to plant in the spring or fall, houseplants for your sunny windows, and many showy annuals and perennials you can buy directly from your local garden center.

Ready to add a fun-loving wildlife element to your garden? Gardening expert and wildlife biologist Liessa Bowen will introduce you to 19 of her favorite plants named after animals

Green Zebra Tomato

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Green Zebra Pole Tomato Seeds

Speckled Swan Gourd

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Hard-shelled Gourd Seeds

Teddy Bear Sunflower

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Dwarf Sunflower Seeds

Beebalm

A captivating close-up reveals Bee Balm flowers in full bloom, resembling a floral explosion. Numerous slender red petals fan out, their vibrant color punctuated by darker red spots. The blooms rise gracefully from slender green stems, with a few serrated leaves visible in the soft background blur.
Colorful bee balms draw hummingbirds and bees making them excellent for pollinator gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Monarda spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

There are some very colorful bee balms, some also known as horsemint or bergamot, that are wonderful perennials for your pollinator garden. Several bee balm species are native to North America and could be right at home in your native plant garden or pocket prairie. 

Beebalm is a member of the mint family, and all have fragrant leaves and stems. The flowers bloom anytime from late spring through late summer and attract many different insect pollinators, especially bees, as the name implies.

The spectacular clusters of long, thin, tubular flowers also appeal to hummingbirds. These plants can spread quickly, so you’ll want to keep your beebalm patches thinned regularly to give your plants plenty of space to grow.

Butterfly Weed

A cluster of vibrant orange butterfly weed blossoms, their petals unfurling like sunshine in slow motion. Some flowers stand proudly open, while others peek out from behind, their buds still tightly closed.
Native butterfly weed attracts butterflies and serves as a host for monarch caterpillars.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias tuberosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Would you like to attract butterflies to your garden? Butterfly weed, true to its name, is a butterfly favorite. This pollinator magnet will bring a wide variety of butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects to your garden. Milkweed plants, such as butterfly weed, are the larval host plants for the beautiful monarch butterfly whose caterpillars feast on the leaves. 

Butterfly weed is native to the eastern United States, where it grows in grasslands, sunny fields, and along roadsides. This perennial wildflower blooms throughout the summer and has gorgeous bright orange flower clusters and a long blooming season. After flowering, butterfly weed develops ornamental seedpods that dry and crack open to reveal fluffy, silky seed masses.

Cardinal Flower

Red cardinal flowers dominate the frame. Soft, vibrant petals unfurl from their base, contrasting with the spiky tips that resemble a sea urchin's shell. Bathed in warm sunlight, they stand out against a blurred green background.
Rain gardens are a great place for cardinal flowers, which draw hummingbirds with their vivid blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Lobelia cardinalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

If you love watching bright red cardinals feeding at your bird feeder, you will also love the spectacularly bright red blossoms of the cardinal flower. These magnificently showy flower spikes bloom in late summer and attract hummingbirds and butterflies (although probably not cardinals). When blooming in a large clump, this late-season wildflower is sure to be the center of attention.

Cardinal flowers are native to moist habitats of the eastern and southern United States and Canada. They love consistently moist soil and would be an ideal plant for a partially shaded rain garden. Grow it in a cottage garden or pocket prairie alongside other native perennial wildflowers for a beautiful mix of bright colors.

Elephant Ears

A vibrant close-up showcases jumbo elephant ear plants, their broad green leaves filling the frame. Visible veins and thick stems hint at their tropical origins, while their shade creates a cool haven on the water's surface below.
Store elephant ear bulbs for cooler climates; they add vibrancy to gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Colocasia esculenta
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8 – 11

Elephants are known for having huge ears, and the elephant ears plant is aptly known for its huge leaves. Elephant ear plants grow from large bulb-like corms and are native to India and China. They are winter hardy in zones 8 through 11. If you live in a cooler climate, you’ll need to dig your bulbs and store them in a dry, cool, frost-free location until you can plant them out again the following spring. The bulbs multiply each year, growing larger as they become older. 

Each bulb will produce several long, flexible stems. At the top of each stem, a jumbo-sized leaf unfurls. Elephant ear varieties include bright green leaves, mottled purple leaves, greenish-blue leaves, and deep purplish-red leaves. Some varieties even have bright red stems. These fascinating leafy plants make a very interesting and tropical-looking addition to your garden, or try growing them in a large container!

Flowering Dogwood

A close-up captures the delicate beauty of a white dogwood flower. Its four, ivory-white petals boast unique, notched edges, framing a vibrant yellow-green center brimming with pollen. A clear blue sky peeks through behind the bloom, hinting at the spring sunshine.
Flowering dogwood in your landscape attracts wildlife and adds family-friendly charm.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus florida
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Are you a dog person? Perhaps you’d like to adopt a flowering dogwood for your landscape. The flowering dogwood is a familiar and family-friendly small tree. Dogwoods are native throughout eastern North America. These trees grow well in partially shaded areas with moist, well-drained soil

Each spring, the flowering dogwood produces a mass of large, white flowers that attract birds and butterflies. If you prefer pink flowers, check out some of the beautiful dogwood cultivars. By autumn, the flowers will be replaced with small, bright red, berry-like fruits that birds and small mammals love to feast on. Finally, the leaves change from green to spectacular shades of red for a final fall foliage display. 

Goat’s Beard

A close-up showcases the delicate beauty of a 'Kneiffii' goatsbeard in bloom. Its feathery plume of fluffy, creamy white flowers takes center stage, contrasting subtly with the outline of a well-maintained garden in the background.
Tall goat’s beard plants flourish in shaded gardens and moist environments.
botanical-name botanical name Aruncus dioicus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 7 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 6

Goat’s beard plants make interesting specimens in your shade garden, along a moist stream, or rain garden area. Some goats develop long, fluffy beards under their chins, while the goat’s beard plants produce fluffy, creamy white flowers that stand up tall in elegant flowering panicles. These late-spring bloomers are sure to cheer up any landscape. 

The goat’s beard plant, also known as bride’s feathers, is an herbaceous plant native to the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. It grows naturally in moist woodlands and along shaded streamsides. As a landscaping plant, give it plenty of space to grow because this bushy plant will mature into a robust leafy mound of vegetation.

Green Zebra Tomato

Three unripe Green Zebra tomatoes bursting with potential. Their vibrant yellow skin is adorned with lush green stripes, and their plump forms gleam with a healthy sheen. These soon-to-be delicacies are still basking in the sun, waiting for the perfect moment to be picked.
Add some flair to your garden with delicious and vibrant green zebra tomatoes.
botanical-name botanical name Solanum lycopersicum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6 – 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9 – 10

Are you looking for some stripes for your garden safari? The green zebra tomato is sure to please! These bright yellow and green tomatoes are not only beautifully stripy, but also delicious and bursting with flavor! The fruits grow to a mature size of two to three inches across and will produce many tomatoes per plant for your summer salads and snacks.

You’ll want to grow your green zebra tomatoes on a trellis or other support because these plants can grow quite long. Give your zebra tomatoes some company by growing them alongside some other colorful tomato varieties for a botanical rainbow of tasty fruits.

Hedgehog Cactus

This close-up captures the spiky wonder of a flowering hedgehog cactus. Long, light brown spines resemble prickly armor, while vibrant pink blooms burst forth from its crown. The dry environment hints at this desert dweller's resilience.
The hedgehog cactus resembles a spiny hedgehog with colorful flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Echinocereus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 – 12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 10

Using your imagination, you can see that the hedgehog cactus looks a bit like a spiny hedgehog with brightly colored flowers! These cactuses are primarily native to the desert environments of southern Texas and Mexico. While you can’t grow them in your garden in most locations, hedgehog cacti are commonly sold as houseplants.

All you need is a sunny window, a warm house, and well-drained cactus soil. Hedgehog cacti are fairly easy to care for and will grow slowly, requiring very little maintenance.

If you’re lucky and have a sunny enough window, your hedgehog cactus has a good chance of blooming! The showy flowers might be pink, red, orange, or yellow and will brighten your day.

Hens and Chicks

A cluster of Sempervivum tectorum rosettes, also known as hens and chicks. The vibrant rosettes, ranging in size and boasting a mesmerizing gradient of purple to green, fill the frame with a captivating display of natural beauty.
The hens and chicks succulent propagates easily, forming charming rosette communities in rock gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Sempervivum tectorum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

A mature “hen” of the hens and chicks plant develops a ring of young offsets or “chicks” just like a mother hen is followed by her brood of baby chicks. Each of these “chicks” will mature into a new mother “hen,” and your rock garden will soon be populated with an entire community of hens and chicks. Each low-growing leafy rosette is compact, well-rounded, and quite beautiful.

Although this plant looks like something well-suited for a hot, dry desert climate, hens and chicks are actually native to central Europe and well-adapted to moderate and cool climates. They do, however, require sunlight and well-drained soil. This is an excellent plant for xeriscapes, container gardens, and edges.

Lamb’s Ear

Lush and velvety, lamb's ear leaves fill the frame in this close-up. Their silvery-green surface shimmers with a powdery texture, created by a dense layer of soft, downy hairs. Long, pointed leaves with gently ruffled edges evoke the soft touch of a real lamb.
Lamb’s ear thrives as a low-maintenance ground cover with fuzzy, silvery foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Stachys byzantina
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12 – 18 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

The silvery-green leaves of lamb’s ear plants are covered with dense fuzz and as soft and wooly as a baby lamb. This fuzzy plant is an herbaceous perennial that will keep your garden alive with its showy foliage from spring through fall. The purplish pink flowers bloom in late spring and early summer, attracting pollinators.

Lamb’s ear is very easy to grow. It makes an excellent ground cover to fill in odd corners, edges, and along walkways. Lamb’s ear will spread over time to create a mass of low-growing leafy foliage.

Lamb’s ear prefers a sunny location with well-drained soil. Once established, these plants are wonderfully drought tolerant, whereas wet soil will cause them to develop root rot.

Ostrich Fern

A close-up of an ostrich fern, its deep green fronds bathed in dappled sunlight. Light carves a mosaic of emerald and jade across its textured surface, while blurred greenery hints at a lush garden beyond.
These ferns are tall and broad plants that grow well in shaded areas.
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

You may not want an ostrich running around in your garden, but an ostrich fern is a wonderful and easy-to-grow fern. This fern is well-suited for a shaded part of your landscape, where it will grow up to five feet tall and 4 feet wide. Give it moist, well-drained soil and plenty of space because these ferns will spread in ideal conditions.

Do you have a moist woodland garden or shade garden with dappled sunlight? Ostrich fern provides dramatic greenery for the entire growing season. Watch for the showy fiddleheads to emerge early in the spring, unfurling into large, feathery fronds. Allow these plants to naturalize for a low-maintenance giant ground cover. After a few years, you will have a lush green forest of ferns.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

A close-up reveals a vibrant Rabbit's foot fern, its delicate fronds unfurling like graceful fingers. The fern's healthy green color pops against the softly blurred background, hinting at its placement near a sheltered outdoor space.
Rabbit’s foot ferns thrive as popular houseplants in partially shaded areas.
botanical-name botanical name Davallia solida var. fejeensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10 – 12

What has big fuzzy rhizomatous roots like a rabbit’s foot and leafy green foliage like a fern? A rabbit’s foot fern, of course. These interesting ferns are popular houseplants that can be grown in a partially shaded window. You can also use them in a hanging basket that you can place outdoors in the summer and bring in for the winter months.

Allow the fuzzy rhizomes to grow over the edge of the pot for a really unusual look! New stems sprout up from the rhizomes as the plant grows, and you will soon have a pot full of beautiful ferny foliage. Keep these plants in moist, well-drained soil and mist them regularly because they benefit from a high-humidity environment. 

Rattlesnake Master

A clump of Rattlesnake Master flower heads, their spiky green spheres clustered tightly, mimicking a rattlesnake's tail. Long, slender stems rise from unseen earth, their details fading into a blurry background.
Drought-tolerant perennial rattlesnake master grows well in wildflower gardens and prairies.
botanical-name botanical name Eryngium yuccifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

I would not recommend that you cultivate rattlesnakes in your flower garden, but I highly recommend the rattlesnake master plant. This fabulous, drought-tolerant plant is right at home in a perennial wildflower garden, pocket prairie, or xeriscape. It will perform best in full sun and average-quality, well-drained soil.

Rattlesnake master is an herbaceous perennial native to the central and eastern United States. It is found in prairies, grasslands, glades, and open woodlands. Its long, yucca-like leaves form a rounded rosette.

From the center of this rosette, a tall, stiff flowering stem emerges in mid-summer. Rattlesnake Master has extremely unusual flowers that look like spherical greenish pin-cushions yet attract a great number of insect pollinators.

Shrimp Plant

A cluster of vibrant yellow shrimp plant blossoms in full bloom. Each flower boasts layered yellow petals and tiny white, wing-shaped structures, resembling playful shrimp. Lush green leaves emphasize the captivating details of the blooming cluster.
Hummingbirds and butterflies are drawn to shrimp plants, which resemble enormous shrimp flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Phlogacanthus guttatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8 – 11

The flowers of this tropical perennial actually vaguely resemble giant shrimp if you look from a distance and use your imagination. Shrimp plant can be grown as a houseplant, but is more commonly grown as an annual bedding plant.

Grow several shrimp plants together in your summer annual garden and they will bloom almost continually until the first frost with their showy yellow or reddish-colored flowers.

Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the shrimp plant flowers, so you can easily add it to your pollinator-friendly landscape. It also makes a great addition to your seasonal container garden. Do you need a splash of color to fill in some empty spots along your garden’s edge? A shrimp plant will satisfy many needs!

Snapdragon

A row of snapdragon flowers in full bloom. Red, white, and yellow petals boast a ruffled, velvety texture, contrasting with the tightly closed green buds at the stem's tip. Lush green leaves peek through, completing this captivating display of nature's artistry.
Snapdragons are colorful plants that bloom until the first frost.
botanical-name botanical name Antirrhinum majus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6 – 36 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 – 10

There are even some plants named after mythical creatures. Gently squeeze the centers of these flowers together, and they open and close like a dragon’s mouth! The snapdragon is a popular and fun-to-grow plant many people use in annual flower beds. Their colorful flowers bloom throughout the summer and until the first frost.

Snapdragons are perennials and can overwinter in warmer climates. No matter where you live, however, you can easily grow them as annuals. They are easy to start from seed, or if you prefer, buy packs of young plants in the springtime from your local garden center. Add them to your annual flower garden, use them to fill odd spaces around your yard, or liven up your container garden with these very friendly dragons.

Speckled Swan Gourd

Several Speckled Swan gourds, their vibrant green skin still smooth and unblemished. The gourds resemble elegant swans with long, slender necks curving gracefully into plump, rounded bases. They hang from a metal trellis, hinting at a bountiful harvest to come.
Grow speckled swan gourds for swan-like elegance; train them on trellises or let them sprawl.
botanical-name botanical name Lagenaria siceraria
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 20 – 30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

If you don’t happen to have a large body of water to support a population of swans, you can easily grow a speckled swan gourd instead. The long, elegant necks of these large, heirloom gourds may be straight or gracefully curved, like the neck of a swan. Mature swan gourds are quite large and extremely showy!

Allow them to climb along a fence or sturdy trellis, or let them sprawl freely along the ground. Start your swan gourds from seed in the spring, and be prepared for them to grow very quickly!

By the end of the summer, you’ll have your own beautiful swan-like gourds! Dry the fully mature gourds for use as craft projects and natural decorations.

Spider Plant

A vibrant spider plant thriving in a small white pot. Its slender, emerald green leaves, each boasting a crisp white center stripe, cascade gracefully over the pot's rim, adding a touch of life to the smooth wooden table.
Spider plants effortlessly produce dangling “spiderlings,” perfect for container gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Chlorophytum comosum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 12 – 18 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9 – 11

Most people don’t want to deal with a spider infestation in their homes, but the spider plant is an exception. These plants make excellent houseplants and will happily grow in a shaded location as long as they get some daily sunlight. They look great growing in a hanging basket, where they can freely develop plenty of young “spiderlings!”

While these plants do produce flowers, spider plants are best appreciated for their attractive foliage. They grow into rounded leafy clusters and many thin, arching leaves that form rounded clusters.

Each adult plant is capable of producing many young plantlets that dangle from long stems. Remove any of these young plantlets to propagate more spider plants, or simply allow them to stay connected and gracefully cascade over the edge of your container.

Teddy Bear Sunflower

Close-up of a giant, golden "Teddy Bear" sunflower basking in the sun. Its countless, brush-like petals fan out around a dark, seed-filled center, contrasting with the soft blur of green leaves in the background.
Teddy bear sunflowers are ideal for small gardens or containers because of their cheerful yellow-orange blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Helianthus annuus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

There are many sunflower cultivars, but few are quite so cuddly looking as the teddy bear dwarf sunflower. This cheerful sunflower variety has densely-petaled flowers in bright yellow-orange. These large flowers will bloom for several weeks and attract plenty of pollinators to your sunny garden.

The teddy bear sunflower has a thick, upright stem lined with large leaves. Grow these plants in your vegetable garden or annual flower garden, or plant them in a row or cluster anywhere you need a super-showy summer flower. These teddy bears stay fairly compact, growing only two or three feet tall, making them a great plant for container gardening.

Tiger Lily

Two vibrant orange tiger lilies, their petals unfurling like flames, each splashed with a dance of dark brown freckles. Sunlight filters through lush green leaves, casting a warm glow on the summer garden scene.
These lilies grow best in sunny gardens and multiply readily for further growth.
botanical-name botanical name Lilium lancifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

No garden safari would be complete without a sighting of the magnificent tiger lily. These perennial bulbs are remarkably easy to grow and extremely showy. Grow them in a sunny location with well-drained soil. These plants are not picky about soil quality and will perform well in average-quality soil. 

Tiger lilies can grow up to five feet tall and make an excellent accent plant for your perennial garden. Their brilliant orange flowers are speckled with dark maroon spots, which makes them more showy than camouflaged. They flower in mid to late summer, and each plant can produce multiple, long-lasting flowers.

Tiger lilies grow well in containers and also make a great addition to your cutting garden. Bulbs multiply each year, and you can easily divide them if you want to expand your tiger lily population. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for tall plants or short, annuals or perennials, houseplants or trees, you are sure to find a menagerie of fun and fascinating plants named after animals. You’ll be able to find plenty of plants that get along well with each other and happily co-exist in the same environmental conditions, so you could even grow an entire animal-themed garden! 

The most important thing to remember when choosing plants is to select varieties that will grow well in your local conditions. Then, you will have the most trouble-free experience and a thriving population of beautiful vegetation to liven up your landscape.

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