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native versus non native plants

Native v non-native plants


Native plants are important food plants for the larvae of moths and butterflies, and provide nuts and berries for birds, mice and other mammals. Although native plants will support the greatest diversity of wildlife, non-native plants will still attract plenty of wildlife, providing shelter, berries, pollen and nectar. Using a mixture of native and non-native plants gives you greater flexibility in your garden design, whilst still attracting lots of garden wildlife! Use the tables below to select useful native and non-native plants for your wildlife garden.


Flowering plants for wildlife

When choosing flowering plants for wildlife, select single-flowered varieties for bees and butterflies as they can’t access double flowers for pollen and nectar.


British nativeFlowering periodNon-nativeFlowering period
BluebellInteresting Features - Spring FloweringAlliumInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Corn MarigoldInteresting Features - Colour flowersAubrietaInteresting Features - Spring Flowering
CorncockleInteresting Features - Colour flowersCandytuftInteresting Features - Colour flowers
CornflowerInteresting Features - Colour flowersCherry Pie (Heliotropium)Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Field Forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis)Interesting Features - Spring FloweringEchinaceaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
FoxgloveInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowersEvening PrimroseInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Lady's BedstrawInteresting Features - Colour flowersHonesty (Lunaria annua)Interesting Features - Spring Flowering
Musk Mallow (Malva moschata)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersLavenderInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Ox-eye DaisyInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowersMichaelmas Daisy (Aster)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)Interesting Features - Colour flowersNight-scented stockInteresting Features - Colour flowers
PrimroseInteresting Features - Spring FloweringPhaceliaInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Purple LoosestrifeInteresting Features - Colour flowersPoached Egg PlantInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Red CampionInteresting Features - Colour flowersRed valerian (Centranthus ruber)Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersSunflowerInteresting Features - Colour flowers
St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)Interesting Features - Colour flowersSweet WilliamInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Viper's BuglossInteresting Features - Colour flowersTobacco plant (Nicotiana)Interesting Features - Colour flowers
YarrowInteresting Features - Colour flowersVerbenaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers

Trees and shrubs for wildlife

Both native and non-native trees and shrubs provide invaluable shelter for all sorts of creatures, and evergreen shrubs ensure there is shelter all year round. Don’t let a small garden put you off native trees and shrubs. Many are suitable for coppicing (cutting as you would Dogwoods for their winter stems), including Alder, Hazel, Hawthorn and Willow. This helps restrict their size whilst still benefitting wildlife.


British nativeInteresting featuresNon-nativeInteresting features
Alder (Alnus glutinosa)Interesting Features - Attractive FoliageBerberisInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
BlackthornInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitBuddlejaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Scented
BrambleInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitCalifornian LilacInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Crab appleInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitCotoneasterInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Dog rose (Rosa canina)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitEleagnusInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Scented
Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)Interesting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Attractive barkEscalloniaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Evergreen
Elder (Sambucus nigra)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitFlowering cherry (Prunus)Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Attractive bark
GorseInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - ScentedHebeInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
HawthornInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitHoneysuckleInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Climber
HazelInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersJasmineInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Climber
HollyInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitMahoniaInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
HornbeamInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersPyracanthaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Climber
IvyInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - ClimberQuinceInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Pussy Willow (Salix caprea)Interesting Features - Spring FloweringSkimmiaInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
RowanInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersStrawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Attractive bark
Sweet Briar Rose (Rosa rubiginosa)Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitWisteriaInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Climber
Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers 

For a further list of wildlife friendly plants, take a look at our 'Plants for wildlife' guide.




Quick Links:



native bluebells

Native plants are important food plants for much of the UK's wildlife, although non-native plants will still provide shelter, berries, pollen and nectar.



native versus non-native - interesting features - Scented, evergreen, attractive foliage, colourful berries and fruit, autumn leaf colour


Thompson & Morgan wildflower seed offers


strawberry tree

Both native and non-native trees and shrubs provide invaluable shelter for wildlife. Although strawberry tree (Arbutus) is not native to the UK it's evergreen foliage provides year-round shelter and the autumn flowers are an excellent late nectar source for bees.



Sue Sanderson

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.