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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 native Flowering period Non-native Flowering period
Bluebell Interesting Features - Spring Flowering Allium Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Corn Marigold Interesting Features - Colour flowers Aubrieta Interesting Features - Spring Flowering
Corncockle Interesting Features - Colour flowers Candytuft Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Cornflower Interesting Features - Colour flowers Cherry Pie (Heliotropium) Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Field Forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis) Interesting Features - Spring Flowering Echinacea Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Foxglove Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers Evening Primrose Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Lady's Bedstraw Interesting Features - Colour flowers Honesty (Lunaria annua) Interesting Features - Spring Flowering
Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers Lavender Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Ox-eye Daisy Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers Michaelmas Daisy (Aster) Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) Interesting Features - Colour flowers Night-scented stock Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Primrose Interesting Features - Spring Flowering Phacelia Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Purple Loosestrife Interesting Features - Colour flowers Poached Egg Plant Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Red Campion Interesting Features - Colour flowers Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers Sunflower Interesting Features - Colour flowers
St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Interesting Features - Colour flowers Sweet William Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colour flowers
Viper's Bugloss Interesting Features - Colour flowers Tobacco plant (Nicotiana) Interesting Features - Colour flowers
Yarrow Interesting Features - Colour flowers Verbena Interesting 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 native Interesting features Non-native Interesting features
Alder (Alnus glutinosa) Interesting Features - Attractive Foliage Berberis Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Blackthorn Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit Buddleja Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Scented
Bramble Interesting Features - Colourful berries or fruitCalifornian Lilac Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Crab apple Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit Cotoneaster Interesting 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 fruit Eleagnus Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Scented
Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) Interesting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Attractive bark Escallonia Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - Evergreen
Elder (Sambucus nigra) Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit Flowering cherry (Prunus) Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Attractive bark
Gorse Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Scented Hebe Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Hawthorn Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit Honeysuckle Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Climber
Hazel Interesting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers Jasmine Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Climber
Holly Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit Mahonia Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Hornbeam Interesting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers Pyracantha Interesting Features - Colour flowersInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Climber
Ivy Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Climber Quince Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Pussy Willow (Salix caprea) Interesting Features - Spring Flowering Skimmia Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Rowan Interesting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers Strawberry 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 fruit Wisteria Interesting 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.



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.

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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.