Missouri native plants lived in our region even before people settled here. They are well adapted to our extreme weather and provide food and shelter for important wildlife such as birds, bees, butterflies and insects.
A garden planted with Missouri native plants is a sustainable landscape which will become easier to care for as it matures and save you money on water, fertilizer, pesticides and labor.
Brightside’s demonstration garden is planted to mimic Missouri’s natural habitats. Consider your garden type and select the right plant for the right place.
If you need a bit more help to figure out your garden type, read more in-depth garden type descriptions below.
Find Native Plants by Garden Type
- Bright colors
- Nectar-producing flowers
- Thin soil
- Periods of dry and moist soil
- Partially shady with plenty of openings
- Medium to dry soil
- Diverse plants in understory
What types of soil and sun does your garden have? Learn about these common Missouri garden types and select the right native plants for your garden.
Glades are open, rocky areas with thin, dry soils. If you have an area that gets lots of sun and has poor, rocky soil, glade plants are the right choice as they thrive in hot weather with little moisture. This landscape can be found naturally throughout the Missouri Ozarks and, due to urban development, in many neighborhoods across St. Louis.
Butterflies are not only beautiful but also do a great job pollinating plants to produce fruit and seeds. Butterflies love brightly colored native flowers that grow in full sun and produce nectar. Native plants also provide habitat for egg laying and food for caterpillars. Butterfly milkweed is essential for the migrating Monarch butterfly.
Remember, many flowers that attract butterflies also attract bees, but the bees are more interested in the pollen and nectar than they are in you!
Rain gardens take advantage of rainfall — soak up the water with their deep roots plus filter out pollutants. A rain garden can be created in a naturally low area in your yard or garden or can be dug to meet the desired dimensions. Directing a downspout into your rain garden is the easiest way to keep those water-loving plants happy. Be sure to select the right plants for your soil type.
The openings in a shaded area or woodland garden are great for growing plants that need only partial sun. Prairie plants are often found in woodland areas as the shining sun peaks through the openings and dries the ground, making the area more suitable for these sun-loving plants.
The woodland area in Brightside’s garden includes a combination of woody plants including trees and shrubs — post oak, sassafras, eastern redcedar, buckbrush and aromatic sumac.
Brightside does not have a forested area in our garden and wants you to understand the difference between a woodland and a forest. In a forest, the trees are much denser, allowing very little sunlight in. The ground stays wetter and cooler on the forest floor. Areas with lots of thick, dense trees are perfect for plants such as ferns and other natives that require full shade. In urban areas, woodland gardens can create a noise barrier to bustling streets.
A prairie garden consists mostly of grasses and flowers. Many plants found in Missouri’s prairies thrive even in dry, windy and hot conditions. These deep-rooted plants help improve soil drainage and increase water absorption. Native prairies can be found throughout Missouri. Much of north St. Louis city and county was a prairie prior to settlement.
Use This at Home
Consider the type of soil you have and the amount of sunlight your plants will receive and select your garden type above to learn the Missouri native plants that are suitable for those conditions.
Native Landscaping Resources
- To find ‘naturally resilient plants for naturally beautiful landscapes’ check out Grow Native!
- Missouri Botanical Garden’s plant finder is a great resource to find Missouri native plants that meet your needs.
- Learn about the St. Louis Audubon Society’s urban habitat restoration program, Bring Conservation Home.
- Browse through Shaw Nature Reserves Native Landscaping Manual to guide you through various native landscapes.
- The Missouri Department of Conservation is a great resource — learn about trees, shrubs and vines and wildflowers and grasses.
Native Wildflower Resources
- University of Missouri Extension offers advice for planting Wildflowers in the Home Landscape.
- The national Wild Ones organization and the St. Louis Wild Ones Chapter provide valuable information about growing native wildflowers.
Resources for Missouri Trees
- Forest ReLeaf of Missouri provides free trees to communities for public space plantings and to schools and nonprofit organizations to improve their grounds and neighborhood gardens. All of the native trees in Brightside’s Demo Garden were provided by Forest ReLeaf.
- Download the U.S. Forest Service’s Tree Owners Manual for the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.
- i-Tree Design and National Tree Benefit Calculator allow anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits provided by individual trees.
- Learn about all of the wonderful benefits trees provide through the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Trees Work campaign and how to care for them using their Backyard Tree Care guides.
Butterfly Garden Resources
- Learn more about butterfly gardening through Missouri Department of Conservation’s Butterfly Gardening and Conservation Guide
- Nectar sources for butterflies are declining due to development and herbicide use. Learn about how you can get involved in St. Louis’ Milkweeds for Monarchs Initiative and what you can do to help save the Monarch butterflies through Monarch Watch and The Monarch Joint Venture. You can even help monitor Monarch larva.
- Find a variety of butterfly resources from the North American Butterfly Association.
- Learn about invertebrate protection and conservation programs led by The Xerces Society.
- Follow and participate in wildlife migration sightings through Journey North.
Other Sustainability Resources