The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society advocates growing local native plants.  The guides below are very worthwhile although some suggestions may include native plants that are not found in Rhode Island. We recognize Vascular Flora of Rhode Island (1998) and New England Wildflower Society’s very user friendly Go Botany as the most authoritative sources for identifying plants native to Rhode Island.

See our growing list of Cultivation Notes.

For all landscapes, we highly recommend the RI Native Plant Guide for its focus on a subset of the 1,300 species listed in 1998 edition of Vascular Flora of Rhode Island.  This group of plants was selected for their ornamental value, potential in restoration projects and ease of propagation. The guide is searchable by a number of different growing conditions.

The New England Wild Flower Society has been developing a comprehensive plant guide. They have released a pilot version via their Facebook page which we highly recommend that you explore. The searchable options include ecoregions.

Rhode Island Wild Plant Society

Other Helpful Resources

Xerces SocietyPlants for Pollinators
Xerces Society most recommended plants for pollinators in the Northeast includes 16 forbs and 8 trees and shrubs.  Coded for blooming season, flower color, height, water need as well as benefits to specific pollinators.

Xerces society’s general recommendations are worth noting.
• Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators need access to abundant nectar and pollen resources throughout the growing season. At minimum, strive for three species to be blooming at any one time; the greater the diversity, the better.
• If you are adding plants to your garden, plant flowers in clumps at least three-feet-wide to help them be more attractive to passing pollinators.
• To attract butterflies, include their host plant in your pollinator garden.

Best Bets: What to Plant

Which plants support the most butterflies, moths, birds and other fauna?
In his book Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy offers a list of plants to attract butterflies and moths.  While his list is based on mid Atlantic region, many of the plants listed are native to our area.

Also consider his article on Why should you consider planting native?


The National Wildlife Federation is testing a Beta version of a Native Plant Guide which uses Doug Tallamy’s research. Just put in your zip code.

Recommended planting for Migratory Songbird ManagementPlants for birds
Recommended plants to attract migratory birds, written by Susan Smith and Scott McWilliams, Dept. Natural Resources Science, URI. Plants are coded by the quality of nutrition provided for these types of birds.

Audubon Society Native Plant Database Audubon Society Native Plant Database
Search by zip code, type of plant, type of bird.  Includes images of birds.

Videos: Evening with the Experts
As part of their mission to make resources on native plants and ecological landscaping available to as large an audience as possible, every year since 2015 Grow Native Massachusetts has professionally recorded numerous speakers from their Evenings with Experts lectures. All of the videos can be viewed on their website, free of charge.  Truly an excellent resource.

Native Plant Site Solutions for Backyard HabitatWhat and where to plant
Booklet from URI Outreach Center.  The content was originally developed through a partnership between between the URI Outreach Center and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council. For professional landscapers and home gardeners.  Include how to analyze site and a number of model planting designs coded for specific plants and their value for ecological services including attraction for birds and pollinators.

Basics of Butterfly Gardening
Good site for learning about how to start a butterfly garden including general guidelines for both plant and site selection.