I adore the Audubon Native Plants Database! If you want to select native plants to create a bird sanctuary in your backyard, or to create a small bird habitat on a city balcony, it’s a fantastic tool.

It provides so much wonderful information that might normally require you to search numerous sites online, visit a nursery, and/or speak to a landscaper. I love its numerous features that I learned by using it a few times.

The Audubon native plants database lists plants best for your area.  You can filter the list by plant type, plant resource, and bird type. The list of plants you are interested in can be emailed to you.  You can buy plants online or locally.  A list of local nurseries displays as well. 

Overall this is a lovely user interface that I enjoyed using very much. Here are 8 easy steps for using the Audubon Native Plants Database when researching the best native plants for your yard. There were a few tiny things I initially missed when using it and I will point these out so you don’t miss them as well.

STEP 1: Open the database and enter your zip code and/or your email address

Use the Audubon Native Plants database to find the best native plants for your zip code. It is so easy to use: Enter your zip code and click the big orange Search button. (You can also enter your email address to receive a list of the recommended native plants you have selected.)

Audubon native plants database

STEP 2: View the best native plants for your zip code

Now the Results screen will appear, with the” Best Results” tab displaying all of the best native plants for your zip code.

Note that for each plant that is listed, the birds it may attract are displayed on the right side of the screen (Please note that there are often very small arrows beneath the illustrations that when clicked allow you to advance to illustrations of additional birds.)

In addition, to learn more about each bird, you can click on its illustration. (General information about the bird – its conservation status, family, habitat, Feeding, diet, and nesting behavior – will display, as well as information about its migration path. You can also explore similar birds and see news items about the bird.)

You can also click on the “Full Results” tab to see all of the plants that are native to your zip code but not necessarily the best ones for your yard

There are also drop-down fields that allow you to narrow down (or “filter”) the results list by including only specific types of plants, types of food the plants produce, and the types of birds you want to attract (Note that the “All plant resources” drop-down is for selecting the types of food the plants produce. The “Filter by Keyword” field appears to only accept keywords that are the names of plants.)

STEP 3: Filter the list according to your interests

For this demo, I am going to narrow my list down to evergreen shrubs that produce berries that will attract Cardinals. I do the following:

  • Click on the “All types of plants” drop-down and select the checkbox for “Shrubs” and “Evergreens”
  • Click on the “All plant resources” drop-down and select “Fruit”
  • Click on the “Attracts: Any type of birds” drop-down and select “Cardinals and Grosbeaks”

Note that every time you select a checkbox, the list will automatically update.

Here is the beginning of my updated list, showing all evergreen shrubs that bear fruit, and that Cardinals and Grosbeaks like. (Note that the default selections of the illustrated birds on the right do not change to include the illustration of Cardinals and Grosbeaks – just pointing this out since it initially confused me).

STEP 4: Select the plants you are interested in using

If you think you might like to incorporate a plant into your bird habitat, click the “Add to your plant list” checkbox.

You can also select all of the plants on the list by clicking the “Add all plants below to your list” link (this blue text link appears right below the “Filter by keyword” drop-down”).

For this demo, I have selected the “Add to your plant list” checkbox for the Alternate-Leaf Dogwood, which is first on my list.

I will also scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list to click on the “Next page” link to advance to the next page of results.

On this next page, I just selected the “Add to your plant list” checkbox for Common Winterberry.

Notice that as you check the checkboxes of the plants you are interested in, the names of the plants you have selected appear at the bottom of the screen (see directly above). I love that this information appears so that you can keep track of the plants you have selected.

STEP 5: Purchase the plants you have selected

At this point, I can click the “Buy Now” button for each plant, or click the red “Get your plant list” button at the bottom of the page.

For this demo, I will click on the “Buy Now” button for Common Winterberry. As soon as I do that, I see that I can buy the plants from a local nursery or order the plants on Amazon.

For some plants, like the Common Buttonbush (see below), I cannot buy the plants from Amazon. Instead, I can buy the plants via Audubon. These plants are grown by the Bower & Branch nursery.

STEP 6: See where you can purchase the plants locally

Let’s click on the “Buy Local” button for the Common Winterberry plant. The “Local Resources” tab displays and lists my local Audubon Society locations, local and regional resources, and the garden centers that I can buy the native plants from.

I do love that Audubon displays a list of local nurseries where you can buy native plants. I looked at the list of the nurseries they provide in my area, and I am impressed! These are exactly the nurseries I would choose to go to.

If I scroll down, I can also see online retailers I can purchase the plants from (you can expand the list of retailers by clicking the “Show more” link below the initial list of retailers), as well as a map showing native plant nurseries around the country

STEP 7: Get a list of the plants you have selected

After you are finished checking the boxes for all of the plants you are interested in, you can also click on the big orange “Get your plant list” button at the bottom of the page (see directly above). If you did not enter your email address on the first page where you entered your zip code, you will be asked to enter it now. The list of plants will be emailed to you.

STEP 8: Order the plants online or take the list to a local nursery

If you enjoy gardening and intend to install the plants yourself, order the plants online or take the list of plants to a local plant nursery. In addition, you can ask your local nursery or even a landscaper to come out to your home to help determine the best locations in your yard for each plant.

Like any plant, you will need to consider the best location which will depend on the amount of space you have, the amount of sunlight that is required and available, and the type of soil and moisture required by the plant.

Final Words on Using the Audubon Native Plants Database

I love useful tools that are designed well, and the Audubon Native Plants Database ticks many of my criteria. I really enjoy using it, especially as I plan out a new garden area in my backyard.

I have also found that what I have learned from using the database has made my conversations with my landscaper and nursery garden center so much more productive.

For those of you who are thinking about planning a bird garden, I strongly encourage you to give the Audubon Native Plants Database a look and use this guide while doing so to make your experience that much easier.


Why are native plants important for birds?

Native plants and shrubs, and the insects they attract, are an important food source for native birds. The insects, nuts, seeds, fruit, and nectar that these plants and shrubs provide will attract native birds to a garden, and provide them with essential nutrients.

Why are native plants important for the environment?

Native plants reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, are easier to care for than non-native plants, require less water, and are less prone to disease.

Can you grow native plants in pots on a balcony?

You can successfully grow native plants in pots on a balcony or patio. You first need to assess how much space you have, and if the space gets full sun or partial or full shade. You may also need dry soil that will quickly drain, as well as a deeper pot since native plants have deep roots.