How to Turn Your Yard into a Wildlife Habitat

Written by Brian Jones of Scenic Green
Updated July 30, 2015
water feature in yard
Proper placement of plants and water features help attract wildlife to your yard. (Photo courtesy of Scenic Green)

Turning your landscaping into a wildlife habitat can be a rewarding undertaking for you and your family.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

And it's easier to do than you might imagine.

Before the land for your home was initially developed a wildlife habitat once existed. Unfortunately, we cannot turn back the clock and restore these areas, but there are ways to attract wildlife back to your landscaping.

Over time your home will become an environment where wildlife will thrive.

A wildlife habitat has four basic ingredients: food, water, shelter and space. The size and layout of your property will determine to what extent you can use these ingredients.

Once you understand how animals use these ingredients, you can begin adding layers of elements to benefit wildlife.

MORE: 3 Things You Need to Attract Wildlife to Your Yard

What's essential for animals and insect to thrive?

The simplest way to attract wildlife to your landscape is to choose native plants that produce a food supply year-round. You don’t need elaborate or expensive feeding systems; the right plants will produce berries, fruits, nuts, seeds and nectar.

Look for plants that hold their fruit through winter into early spring, as this is the time when food is scarcest for wildlife.

Water is an essential ingredient for all wildlife. Animals can go a few days without food, but they will need a daily supply of water to survive. A reliable source can be anything from a pond, stream, birdbath or water feature.

Running or circulated water will provide the best supply.

Monarch butterfly
If you want to attract butterflies to your yard, then make sure you have desirable plants and flowers. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Wildlife requires a certain amount of space for breeding, nesting, hiding, sleeping and feeding.

The amount of space requirements will vary from species to species depending on the size of the animal, its diet and how they withstand crowded spaces.

Keep in mind that space can also be created vertically and in layers with trees, shrubbery, perennials and ground covers.

Animals use shelter for sleeping and resting, protection from the elements and predators, and for raising their young. The ideal landscape for supporting wildlife consists of different layers of plants.

Plants lower to the ground, such as ground cover and blooming flowers, are on the first level.

Shrubs constitute the second level, and finally trees are the third level. Wildlife needs to be able to move through these different levels to feel safe and survive.

CHECK OUT: Angie's List Guide to Landscaping

What's the first step to create a wildlife habitat?

Before you begin creating your new wildlife habitat at home, you will need to first determine what species you want to attract for the space available.

Once determined, conduct an inventory of your current landscaping to see what ingredients are needed to attract the desired species.

You don’t need to remove all your existing plants and start with a new design. Start by surveying your landscape to understand what wildlife is currently being supported.

Make a note of the types of animals you see in your landscaping. Next decide what type of wildlife you wish to attract for the space you have available.

What plants will attract wildlife?

The list of plants below helps support wildlife. This isn’t a complete list, but a list that is readily available at nurseries.

Trees: Maple, buckeye, hickory, beech, ash, walnut, sweet gum, poplar, magnolia, dogwood, hawthorn, sycamore, cottonwood, oak, spruce, cedar, pine and holly

Shrubs: Oakleaf hydrangea, red chokeberry, mountain laurel, witch hazel, rhododendron, viburnum, serviceberry, inkberry, winterberry, roses

Perennials: Columbine, lily of the valley, false indigo, coneflower, sunflower, goldenrod, aster, coral bells, weigela, milkweed, black-eyed Susan

Grasses, ground cover and vines: Switch grass, sedges, wisteria, honeysuckle, phlox, climbing hydrangea, jasmine

RELATED: Native Plants Benefit You and the Environment

Angi Experts Icon

About this Experts Contributor: Brian Jones is a certified horticulturist and the president of Scenic Green. The company provides design, landscape installation, lawn fertilization and treatment, yard care, and other landscaping services in Indianapolis.

As of July 29, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.