Knowing about plants native to your area can really step up your gardening game. Planting native flowers, trees, and shrubs helps keep the local ecosystem in balance.
It’s also fun to identify plants as you walk through nature. Below, we’ve listed 23 of some of the most gorgeous native plants Indiana has to offer.
Whether you live in Indiana or are just visiting, you can enjoy all these native plants that the state has to offer.
Native Indiana Flowers
1. Bird’s-foot Violet
Scientific name: Viola pedate
These flowers get their name from the shape of their leaves. The narrow lobes look similar to the thin toes of a bird.
They can also go by birdfoot or bird-foot violet. They’re small perennial plants, growing between four and ten inches high.
It’s one of the most beautiful violet species because of its “bicoloring.” This means it has two different colors as part of its petals.
Bird’s-foot violets have two upper petals that are a deep violet color. The bottom three petals are a lighter lilac, making these flowers very striking.
2. Autumn Goldenrod
Scientific Name: Solidago sphacelata
Also known as “golden fleece,” autumn goldenrod is as vibrant as its name suggests. In fact, early Americans used it as a dye. They also made it into tea.
Naturally found on roadsides and pastures, it can be a great addition to any garden. It grows best in full sun and is tolerant of drought. It also attracts birds.
It’s also a very tall plant that needs plenty of room. This is for both its benefit and that of other plants, since it can quickly smother them.
It also strongly self-seeds, so you only need a little to get started.
3. Aromatic Aster
Scientific name: Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Not only are these flowers gorgeous, but their stems also have a nice fragrance. When you crush the stems, which have small, hair-like fibers, they release a smell like balsam.
The flowers themselves come in varieties of lavender, purple, or rose coloring. These daisy relatives are great for gardens because they bloom for a long time.
Plant them in well-drained soil in a spot with full sun. With care, they can grow around three feet high.
4. Butterfly Weed
Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly weed is an unusual member of the milkweed family. For one, it doesn’t produce the milky “sap” substance the family from which the family gets its name.
Also, its leaves are “alternate,” meaning each one grows on its own node in a sort of spiral. Many milkweed plants have “opposite” leaf arrangements.
This is where two leaves grow directly across from each other on the same node. But unusual is not bad, and butterfly weed can be a great addition to any garden.
They are both colorful flowers and can attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden. Monarch butterflies in particular will lay their eggs underneath the milkweed leaves.
5. Cardinal Flower
Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis
These flowers are some of the most vivid red plants in Indiana. You may think of the cardinal bird when you see them, but their name actually comes from the Catholic church.
The flower’s color and shape put early herbalists in mind of a Catholic Cardinal’s robes and miter. But their shape and color are also perfect for hummingbirds.
The color attracts these tiny birds, which can then use their long, thin beaks to probe inside the flower’s tubes. If you’re looking for more color in your garden, the cardinal flower might be the one for you.
6. Indian Pink
Scientific Name: Spigelia marilandica
The Indian pink, or pinkroot flower, is beautiful even before it fully blooms. It features tubes of bright red petals which are perfect for hummingbirds.
But in full bloom, these tubes unfold into vivid, five-pointed stars. To get the best blooms, plant your Indian pinks in acidic soil.
7. Celandine Poppy
Scientific Name: Stylophorum diphyllum
This is the only species of the Stylophorum genus native to North America. Gardeners also consider this yellow poppy the most ornamental of the three species.
When bees pollinate the flower, it forms inch-long, pendant-like fruits. These are oblong and fuzzy green pods containing seeds.
The pods split in mid to late summer, which ants then disperse, spreading more flowers.
8. False Blue Indigo
Scientific Name: Baptisia australis
The false blue indigo flower is part of the pea family, similar to a sweet pea. But unlike pink sweet peas, these flowers are a beautiful purple.
This color makes it a good substitute for making blue dyes. In fact, the “false” in its common name refers to its use in dyes in place of true indigo flowers.
It’s not only a pretty flower, but the false blue indigo has medicinal properties as well. Native Americans use it in root tea for purgative purposes. It can also be served cold to stop vomiting.
However, it’s important to study plants carefully before ingesting any. Other plants in the same genus are toxic (though there are no records of death).
9. False Sunflower
Scientific Name: Heliopsis helianthoides
It’s clear to see how the false sunflower got its name. Like true sunflowers, these are hardy flowers that grow tall between three and five feet with proper care.
They are easy to care for as they can tolerate many different soil conditions. They do best, however, in soil that is moist but well-drained.
False sunflowers also thrive in full sun, of course. To support their growth, place them in a sunny area of your garden. You may need stakes to hold them up as they grow tall.
10. Garden Phlox
Scientific Name: Phlox paniculata
Also going by the names fall phlox and perennial phlox, the garden phlox grows in clusters. They are typically pink or lavender but can sometimes be white.
The stem of the garden phlox is short and smooth, unlike the large-leaved phlox which has a hairy stem.
It’s a great garden flower that needs at least six hours of sunlight each day. It does well in moist soil, but a common issue is powdery mildew. Be sure to keep an eye on the long leaves.
11. Shooting Star
Scientific Name: Dodecatheon meadia
Shooting stars are so beautiful they’re named after the stars. Their flowers have five purple petals that “shoot” upwards from the stem. Furthermore, below the petals are a yellow stamen cluster that points downward.
Together, these petals and stamens form the shape of a shooting star. It even has a bright trailing tail!
12. Western Sunflower
Scientific Name: Helianthus occidentalis
The western sunflower is a slightly smaller version of the traditional sunflower. It also has a much lighter center in between its yellow petals.
The seeds of the western sunflower are a favorite food source for finches. You can plant them in full sun and attract birds and butterflies to your garden.
Native Indiana Ferns And Grasses
13. Ostrich Fern
Scientific Name: Matteuccia struthiopteris
Planting green ferns is a great way to add both texture and balance to a garden full of flowers. The ostrich fern is one of the most visually stunning fern species native to Indiana.
These ferns have a very distinct curve at the end of each frond during the fall. Then, they uncurl into a shape resembling ostrich feathers, hence their name.
14. Little Bluestem
Scientific Name: Schizachyrium scoparium
Little bluestem is a species of grass that has a distinct look in each growing season. During spring and summer, this grass has a blue tint at the base of its stems, which then fades into green.
It’s a very soft transition that makes this a good ornamental grass. But as summer turns to fall, this grass transforms into a striking reddish-tan color.
It continues to change until it’s almost mahogany and has tufts of white seeds. Even better is that this beautiful coloring remains all winter.
Native Indiana Vines
15. Woolly Dutchman’s Pipe
Scientific Name: Aristolochia tomentosa
The wooly Dutchman’s pipe vine gets its name from the shape of its flowers. They are said to resemble a Meerschaum pipe, although they can be hard to see among the dense foliage.
Although the Dutchman’s pipe is highly toxic to most animals if ingested, there is one animal that’s immune. The pipevine swallowtail butterfly hatches its larvae on the plant.
The larvae then exclusively eat the poisonous leaves. The plant also uses its scent to attract pollinating flies.
16. Trumpet Honeysuckle
Scientific Name: Lonicera sempervirens
Also known as coral honeysuckle, the trumpet honeysuckle is another great plant for attracting hummingbirds.
The tube shape of its flowers makes it easy for hummingbirds to access its nectar. The flowers are also visually appealing themselves. They’re often coral red on the outside, but bright yellow on the inside.
17. American Bittersweet
Scientific Name: Celastrus scandens
If you want a pop of color in the winter when other plants are dormant, look for American bittersweet. This vining plant produces small red berries similar to holly that persist all winter.
It’s common in natural woodland areas but you can grow it on trellises and fences, too. Though the whole plant is mildly toxic for humans, birds have no problem with it.
They will eat the berries, then distribute the seeds throughout the wild.
Native Indiana Trees And Shrubs
Scientific Name: Lindera benzoin
This bush is recognizable by its tall, slender stems and small clusters of yellow buds. It’s not an overly leafy bush but it does provide a nice shock of color among other greenery.
The spicebush grows best in shady areas, which can free up your more sunny spots for flowers. It also attracts butterflies, specifically the spicebush swallowtail.
The larvae of this butterfly species feed on the leaves after they hatch.
19. Winterberry Holly
Scientific Name: Ilex verticillata
What would winter be without a traditional sprig of holly? The winterberry holly bush provides an abundance of bright red berries all winter long.
They also provide cover for wintering animals such as birds. The berries are also a delicious food source. This is especially important in the winter when other plants are dormant and food is scarce.
Scientific Name: Cercis canadensis
Despite their name, redbuds aren’t actually red. They do have stunning rosy pink buds, though, that come into display at the beginning of spring.
Even the leaves on this tree are pretty, forming in the shape of hearts. Garden enthusiasts have noted the beauty of these trees for centuries.
In fact, George Washington himself wrote about these trees in his diaries! He even spent time transplanting seedlings from nearby forests.
Redbud trees attract beauty as well. They appeal to butterflies and even some songbirds like chickadees.
21. Arrowwood Viburnum
Scientific Name: Viburnum dentatum
This shrub has it all: thick green foliage, clusters of flowers, and even colorful berries. The arrowwood viburnum has three general stages of growth.
In the late fall and winter, it has dark green leaves that then turn various shades of yellow, reddish-purple, or full-on red. Then, in late spring, beautiful bundles of flowers in creamy white begin to bloom.
Finally, dark blue, almost black, berries (technically drupes) appear. These ripen fully in the fall, and the cycle begins again.
22. Tulip Tree
Scientific Name: Liriodendron tulipifera
The tulip tree may not grow true tulips, but it has similar-looking flowers that can be just as pretty. They’re also attractive to hummingbirds.
These flowers tend to grow at the top of the tree, though, which can grow up to 150 feet tall! But even if you have trouble seeing the blooms, you can’t miss the gorgeous leaves.
In the fall, the leaves turn from green to rich gold. Even after the leaves have fallen, you can still see the seedheads, which are shaped like cones.
23. Gray Dogwood
Scientific Name: Cornus racemosa
The gray dogwood is another stunning plant that provides beauty year-round in native Indiana.
They can reach 10 to 15 feet in height and width at maturity and are full of bushy leaves. In the spring, they also produce clusters of bright white flowers.
Later in the summer and early fall, gray dogwoods also produce white berries. These are attractive to birds and other animals.
Even during winter, the gray dogwood is visually appealing. It has reddish-pink fruit stems that last all winter. These pops of color really stand out against the gorgeous gray bark of the shrub.