To attract the greatest variety of wildlife to your garden you need to provide habitat with a range of different sizes of plants as well as different species. What does this mean? It means that a garden with only trees and lawns is not very inviting to most small creatures. They also need shrubs and groundcover plants to provide food and shelter.

You need to provide an area where small birds can hide from danger and build nests such as dense shrubs. Groundcovers like grasses and ‘clumping’ plants provide cover for ground dwellers such as skinks. Climbing plants add variety and a mulch of twigs and leaves make a home for lizards and insects. Permanent water will encourage birds to visit.

Get the picture? Lots of layers! Lots of variety!

Below is a list of some of the native plants that you can use to turn your garden into a haven for wildlife. The plants on the list are suitable for the parts of Sydney on soils from sandstone rock. Areas on clay such as much of western Sydney need different species.

Remember, in general it’s best to plant species that occur naturally in your area. If you plant local species they should be grown from locally collected seed in order to maintain genetic biodiversity. Advice on the species local to your area and where to get hold of plants that have come from there can be obtained from your local Council, Australian Plants Society branch or Bush Regenerators.

So let’s start at the ground layer and work up.


  • Kangaroo Grass, Themeda australis, is a tussock grass with beautiful bronze highlights, providing seed for birds and protection for small reptiles and amphibians.
  • Wallaby Grass, Danthonia spp., attracts butterflies and provides seed for birds. Some moth larvae feed on the roots.
  • Plume Grass, Dichelachne sp., attracts butterflies.
  • Weeping Grass, Microlaena stipoides are food for caterpillars and seed for birds.


  • Scurvy Weed, Commelina cyanea, is shelter for ground dwelling frogs and lizards.
  • Centella, Centella asiatica, shelters lizards
  • Pig Face, Carpobrotus glaucescens and Fan Flowers, Scaevola spp. Butterflies love the nectar from the long lasting flowers.
  • Guinea Flowers, Hibbertia spp., offer food for moths, butterflies, bees and birds.
  • Correa spp. have tubular flowers rich in nectar for birds and butterflies.
  • Goodenia spp. The bright yellow flowers attract insects which are food for small birds.


  • Water Ferns, Blechnum spp., Rasp Ferns, Doodia spp, and Fragrant Fern Microsorum scandens, can grow densely and shelter many small birds and frogs.
  • Bracken, Pteridium esculentum, shelter and nest sites for Fairy Wrens, Silvereyes and other small birds.
  • Coral Ferns, Gleichenia spp. Form dense thickets in moist areas and are refuge for birds.
  • Tree Ferns provide nest holes for native bees in broken trunks and stems.


  • Flax lilies, Dianella spp., have blue flowers and berries that are food for birds and attract butterflies and other insects.
  • Mat Rushes, Lomandra spp, offer refuge for lizards and attract butterflies and seed & fruit eating birds.
  • Swamp or River Lily, Crinum pedunculatum. Frogs like to live amongst the fleshy leaves.
  • Rushes, Juncus spp, are habitat for small lizards and attract birds and butterflies
  • Saw Sedges, Gahnia spp are great habitat and can grow to be quite large. Sword-grass Brown Butterfly larvae feed on the leaves.


  • Apple Berry, Billardieria scandens, attract birds and butterflies and the fruit is edible once it turns purple.
  • Old Man’s Beard, Clematis aristata, provides a great nest site for birds and the masses of white flowers attract butterflies and other insects.
  • Water Vine, Cissus hypoglauca, offers shelter and nest sites, attracts moths and birds & possums love the purple berries.
  • False Sarsparilla, Hardenbergia violacea, is refuge, nest sites & food for birds and the bees, moths and butterflies love the flowers.
  • Native Sarsparilla, Smilax glyciphylla, birds & possums like the bunches of black berries and the wiry stems are great nest material.
  • Coral Pea, Kennedia spp attract nectar, seed & fruit eating birds, butterflies, moths, small insects such as bees.


  • Wattles, Acacia spp. Any local wattle species provides seed for birds and ants and nectar for butterflies and bees. Those with dense foliage give shelter for small birds
  • Blackthorn, Bursaria spinosa, The prickly foliage shelters small birds such as finches. The scented flowers attract butterflies and it is the host for many species such as the Eltham Copper Butterfly.
  • Zieria spp. Many butterflies and other small insects visit these plants.
  • Bush Peas, Pultenea spp., attract native bees, moths, butterflies and seed eating birds.
  • Grevilleas provide nectar. Try to find a species local to your area rather than use one of the many hybrid varieties which usually appeal to the larger and more aggressive honeyeaters.


  • Dwarf Apple, Angophora hispida, is one of the best plants for attracting a wide range of insects to it’s abundant summer flowers.
  • She-Oaks, Allocasuarina spp. Attract seed and fruit eating birds.
  • Banksias are important for wildlife being as a source of food for birds and insects as well as providing nest sites.
  • Bottlebrushes, Callistemon spp. are pollinated by native bees and attract nectar loving birds.
  • Cypress Pines, Callitris, attract birds, butterflies and other insects.
  • Hakeas. The prickly species are great for nesting birds.
  • Gum trees, Eucalyptus spp.all provide a wide range of food and living places for many animals.


Elliot, Rodger (1994) Attracting wildlife to your garden Thomas C Lothian Pty Ltd., Melbourne
Grant, Peter (2003) Habitat Garden – attracting wildlife to your garden,  ABC Books, Sydney
Robinson, Les (2003) Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst

Information provided by Danie Ondinea. Compiled by Lyn Hulme
© Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (NSW) Inc. 2006