Attract Wildlife in Your Garden and Yard

Attracting wildlife to a back or front yard requires patience plus a willingness to share, according to Clark Shilling of Owasso.

Clark and Connie Shilling gave a presentation at the 2014 Horticulture Industries Conference last month, showing the audience photos of the wildlife-friendly plants they have added to their 1.5-acre yard.

“We bought our property 11-years ago,” said Clark. “We went to the Tulsa Audubon Society Tour ( to see what was growing in local native plant gardens. While we were there, we bought the book “Bringing Nature Home” and that was our turning point.”

Since attending that tour the Shillings have planted more and more natives. He said Connie’s flower beds are in the front yard, a lawn is in the back yard for their grandchildren, and they fenced an acre in the back for wildlife viewing.
OK native peach tree

He said native fruits and nuts are good choices for feeding wildlife but that pecans, persimmon and black walnuts can take 5 to 20 years to reach full production.

“You have to have a good spot with plenty of sun,” Shilling said. “Natives can take quite a while to produce fruit or nuts. If you want to get a quick start with attracting wildlife, plant plums. Sand plums bear fast, are self-fertile and multiply into thickets.”

Native plants have smaller fruits than improved garden cultivars. They can be grown for human consumption but it will take more plants.

Shilling said, “We have 5 Muscadine grapes from Ison’s Nursery and Vineyards ( (800) 733-0324). The Ison’s Black Muscadine variety is self-fertile and one plant is enough for eating, even though the birds get some of them.”

Most fruit trees are not self-fertile so you have to put in male and female plants. Others require at least two varieties in order to produce fruit or nuts.

Pawpaw flower
 Pawpaw trees are native understory trees that will scald if they are in the sun all day. At least two varieties have to be planted in order to have fruit.

KY State University developed improved varieties that are available from Blossom Nursery in Eureka Springs AR ( and Nolin River Nursery in KY (

“My favorite native flower to grow is Wine Cup (Callirhoe involucrata),” said Shilling. “It has a deep tap root and can take full sun and drought and still have magenta flowers every year. It never fails.”

Native to TX, OK and KS, Wine Cup, also called Purple Poppy Mallow, is a trailing perennial with magenta, cup-shaped flowers. They are easy to grow and prefer well-drained  soil. Seeds are available at: Easy Wildflowers and container-grown plants are available from MO Wildflowers (

If you can find native plants locally at events and nurseries, they will be established in pots. When buying bare-root plants through mail order sources, they tend to be smaller, meaning they usually take an extra year to produce.

Some other plants that the Shillings grow for wildlife include: Chokeberry (Aronia), American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and Sand Plums (varieties - Guthrie, Rainbow, Chisholm and Caddo Chief).
Sand plum Chickasaw Plum var. Guthrie (Prunus augustifolia) plants are available from Mail Order Natives ( and (850) 973-0585). Sand plum shrubs also grow from cuttings taken in the wild.

Shilling said there is no need to fertilize native plants since they are well-adapted but he applies 10-20-10 fertilizer when the plants begin to green up in the early spring in order to encourage growth of new plantings.

Shilling’s Oct 20th talk will be for Rogers County Master Gardeners ( He said he will add Elderberries to that presentation since they grow so well, form colonies and feed birds.
“Landscaping for Wildlife” by Jeremy Garrett, online $7 used. Written for OK and the Southern Great Plains gardeners.

“Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy. $11 online.


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