Planting season, as Atlanta gardeners know, is officially upon us. And before you dig out those dusty trowels and gloves, take note of the plants that naturally grow in the area. We’re talking about native plants, which grew here long before Europeans started building settlements. They’re the foundation of the region’s biodiversity, and provide key food sources and shelter to birds.

Fortunately the folks at the National Audubon Society have done all the hard work to ensure gardeners have what they need to find the best native plants. The group has a database that includes perennials, shrubs, grasses, succulents, trees, vines and evergreens. Each entry also details what types of birds the plants attract.

The database allows users to filter results by plant type, resources and bird species they attract.
Regional Audubon experts hand-select the “best results” for each. In Atlanta, some of the best flowers to grow this season include the Allegheny Monkeyflower, the Alternate-Leaf Dogwood and the American Basswood.

Here’s a roundup of some other great local options:

  • American Beauty-Berry
    • A showy, deciduous shrub that grows to a height and width of 3-5 feet.
    • Birds they attract: Mockingbirds, Thrashers
  • American Beech
    • Also called White, Red, or Ridge Beech, this large, deciduous tree typically grows 50 to 80 feet tall with a dense, rounded crown.
    • Birds they attract: Vireos, Crows and Jays
  • American Black Elderberry
    • Also called Black Elder, Mexican Elderberry, and Sauco, this bushy, wide spreading, perennial shrub grows 10 to 15 feet tall.
    • Birds they attract: Orioles, Woodpeckers
  • American Elm
    • This medium to large deciduous tree typically grows 60 to 80 feet tall with a vase-shaped, broad-rounded crown.
    • Birds they attract: Finches, Waxwings
  • American Hazelnut
    • This is a perennial, deciduous, and multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows 8 to 16 feet tall, and naturally occurs in dry or moist thickets.
    • Birds they attract: Wrens, Chickadees

Americans spent a record $47.8 billion on lawn and garden retail sales in 2017, according to the National Gardening Survey. The average household spent more than $500 on gardening. And while older adults accounted for 35 percent of all gardeners, millennials were getting their hands and knees dirty at all-time high levels. Adults 18-34 accounted for 29 percent of all gardeners, the survey found.

Among the recent trends — more people are investing in raised beds as opposed to digging holes, and they’re spending money on apps rather than glossy gardening books.

Patch national staffer Dan Hampton contributed to this report.