INDIANAPOLIS — The National Wildlife Federation has placed the circle city at the top of the list concerning wildlife-friendly gardens. Indianapolis ranking in the top 5 cities across the U.S.

Indy has registered 1,433 Certified Wildlife Habitats® positioning the city at #3 just behind Austin, Texas at #1 (3,150) and Charlotte, North Carolina at #2 (1,561). Included in the 1,433 Indianapolis gardeners have contributed 138 schoolyard habitats to the 3,445 certifications metro-wide. The sites connect critical habitat for wildlife across Indianapolis and provide pitstops for migratory wildlife traveling through the region.

Ranked by the numbers:

  1. Austin, Texas (3,150)
  2. Charlotte, North Carolina (1,561)
  3. Indianapolis, Indiana (1,433)
  4. Seattle, Washington (1,255)
  5. Atlanta, Georgia (1,210)

The federation is celebrating 50 years of its Garden for Wildlife program that certifies spaces providing pollinators and other animals with food, water and shelter.

“The 50th anniversary of Garden for Wildlife is a monumental milestone in a movement that propels the value of native plant habitat to create a legacy benefiting wildlife and the planet,” said Mary Philips, head of the Garden for Wildlife Program with the National Wildlife Federation. “Wildlife gardeners in these communities are shining examples of the cumulative impact even small changes can have. They serve as an inspiration to others and continue to drive the expansion of gardening for wildlife across the nation.”

White River body in 2020 (Photo By Corbin Millard)

The White River flows through the circle city which serves as a migration corridor during the spring and fall for waterfowl, songbirds and other wildlife. Monarch populations breed in Indiana over the summer before traveling thousands of miles to Mexico for the winter season.

Since so much of Indiana’s native prairie has been developed, wildlife gardeners increasingly include prairie habitat plants, such as monarch host plant, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), nectar plants like Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya), Smooth Blue Asters (Symphyotrichum leave) and Prairie Sundrops (Oenothera pilosella) to support 3 seasons of bloom for pollinators.

Another interesting note: Indiana is home to 8,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats® supported by Indiana Wildlife Federation, which hosts native plant sales and workshops, and provides education on Indiana’s native plants and animals.

Notable Indianapolis Certified Wildlife Habitats® include:

  • The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at Newfields, offering site-specific contemporary art along a 35-acre lake and the largest native pollinator meadow in Indianapolis.
  • White River Gardens at the Indianapolis Zoo – with sustainable practices and native plant gardens throughout its exhibits, this zoo is one of over 100 Certified Wildlife Habitat® zoos and aquarium gardens nationwide.
  • The Indianapolis-based headquarters of Wild Birds Unlimited demonstrates their commitment as a “Habitat Champion” partner with NWF, promoting thousands of certifications nationwide through its Save the Songbird campaign.