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7 Books for Kentucky Native Plant Enthusiasts

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

books under tree

Kentucky is home to a diverse range of native plant species that play a vital role in the state's ecology and natural beauty.

Learning about these plants and their characteristics can be both enjoyable and help in creating planned native landscapes for your property.

In this post, we'll be exploring some of the best books for those interested in Kentucky native plants and native gardening.

Let's dive right in!


Disclosure: All products featured are independently selected by the Kentucky Native Plants Project. However, we are an affiliate of and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Please read our disclosure for more info.

a guide to the wildflowers and ferns of kentucky

A Guide to the Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky

Mary E. Wharton and Roger W. Barbour

This book is great for both at home use or while you're out exploring nature. It can be used to help identify plants, or as a catalog to learn more about potential plants to add to your garden. A reprint of the original 1971 version, its simple-to-follow key, along with hundreds of colored photos, enables you to identify nearly 700 wildflowers and ferns from Kentucky with minimal effort. I personally reference this book all the time and it rarely sits on my shelf collecting dust.

Format: Paperback

Published: July 15, 2014

trees and shrubs of kentucky

Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky

Mary E. Wharton and Roger W. Barbour

Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky is another must have for identifying and discovering Kentucky native plants. This version is a reprint of the original 1973 hardcover version and includes both native and naturalized plants. While there are some colored photos, the bulk of images are in black and white or illustrations. Despite this, it's still the best book out there for Kentucky specific, woody plants and is frequently pulled off my shelf to reference.

Format: Paperback

Published: March 08, 2022

natures best hope

Nature’s Best Hope

Douglas W. Tallamy

Written by the well known author Doug Tallamy, this book highlights the issues wildlife are facing from modern, non-native landscaping practices. He also goes over his solution, which is a grass roots movement of using native plants in landscaping. Perfect as a gift or for the personal library, this book will get anybody fired up about planting native in their yard.

Format: Hardcover

Published: February 04, 2020

planting in a post wild world

Planting in a Post-Wild World

Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

This is by far my favorite book on native gardening, as it contains tons of useful information that's better than anything you'll find online. With stunning color photos of established native plantings, there's an abundance to take inspiration from. If you're looking to learn more about the design and methodology of native landscapes, then this is the book for you.

Format: Hardcover

Published: October 07, 2015

gardening for the birds

Gardening for the Birds

Thomas G. Barnes

Written by one of Kentucky's greats, this book goes over how to attract more birds, pollinators, and other life to your yard. While he wrote it with Kentucky in mind, it can also apply to many of our neighboring states as well. With colored photos, illustrations, plant lists, building plans, and more, this is a great beginner-friendly book on how to transform your yard into a haven for local wildlife.

Format: Hardcover

Published: 11/19/1998

plant life of kentucky

Plant Life of Kentucky

Ronald L. Jones

This 834-page book covers all of the documented vascular plants in the state, as well as 250 others thought possibly to occur in Kentucky, making it a wealth of data. It's an ideal book for landscapers, biologists, researchers, teachers, and students alike. Whether you're looking for ferns, flowering herbs, or woody plants, this book will have information and illustrations on it.

Format: Hardcover

Published: March 25, 2005

bluegrass land and life

Bluegrass Land and Life

Mary E. Wharton and Roger W. Barbour

A deeper dive into the plants, animals, and land of the Inner Bluegrass, this book is perfect for anybody living in Lexington or its neighboring cities. It contains annotated lists of nearly 1,200 plant species and 474 animals, as well as tons of stunning color photos. If you're interested in the native life specific to the Lexington area, this is an amazing book to pick up.

Format: Paperback

Published: July 15, 2014


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