Plants in a Saint Francis Garden

The Catholic Church honors St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of animals and ecology. Francis, who spent his life in poverty and simplicity, realized how important nature is to man. According to the University of Dayton, the area used to grow plants for decorating churches and monasteries was called a "field of paradise." Plant shrubs and flowers that attract birds and butterflies to encourage spiritual remembrance and honor the Virgin Mary.

Thornless Roses

When Francis received the stigmata, his blood turned into roses when it fell upon the ground, according to Columbia University. He also was said to have thrown his body onto a rosebush as penance. Because of this, religious gardens tend to have thornless rose varieties. Popular roses without the prickly stickers include Smooth Buttercup, Banksiae and Zephirine Drouhin. Roses need at least six hours of full sun each day, well-drained and fertile soil, and watering at least once a week.


Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is also known as the Tree of Life. According to, it's mentioned in the Book of Genesis as having the potential to grant immortality to Adam and Eve. In Proverbs, it is used as a simile for a blessing. Christians also see the Tree of Life as symbolic of Jesus Christ. Arborvitae is an evergreen tree or shrub that grows well in cooler climates of USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 7. It likes full or partial sun and moist soil with an alkaline pH, but it can adapt to dry or rocky soil.


Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) is also known as Our Lady's Shoes, referring to the Virgin Mary. When columbine's flowers drop their petals, the petals resemble a slipper. Legend says that columbine plants sprang from the ground wherever Mary stepped on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth, according to the University of Illinois Extension. This herbaceous perennials, a favorite of butterflies, grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8. Its lantern-like flowers come in red, pink, blue, purple, white and lavender. The variegated leaves are marbled green with yellow and cream. Columbine requires full sun to part shade and well-drained soil.

Keywords: St. Francis garden, gardens for birds, gardens for butterflies

About this Author

Aileen Clarkson has been an award-winning editor and reporter for more than 20 years, earning three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. She has worked for several newspapers, including "The Washington Post" and "The Charlotte Observer." Clarkson earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Florida.