Everybody is talking about them and they continue to gain in popularity, but what exactly are they? Native plants are plants that are adapted to our weather, soils, pests and they support local pollinators and wildlife. Because of this natives have many advantages over non-natives which we think are going to make your life as a gardener much easier.
Here are some key features of natives:
- Drought Tolerance – Once established native plants can have deep and extensive root systems that provide them with both drought and fire resistance. Natives are also better adapted to our climatic zone and weather patterns.
- No Pesticides – Native plants are better adapted and thus more resilient against pest and disease attacks and do not require pesticide treatment. Any damage tends to be aesthetic and temporary. Be aware that pesticides will have a detrimental effect on pollinators.
- No Fertilizers – Plants are acclimated to Chicago growing conditions and do not need additional fertilizer input.
- Sustainability – No need for continuous input of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Plants are long-lived, perennials return every year and annuals reseed. Share plants with family and friends as natives are plentiful.
- Environmentally Friendly – Plants attract and support pollinators and other local wildlife including birds.
- Added Interest – Native prairie and woodland plants are exquisitely beautiful and can easily compete with traditional perennials. By attracting pollinators and birds, natives bring a whole new dimension to your garden, as it will come alive with colorful additions of butterflies, hummingbirds and more.
Do not let yourself be frightened off by thinking you need to convert your entire garden into natives. Small changes can also make a big difference. Start small and get one or two plants. Another common misbelief regarding natives is that they will result in a messy looking garden. This is entirely dependent on the gardener! Plants can look tidy and appealing to neighbors if chosen carefully, planted in the correct place and maintained accordingly.
Tips to Maintain Tidiness
- For small spaces choose plants that will not spread underground by root systems.
- Right plant in the right place! One of our qualified staff members in Perennials will be happy to advise you, ensuring you find that perfect plant.
- Have a clean and tidy edge leading up to your native bed, i.e. a lawn.
- Remove seedheads to avoid plants seeding.
National Wildlife Federation https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife
National Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org/native-plants
Monarch Watch https://monarchwatch.org/
Conservation at Home http://theconservationfoundation.org/page.php?PageID=82
Conservation at Home for Cook County https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/conservationhome/
Illinois Wildflowers https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center https://www.wildflower.org/plants/
Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx
Grow Native http://grownative.org/about-gn/
Bees and Pollinators https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/
The Xerces Society https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/native-bees/
Million Garden Pollinator Challenge http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/
USDA Forestry Service https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/gardening.shtml
Seed Savers Exchange https://www.seedsavers.org/pollinator-garden