You don’t need a green thumb to have a beautiful garden in Chicago, but it helps if you think “green” and choose plants that are environmentally friendly. Plants that are native to the Windy City take less water, money and time to cultivate. They also attract birds, bees and other pollinators to your yard. Here are 10 native plants and flowers that will thrive in your Chicago garden:
1. The Butterfly Weed
Don’t let its name fool you. This bushy perennial produces bright orange flower clusters overtop stiff, oblong green leaves. The butterfly weed requires full sunshine, but very little water and is extremely drought tolerant. It blooms from May until September and returns to your Chicago garden every year without any effort on your part.
2. New England Aster
Again, the name can be deceiving. It’s native to most of North America, except for a few Southern states. This purple-pink flowering plant also returns every year without much work. It prefers moist soil but doesn’t need a lot of watering. This native flower is a favorite of honey bees and monarch butterflies. Plant it in an area that gets some shade.
3. Pale Purple Coneflower
You’ll often see this native flower in wooded areas and forests around Chicago. It can grow up to three feet tall in the wild and needs little water or care. Just sprinkle some seeds in a sunny area and let nature do the rest.
4. Dense Blazing Star
This tall, slender perennial produces purple flowers from July until September. It needs full sun and moist soil but can survive in dry conditions.
5. Wild Quinine
This white flowering perennial with pearl-like buds is the perfect complement to the other colorful flowers in your garden. It thrives in full sunlight and needs just enough water to keep the soil moist. You’ll often see bees and beetles feeding on the pollen in the wild.
6. Elderberry Bushes
These low-maintenance shrubs produce a mouthwatering berry that’s great in wine, jams, and pies. This hardy plant tolerates our frigid winters and blooms in late June with a cluster of white flowers. The purple fruit appears in August, ready for harvesting a few weeks later. If it doesn’t rain, the shrubs need a weekly watering.
7. Red (Wild) Columbine
If your garden is in a well-shaded area, wild columbine will do well. It produces a light pink flower that doesn’t require much maintenance or water. It does well in sandy and clay soils.
8. Garden Phlox
Garden phlox is another light purple flower that grows like a weed in Chicago. You’ll often see them in open wooded areas and thickets since they prefer moist soil and sunlight. The flowers will bloom late into October.
9. Dutchman’s Breeches
This white flowering plant produces blooms that look like upside-down breeches, hence its name. It thrives in shady areas, and since it’s native to Illinois, you’ll find it in wooded areas in just about every county in the state. Dutchman’s Breeches prefer moist areas, but they’re a hardy plant and can resist a moderate frost.
10. Oakleaf Hydrangea
One more shade loving plant to round out your garden includes the oakleaf hydrangea. This native shrub ranges from three to twelve feet tall. The blooms start as green flowers that turn white and then violet. This process begins in June and lasts until mid-winter. The shrub requires moist soil and some pruning after it blooms, but other than bees, it won’t attract pests to your backyard.
These are only 10 of the native plants and flowers that will thrive in your Chicago garden. By going native, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and help the biodiversity of your home town. Check with a LawnStarter professional about native grasses that will give you a lush lawn with minimal work.
Need help with your garden or lawn care? Visit our Chicago lawn care page for more information.