Where The Beauty Of Nature

Meets The Art Of Design

Native Plants for Chicago

What is a Native Plant?   As defined by the horticultural community, it is a plant that grows naturally in a particular region without either direct or indirect human intervention, i.e., plants that were growing wild in an area before European settlement.

In addition to natives, there are “nativars”, which are cultivars of native species that have been perfected for various unique traits through selective breeding, not cross-species hybridization. Interesting varieties with unique characteristics sometimes occur naturally in the wild. These individual native plants are selected for a specific quality: disease resistance, hardiness, height, flower form or color. They are then cultivated by growers, making them more readily available to nurseries and gardeners.

Nativars can be showier, less “weedy-looking,” and easier to grow than true natives, making them more appealing to the urban gardener. Nevertheless, some gardeners are interested in growing native plants in Chicago solely for the purpose of attracting the native pollinators and wild-bird species. If this is your goal, it is important to understand whether or not a particular nativar retains the characteristics that make it desirable to the species you are striving to attract.

Gardening with the Natives

Interest in native plants is growing, but is a native plant automatically a great garden plant? While it is true that native plants are adapted to their region, particular soil conditions can prove to be a problem. Most soil in urban areas has been disturbed; essential soil conditions for many native plants no longer exist; so we are now expecting native plants to survive in an altered environment. This does not make it impossible to have a garden of native plants in Chicago; it simply means we must attentively select the appropriate natives or nativars.

Once established, a native plant requires less care and is less of a drain on natural resources than most non-native, ornamental plants. Local native plants provide the additional benefit of supporting native wildlife. Therefore, when you add these resilient species to your garden, you will be helping to sustain important birds, butterflies and bees.

Gardeners may visualize native plants only in a casual meadow-like setting, but that’s just one style of gardening. There is a place for native plants even in the most formal layout. All plants are considered to be native somewhere and gardening enthusiasts have found ways to utilize each and every one of them!

The key, as when selecting any plant, is to know what your environmental conditions are and the purpose you expect the plant(s) to fulfill in that particular location. In other words, choose the right plant for the right place. For the best display, plant all perennials, including natives, in groups of at least three.

Native Plants available at Chicago’s Garden Center

At Farmers Market, Chicago’s garden center, we offer an extensive and diverse collection of ornamental native plants, selected for both novice and veteran gardeners. Whether you have a large backyard or a rooftop deck, our plant experts are prepared to lend you a hand in selecting the appropriate plants for your native garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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