Native plants are any plant that was growing naturally in a particular area, such as Illinois, before other plants were introduced to the area by humans. Using these plants in your garden has several benefits to both you the gardener, your garden itself, and wildlife in the area.
One of the best reasons to plant natives in your yard is that they are low maintenance and energy savers. They have been in this type of soil and climate conditions for thousands of years. This means they are vigorous and hardy to the area, so once planted, they can survive the heat of the summer and cold of the winter without irrigation or fertilization. They are also resistant to any pests or diseases that are common in our area.
Another benefit of planting natives in your landscape is that they help keep a natural balance in your garden. Each plant is part of the larger community of other plants, animals and microorganisms which keep each other in check. This allows for the plants to thrive in the conditions they’re planted in without overrunning your garden. Native species are rarely invasive like other plants can be.
Native plants provide shelter for wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Seeds, nuts and fruits on these plants provide food for not only birds but squirrels and other mammals as well. Nectar in the plants attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Planting these in the landscape provides plenty for wildlife to enjoy while you enjoy the plants.
Native plants, especially grasses, have roots that grow deep. This will not only help enrich your soil, but reduce soil erosion and runoff. Ultimately, these plants will help improve the soil in your garden.
A final benefit of using natives in your landscape is that there are so many different plants to choose from. There are many different heights, textures, flowers and colors to add to your yard, with the added benefit of being a native. Here are some of the best natives for the state of Illinois:
Allium canadense, Allium stellatum, Amorpha fruticosa (False Indigo), Aquilegia Canadensis (Wild red columbine), Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit, Asclepias incarnate (Swamp milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern), Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower), Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Geranium maculatum (Cranesbill geranium), Geum triflorum (Purple avens), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower), Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells), Monarda fistulosa (Beebalm), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass), Phlox divaricate ssp. Laphamii (Sweet William), Phlox pilosa (Fragrant phlox), Polygonatum biflorum (Christmas Fern), Rudebeckia subtomentosa (Sweet Coneflower), Salix discolor (Pussy Willow), Spiderwort, Liatris spicata (Blazing star)
By choosing a few of these natives for your garden, you can add color and texture to your yard with all the added benefits of landscaping with native plants.