Illinois Natives

Illinois Natives

Native plants are frequently favorites of local birds and pollinators, who have evolved to depend on them at certain times of the year. These species also tend to be extremely well adapted to our climate — practice makes perfect! — which can mean less work for you. And with natives, we don't need to worry about them escaping our gardens and destablizing local natural ecosystems, the way we sometimes do with aggressive introduced species.

Why should you add Native Plants to your garden?

Native plants are key to providing a wildlife friendly garden. Native plants, shrubs, and trees provide nectar and pollen to native bees and other insects that are in severe decline. They offer food, protection, and housing not only to insects, but to spiders, birds, amphibians, reptiles, small and large mammals.

You could help create a pollinator corridor which is series of yards, open spaces and communities with native plants that connects different areas of habitat. This provides nutrition and homes for pollinators. A common example is milkweed which is necessary for monarch butterflies as they migrate. Milkweed used to be found commonly along roads and open areas but has recently been greatly reduced or eliminated.

Why Native Plants instead of Nativars?

Nurseries are cultivating native plants for various atypical features such as color, disease resistance, different color foliage and different flower heads. These are commonly referred to as Nativars. While these Nativars might be useful and attractive in your garden, the initial research has shown that some pollinators and insects cannot use these plants to collect pollen, food, or use as host plants. For example, consider the “Razzmatazz” cultivar of purple coneflower, which has a double flower (which is atypical). Bees and butterflies cannot gather pollen from double flowers. Also, this cultivar are sterile, which means it cannot produce seeds which typically provide food for birds such as goldfinches.

Please consider incorporating some native plants along with nativars in your garden to help nourish insects, pollinators, birds and more.

(See our "Illinois Natives" Top 25 Rankings!)

131 results

2022 Plant Club "Illinois Native" Top 25

Plant 2022 2021
Geranium maculatum 1 NR
Carex pensylvanica 2 NR
Mertensia virginica 3 3
Lobelia cardinalis 4 NR
Cercis canadensis 5 NR
Sporobolus heterolepis 6 NR
Monarda fistulosa 7 NR
Lobelia siphilitica 8 NR
Echinacea purpurea 9 NR
Sedum ternatum 10 NR
Geum triflorum 11 4
Schizachyrium scoparium 12 NR
Eutrochium purpureum 13 1
Liatris spicata 14 NR
Vernonia fasciculata 15 NR
Carex muskingumensis 16 NR
Echinacea pallida 17 NR
Carex vulpinoidea 18 NR
Clematis virginiana 19 NR
Ruellia humilis 20 11
Andropogon gerardii 21 NR
Aquilegia canadensis 22 NR
Ratibida pinnata 23 19
Liatris aspera 24 NR
Rosa carolina 25 NR

NR: No Ranking



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Field-Grown vs. Greenhouse-Grown Plants

Plants which are well-adapted to our local climate are most often field-grown (outside). Field-grown plants are generally cheaper and have the advantage of already somewhat acclimated to our cold winters, but that means they’re not artificially far along in the spring and tend to bloom at the normal time in our area.

Spring annuals and tender perennials are typically grown in Greenhouses so they can be ready and luxurious exactly when customers want them. Some perennials are also “forced” into early bloom in greenhouses. In May, there can be a very big difference between field-grown and greenhouse-grown plants of the same type. The latter typically look good right away (so they’re a great choice where that’s important), but we typically pay a premium for it.


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