5 Native Plants for Easy Gardening in Chicago, Illinois

By: Nannette Walker

The Windy City is known for the Magnificent Mile and clever landscaping downtown and in the many surrounding suburbs. Native plants that thrive in this area are used citywide in an effort to cut down on water consumption as well as withstand the frightfully cold winters. There are even rebate programs within the city limits if you choose native plants to complement the tiny average Chicago lawn size, which is just over 900 square feet.  Check out these 5 native plants for easy gardening in Chicago:

1. Purple Coneflower

This beautiful native flower produces long-lasting purple lavender flowers that look like a version of a daisy. The petals grow downwards off of the cone center and blooming happens in mid-summer. The Purple Coneflower can grow up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide so place them in a spot in the garden that will give them enough space to fully mature. You’ll notice many area butterflies stopping by to gather nectar from the plant which also helps support the local environment. Let the plant stand over winter to provide seeds to birds and then cut back in mid-spring for the best natural growth.

2. Butterfly Milkweed

Another staple of the Chicago area is the Butterfly Milkweed that plays an important part of the ecosphere. This large weed produces bright orange flowers that attract Monarch butterflies as well as hummingbirds. It can get up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide and will bloom all throughout summer. It is a natural feeder for mature butterflies and is easy to grow while also being able to withstand sub-par soil conditions.

3. Virginia Blue Bells

This native plant is great for those homeowners who need something to plant underneath large trees. Virginia Blue Bells feature pastel pink buds that turn into delicate blue flowers. They do best in partial to full shaded areas and will be another plant that will see many visits from area pollinators. Virginia bluebells will continue to spread each year and require very little maintenance once established. A mature plant can reach 2 feet in height as well as 2 feet wide over the course of a growing season. They are a great option for those gardeners looking for early to late spring blooms before the heat of summer arrives.

4. Meadowsweet

If you are looking for a taller addition to the garden consider planting a native shrub-like Meadowsweet. This interesting plant will be anywhere from 2-6 feet fully grown and features delicate white flowers. Each flower has 5 petals and 5 light green sepals and pistils that stick out farther than the petals. A ring of yellow is located in the middle of each flower giving this plant points in both textures and as a focal point in the garden. Blooms arrive from mid to late summer and will stick around into early fall. Plant Meadowsweet in areas of full sun with moist soil conditions for the best growing performance.

5. Blazingstar

This beautiful native coneflower offers blooms in late summer and will attract both monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Blazingstar features unique vertical columns of purple blossoms on the ends of green stems which can reach up to 5 feet in height. These low maintenance plants are great to plant in a corner of a garden as well as along a border. Blazingstar grows in partial shade to full sun and can tolerate average soil conditions.

Choosing a few or all of these native plants for your Chicago area yard will add beauty and interest to your home as well as support the local environment. Adding different native plants that offer various colors and bloom times will keep your yard active with pollinators for most of the year. Consider these 5 native plants for easy gardening in the Chicago area.

Nannette Walker is a gardening and design writer with a passion for growing her own food. She loves to make quirky decor using recycled elements, she is also a music lover, always making time for a sing along with her guitar.

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