What shurbs are native to Chicago/Illinois?
April 25, 2008 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I would like to plant some native plants/shrubs to adorn the front of our Chicago Bungalow. Problem is I don't know which plants are native to the area and i dont knwo where to get them.

I would like to plant some native plants/shrubs to adorn the front of our Chicago Bungalow. The problem is I don't know which plants are native to the area and I dont know where to get them. The planting bed is rather small, maybe ten feet by four feet and is in the front of the house so I would like to plant some taller shrubs, some medium size shrubs and some flowers.

Question is which plants should I look for. Bonus points if they can be found at the local big box retailer. If not, any Chicagoans know of nurseries specializing in this area on Chicago's Northside?

Bonus question: Should I dig up the hostas that are already there?
posted by blackjack514 to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Chicago Botanic Garden Annual sale is where you want to go. It's in mid-May. They have native wildflowers, shrubs, and pretty much everything else you might want - they are also probably the best people to talk to about native plants.
posted by true at 12:36 PM on April 25, 2008

Luckily this is all the rage right now. Here's a big database on PlantNative.org. It has a database of nurseries and native plants by area so you can find them at any greenhouse. And I would support local/organic greenhouses...I think if you are going "native" in your yard, you should be supporting the local economy in addition to the ecology. :)

Good luck, I would love to do this when I have an actual yard!
posted by sararah at 12:40 PM on April 25, 2008

Also check out your local Extension Agency -- yours is University of Illinois Extension. They will be able to help you with determining your soil type, if you need fertilizer, what plants do best in sun/shade, and more info on native plants. The master gardeners I have met are very interesting and fun to talk to.
posted by sararah at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2008

nthing the Master Gardeners. I took the program in Illinois in 1995 and participated in a native plant restoration in Kane County, very friendly and knowledgeable people. Also, if you want to go for a nice drive, Natural Gardens on Rte. 64 is cool, been there. Enders Greenhouse is also good (a bit of a hike but a nice trip on the tollway on a weekend). Both from the PlantNative.org list above. Ask for Mike if you go to Enders.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2008

Googling for "Illinois native plants" will get you a host of helpful links, like this or this.

My mom is in the NW suburbs and is very big into this. She's part of a group that gives away/sells native plants. I'll get the contact info and put it here.
posted by adamrice at 1:16 PM on April 25, 2008

Well, if the hostas are in the way of where you want to plant, then you'll have to dig them up. And if you do, can I have them? :) (I'm pretty much going to convert most of my back yard garden beds to hosta gardens, since they grow so well in these parts and there is such a variety available.)

That said, they do grow well and are extremely low maintenance, so if they aren't in the way, I'd keep them if I were you. They're a staple item around here.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:50 PM on April 25, 2008

Waverly island (and Millennium Park) have both been planted with old-timey native plants, and I'm pretty sure there's labels and information boards explaining stuff.
posted by unmake at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2008

Hostas and peonies, if anyone is wondering, are native to Asia, so they're not "Chicago Natives" in that sense. However, since Chicago (like many large cities), is a melting pot of cultures ... :)
posted by lleachie at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2008

I would highly recommend serviceberries, which come in both tree form and shrub form. Beautiful white flowers in the spring followed by tart fruit that is quite delicious (if the birds don't get it first). Leaves are gorgeous in the fall as well.

These have gotten to be extremely popular, so you may have to call around to find one.
posted by Ostara at 2:16 PM on April 25, 2008

This is more about what looks good with your house style, as opposed to what works well with your climate, but let me mention that there are whole books and articles written about what kinds of gardens go with Craftsman bungalows. I'm not sure if you want to go that traditional, but it might be a lot of fun.

For example, iris is a very traditional bungalow garden plant, and shows up in a lot of bungalow interior design too (wallpapers, friezes, etc.). They only bloom for about 2-3 weeks, so I would get some early and some late varieties to stretch out the bloom season. And they're so skinny, you can stick them in the ground between the other main plantings. I recommend Schreiner's Gardens, which has a great selection.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:31 PM on April 25, 2008

Bonus question: Should I dig up the hostas that are already there?

Well, if they look nice and require little maintenance, I wouldn't. But then I'm generally opposed to any sort of knee-jerk "native" planting (not saying you or anyone else here is doing that, but it happens a lot in California). Taking out plants that have shown their suitability to a situation is the antithesis of sustainability, to me, particularly when we're talking about a piece of soil that has long been separated from a true ecosystem (topsoil scraped away, maintenance removing leaves and debris). Different if you back on to a creek or a park and are actually doing an ecological restoration, but new plants are a resource sink in that they require more work, more water, transportation, &c.; whether native or not. So if you've got something well adapted to a situation, it makes more ecological sense to leave it. Ultimately, though, you should do what makes you happy, because it's your yard and you will be taking care of it. If you dig up the hostas, please give them to a good home.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:10 AM on April 26, 2008

Here's that organization I mentioned upthread: Wildflower preservation and propagation committee. That's my mom's yard in the banner photo.
posted by adamrice at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2008

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