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Gardening for Nature

Native plants are well adapted to the local climate and soil. They make for a beautiful garden that requires very little attention and offers abundant rewards.

By connecting leaders in conservation, health, business, and beyond, we tackle challenging issues to ensure a resilient region and highest quality of life.

Native plant gardens:

  • are drought resistant and require minimal watering
  • are less expensive and time consuming to maintain than conventional landscapes
  • shelter and food for wildlife
  • prevent the spread of invasive plant species
  • require minimal or no fertilizers, pesticides, or lawn maintenance equipment
  • are less prone to disease and pests


How Do I Create a Native Garden?

1. Select a type of garden. Here are some popular options:

- Rain gardens are low-maintenance landscaped areas that are specially designed to contain, filter and soak up storm water runoff from rooftops, patios, driveways or basement sump pumps, and to reduce flooding.

By transforming 100 square feet of your lawn into a sunken perennial bed planted with native plants naturally adapted to wet conditions, you'll see a progression of blooms throughout the growing season. You'll also enjoy a significant increase in color and activity provided by the influx of birds, butterflies and dragonflies visiting your yard.

- Songbird, hummingbird, and butterfly gardens attract winged visitors by using plants such as: viburnum, hazelnut, hawthorn, cardinal lobelia, native phlox, juneberry, hackberry, juniper, Golden Alexander, blazing star, sedges, native asters, purple coneflower, and any milkweeds. Visit these sites for information on how to attract and provide important habitat for songbirds, migratory birds and other species that need it the most:

National Audubon Society - Chicago Region

The Monarch Prairie Kit - Create a Natural Place to Learn


2. Choose native plants to fill your garden based on whether your garden gets full sun, partial shade, or complete shade. For additional resources:


Wild Ones

The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee


Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Landscape

Exchange pesticide use for natural landscaping
Native plants welcome a host of beneficial insects, such as lacewings, praying mantises, ladybugs, as well as birds. Synthetic pesticides actually keep these allies away. These creatures were born to prey on pests.

Water only when needed
If you have a lawn, only water when it really needs it, and then water slowly and deeply to grow deeper, stronger roots, which will make your grass more drought-resistant and able to tolerate disease and insects. Conserve water by installing a rain barrel to collect and store rainwater, which can be used to water your garden, lawn, and potted plants.

Mow High
Mowing your lawn a little bit higher — about 2.5 to 3.5 inches — is another easy way to improve its health. The taller leaves allow for more photosynthesis and a deeper root system. Keep mower blades sharp and leave your clippings on the lawn.

Use organic fertilizers
Nourishing your plants with compost, grass clippings, alfalfa meal, bonemeal, and rabbit food encourage real, long-term health and are often the best solution to many pest problems.

Swap chemical herbicides for pure vinegars
This will help eliminate weeds on patios and other unwanted locales. Vinegars high in acetic acid will do the trick, or buy products that combine vinegar with other natural weed killers in ready-to-use spray.