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Jensen: Native plants are a solution to landscaping issues

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 2:19 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 2:25 p.m. CDT

When choosing a plant for your garden, there are endless possibilities.

Unfortunately, many home gardeners fail to look beyond the usual hosta or daylily and miss the many benefits of native plants. In our area, the term “native plant” refers to any plant that is indigenous to Chicagoland. There are around 2,500 native species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, and even a cactus to plant in your yard. 

Native plants provide many benefits to both the homeowner and the environment. Once established, many native plants are extremely drought tolerant, which means you won’t have to water them as often. This frees up a few extra minutes for you, saves money and water, and your garden will look great, even in dry weather.

Natives also tend to be long-lived perennials; once they become established, you won’t have to worry about replanting them every year. In addition, native plants provide color, interesting textures in the yard, and they also feed and house wildlife. Essentially, a native garden is an oasis for wildlife amongst the sea of turf grass.

Do you have a stubborn spot in the yard where nothing will grow? There’s a native plant for that. For dry shady spots where nothing will grow try a May Apple. Some spots in the yard may hold a lot of water when it rains but then dry out quickly; for these spots try Prairie Blazing Star.

Looking for some early spring color? Try planting Pasque flowers. Or how about some fall color? Try Smooth Blue Aster. There is a native plant for every conceivable situation in the garden.

So next time you are looking to make an addition to your landscape, don’t forget about the vast array of beautiful and practical native plants.

Ryan Jensen is the naturalist for the Lisle Park District and a certified arborist

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