The term “native” plant generally refers to plants indigenous to a particular geographic region. Over time those plants have adapted to local environmental and social influences such as soil types, micro-climates and human influences. Native plants are definitely an important part of a healthy ecosystem.
There’s no special way to landscape with native plants. The design can be simple clusters of one plant, or a mix of plants to create a wildflower meadow or pollinator paradise. Native plants can be arranged in any way you like, just as ornamentals are, and there are many benefits to growing native plants over non-natives.
Did you know … Just like ornamentals, native plants have different life cycles (annual, biennial, perennial), different planting requirements (e.g. sun/shade, moister/drier) and different blooming times.
Let’s dive into the reasons why native plants matter, and why you should be including these plants in your landscaping plans!
7 Benefits of Using Native Plants
1.) Less Maintenance –
Native plants are typically more resistant to disease, drought and other environmental risks than other plants. They can spread quickly to crowd out any weeds, which means less maintenance and upkeep for you.
Survival rates over the first winter after planting are usually higher than ornamentals. Native plants are also used to toughing it through drought and poor weather conditions so they don’t need as much fussing.
Many native plants grow in such a fashion that protects the soil from being flooded with water. This means landscaping with native plants will keep the soil rich, and allow these plants to flourish in the environment.
2.) Save Money & Water –
Since native plants are accustomed to their habitat, they are able to hold water better than non-native plants, which will save you significant amounts of water. Native plants can adapt to the typical amount of precipitation an area receives. Preserving water will lead to lower water expenses and increased savings for you.
3.) Better Resistance to Local Weather –
Native plants also tend to withstand the environment better than non-native plants. This allows them to withstand harsh weather and grow back the following year. Every year the plant grows back is another year you do not have to purchase a new plant to replace those that did not survive. Native plants are quick-growing, super tough, and long-lived, which means you’ll rarely have to buy replacements.
Explore a wide variety of native plants and sun loving perennials for Zone 5 / 6 … by clicking here
4.) Restores Natural Habitats –
By landscaping with native plants in your yard, you are contributing to a natural habitat for the animals that reside in the area. Native plants typically produce, fruit, nectar, nuts, and seeds, which provide a natural source of food for many birds and animals. In some areas, large amounts of wildlife depend on these plants and other natural sources to survive.
Surrounding your home with native plants guarantees you’ll benefit from close encounters with bevies of birds, butterflies, insects, and mammals seeking food and shelter.
5.) No Fertilizer or Pesticides Needed –
Because they are adapted to the specific climate of the region, native plants can defend themselves against indigenous insects, fungi, and disease. So instead of spraying the plants with artificial pesticides, they have a natural built-in defense system to protect themselves.
By not having to use pesticides on your plants, you’re saving time, money, and helping to not pollute your environment and not causing damage to other plants.
6.) Rarely Invasive –
Most native plants are not invasive and will allow all other plants in your garden or yard to grow freely. Plants that are invasive will only make landscaping more difficult. Invasive plants will control the growth of all other plants in the area costing you in both valuable time and money. With less invasive plants, you have many more options with the open space provided.
10 Native Plants That Will Thrive In Your Zone 5 / 6 Garden:
1. BUTTERFLY WEED
Don’t let its name fool you. This bushy perennial produces bright orange flower clusters over stiff, oblong green leaves. The butterfly weed (pictured above) requires full sunshine, but very little water and is extremely drought tolerant. It blooms from May until September and returns to your garden every year without any effort on your part. Butterfly weed is also known as Asclepias tuberosa.
It’s very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The seed pods can be used in dried arrangements.
2. New England Aster
This robust, showy native aster is a magnet for pollinators. Again, the name can be deceiving. It’s native to most of North America, except for a few Southern states. This purple-pink flowering plant – the New England Aster – also returns every year without much work. It prefers moist soil but doesn’t need a lot of watering. This native flower is a favorite of honey bees and monarch butterflies. Plant it in an area that gets some shade.
3. Pale Purple Coneflower
You’ll often see this native flower in wooded areas and forests around the midwest. It can grow up to three feet tall in the wild and needs little water or care. Just sprinkle some seeds in a sunny area and let nature do the rest.
The daisy-like flowers with a raised cone and drooping petals are a dependable garden favorite. For best results, plant in well-drained soil and give them space to grow.
4. Dense Blazing Star
This tall, slender perennial (a.k.a. Liatris) produces purple flowers from July until September. It needs full sun and moist soil but can survive in dry conditions.
It makes quite a statement with its bright flowers that attract butterflies in late summer and early fall.
5. Wild Quinine
This white flowering perennial with pearl-like buds is the perfect complement to the other colorful flowers in your garden. It thrives in full sunlight and needs just enough water to keep the soil moist. You’ll often see bees and beetles feeding on the pollen in the wild.
6. Elderberry Bushes
These low-maintenance shrubs produce a mouthwatering berry that’s great in wine, jams, and pies. This hardy plant tolerates our frigid winters and blooms in late June with a cluster of white flowers. The purple fruit on eldberberry plants appears in August, ready for harvesting a few weeks later. If it doesn’t rain, the shrubs need a weekly watering.
7. Red (Wild) Columbine
If your garden is in a well-shaded area, wild columbine will do well. It produces a light pink flower that doesn’t require much maintenance or water. It does well in sandy and clay soils.
8. Garden Phlox
Garden phlox is another light purple flower that grows like a weed in the Midwest. You’ll often see them in open wooded areas and thickets since they prefer moist soil and sunlight. The flowers will bloom late into October.
There is a phlox for almost every garden. They are eye-catching in bloom and they are often very fragrant. Some phlox bloom in early spring while others bloom in the middle of the summer.
9. Dutchman’s Breeches
This white flowering plant produces blooms that look like upside-down breeches, hence its name. It thrives in shady areas, and since it’s native to Illinois, you’ll find it in wooded areas in just about every county in the state. Dutchman’s Breeches prefer moist areas, but they’re a hardy plant and can resist a moderate frost.
10. Oakleaf Hydrangea
One more shade loving plant to round out your garden includes the oakleaf hydrangea. This native shrub ranges from three to twelve feet tall. The blooms start as green flowers that turn white and then violet. This process begins in June and lasts until mid-winter. The shrub requires moist soil and some pruning after it blooms, but other than bees, it won’t attract pests to your backyard.
These are only 10 of the native plants and flowers that will thrive in your garden. By going native, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and help the biodiversity of your home town.
Where To Find Native Plants
Native plants can be found most frequently at local plant sales, or by reaching out to neighbors with diverse gardens. Plant people tend to seek each other out and are happy to provide seeds or divided plants to spread the love of natives.
In the Chicago suburbs, the Growing Place nursery has a wonderful collection of native plants for zone 5 gardens. Some interesting natives can also be found for sale online by reputable nurseries.
Why To Use Native Plants Summary
By including a variety of plants of different sizes and heights in your yard, you can mimic the natural features that provide food, habitat and structure for wildlife. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats.
They provide protective shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.
Many native plants offer beautiful showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and brilliant seasonal changes in colors from the pale greens of early spring, to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn.
So if you’re looking for a way to encourage pollinators, create a low maintenance flower garden in your landscape, add beauty to your yard, and create conversations – grow native plants!