You are eligible for FREE shipping!


    Item has been added

    Get 20% off!arrow_drop_up

    Gardening with Purpose: Illinois Native Plants

    • person Hardy Garden
    • calendar_today
    • comment 0 comments
    Illinois Native Plants

    Illinois experiences extremes of weather, from sweltering summers to frigid winters. Gardens, woods, marshes, parks, and backyards all flourish in our continental climate. In Illinois, you can find plants that are unique to the United States as a whole. Plants native to a specific area have survived and thrived there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Here, we're especially curious about Illinois's flora before European contact. They differ from the invasive and alien plant species that appeared later.

    Illinois' native plants have adapted to the state's extreme weather. Native to Illinois, these plants could also thrive in other states in the Midwest. The Indian paintbrush, purple prairie clover, and the cup plant are all flora indigenous to Illinois. Despite urbanization and invasive species, Illinois' flora is thriving. Because of their modifications, the plants have survived.

    Continue reading to learn more about plants native to Illinois.

    Trees and Shrubs

    Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

    Beautiful and valuable to the environment, the Eastern Redbud is a tree of great significance in the state of Illinois. It is a beloved symbol of Illinois's varied natural landscapes and a fitting representative of the state's official state tree. 

    Key features of the Eastern Redbud:

    • Flowering Beauty: Adorned with vibrant pink or purple flower clusters, creating a breathtaking spectacle in spring.
    • Distinctive Leaves: Heart-shaped leaves emerge after flowering, turning a glossy green as they mature.
    • Unique Bark: Characterized by a maroon-brown bark that offers visual interest throughout the year.
    • Wildlife Support: Provides nectar for bees and other pollinators, while its seeds and foliage serve as food for birds and small mammals.
    • Adaptability: Thrives in various soil types and can grow in both sun and partial shade, making it versatile for landscaping.
    • Erosion Control: Its root system helps prevent soil erosion, making it valuable for stabilizing landscapes.

    White Oak (Quercus alba)

    The White Oak (Quercus alba) holds significant importance to the state of Illinois. As a native tree species, it plays a vital role in the state's ecosystem and cultural heritage. Its adaptable nature allows it to thrive in various habitats, making it a key component of Illinois' forests and woodlands. 

    Features of the White Oak:

    • Iconic Tree: Recognizable by its distinct lobed leaves and grayish bark, the White Oak is an iconic tree in Illinois.
    • Wildlife Habitat: The tree provides essential habitat and sustenance for various wildlife species, including birds, squirrels, and insects. White Oak produces acorns, an essential food source for wildlife, contributing to forest regeneration.
    • Longevity: With a lifespan of several centuries, the White Oak stands as a living witness to Illinois' history and changes in its landscape.
    • Shade and Aesthetics: Its expansive canopy offers shade for outdoor spaces, making it a favored tree for parks, streets, and residential areas.
    • Soil Health: White Oak trees improve soil quality by promoting nutrient cycling and preventing erosion, thus benefiting the overall ecosystem.
    • Cultural Symbolism: The White Oak is often celebrated as a symbol of strength, endurance, and resilience in Illinois' cultural narratives.

    Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)

    Illinoisans place a high value on serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) trees because of their many valuable qualities. You can improve the look of your yard or garden while helping the environment by planting this tree. 

    Key features of Serviceberry:

    • Ornamental Beauty: Stunning white blossoms in spring and vivid fall colors add aesthetic charm to your landscape.
    • Wildlife Attraction: Edible berries attract birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, fostering a thriving ecosystem.
    • Seasonal Interest: Enjoy the changing foliage colors throughout the year, enhancing the visual appeal of your outdoor space.
    • Adaptability: Serviceberries thrive in diverse soil conditions and can tolerate different light levels, making them versatile for Illinois gardens.
    • Low Maintenance: These trees require minimal care once established, making them suitable for busy homeowners.
    • Ecosystem Benefits: Serviceberries play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance by supporting local wildlife and contributing to pollination.
    • Cultural Significance: Some indigenous cultures value serviceberries for their culinary and medicinal uses, connecting your landscape to historical traditions.

    Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

    Black Cherry is important to Illinois as it is a native deciduous tree vital to the state's ecosystem. Planting Black Cherry trees in your garden or lawn can benefit the environment and outdoor space. 

    Features and Benefits:

    • Native Species: Black Cherry is native to Illinois, making it well-suited to the local climate and ecosystem. By planting native species, you contribute to the preservation of local biodiversity.
    • Wildlife Habitat: The tree produces small black cherries that serve as an essential food source for wildlife, including birds and mammals. Creating a habitat for these creatures enhances the ecological balance of your area.
    • Aesthetic Appeal: With its glossy leaves, fragrant white flowers, and dark cherries, the Black Cherry tree adds beauty and visual interest to your garden or lawn throughout the year. As it grows, the tree provides ample shade, creating a more relaxed environment in your outdoor space during the hot summer months.
    • Soil Stabilization: The extensive root system of the Black Cherry helps prevent soil erosion, stabilizing landscapes and preventing runoff.
    • Carbon Sequestration: Trees are crucial in capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. By planting Black Cherry trees, you contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change.
    • Low Maintenance: Once established, Black Cherry trees generally require minimal care, making them a relatively easy addition to your garden or lawn.

    Flowers and Perennials

    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    This native perennial offers a range of benefits. Its daisy-like flowers and striking cone-shaped centers add a touch of elegance to any landscape. Its adaptability to the Illinois climate makes it a low-maintenance addition to your garden. 

    This plant is resilient to dry conditions, making it an excellent choice for Illinois' variable weather patterns. It requires minimal care, thriving in various soil types and requiring only occasional watering.

    The dried seed heads of Purple Coneflower provide winter interest in the garden and can also serve as a food source for birds.  It is a favorite among bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. This contributes to the health of local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity. 

    For its potential health benefits, it has immune-boosting properties and is used in herbal remedies.

    Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

    You should definitely plant some Wild Bergamot, or Monarda fistulosa, in your Illinois yard. This native perennial is both aesthetically and aromatically pleasing, thanks to its beautiful lavender-pink blossoms. 

    Wild Bergamot not only looks pretty, but it also helps your garden out by luring beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. Its fragrant leaves can be used to make herbal teas, giving you more variety in your selection of tasty beverages. 

    This plant requires little care and thrives in Illinois's environment, making it a great addition to any yard. Wild Bergamot is a beautiful native plant that can be planted to help protect endangered species. 

    Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

    For several reasons, planting Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) in your garden or lawn in Illinois is a fantastic idea. Native to North America and thriving in the Illinois climate make them a natural and attractive addition to your garden. 

    Their brilliant yellow or orange blossoms add color to your garden from mid-summer to early October. The stunning blossoms attract bees and butterflies, supporting local ecosystems and biodiversity. They complement other native plants, improving your garden's aesthetics and ecology.

    Moreover, these plants can withstand drought, requiring less frequent watering. Their massive root systems maintain soil, reducing erosion. 

    New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

     Planting New England Aster in your garden or lawn in Illinois can benefit your outdoor space. This vibrant native perennial offers a burst of color and requires minimal maintenance. Its tall, sturdy stems adorned with stunning purple, pink, or blue flowers can add a captivating visual appeal to your landscape. 

    The New England Aster thrives in Illinois and feeds and shelters butterflies, bees, and other helpful creatures. Plant this hardy wildflower to boost your garden's biodiversity and enjoy its beauty year after year. 

    Grasses and Sedges

    Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

     Planting Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in your garden or lawn in Illinois is a great choice for various reasons. This native, warm-season grass offers many benefits that contribute to the beauty and health of your outdoor space. Its adaptability to the local climate and soil conditions makes it an excellent addition. 

    Switchgrass adds richness and movement to your environment with its tall, elegant stems and airy seed heads. It also controls erosion and provides bird and insect habitat. 

    Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

    Illinois gardeners and lawn owners should plant Little Bluestem for many reasons. This native grass is a great landscape addition due to its many benefits. It flourishes with little care since it adapts to the local climate and soil. Little Bluestem's blue-green foliage and reddish-brown fall hues give year-round charm. Its upright growth gives it structure and texture, which contrasts well with other plants. 

    This grass also attracts birds and butterflies, increasing your outdoor ecosystem. The deep root system prevents soil erosion and increases water penetration. Due to its low maintenance and aesthetic appeal, it is a flexible and practical choice for Illinois gardens and lawns.

    Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

    Planting Prairie Dropseed in your Illinois garden or lawn is great for several reasons. This native grass has several benefits that improve the health and aesthetics of your outdoor space. Natural and inviting, its wispy, fine-textured leaves and dainty seed heads. 

    Prairie Dropseed provides habitat and food for wildlife, making it attractive and beneficial to local ecosystems. This tough grass thrives in Illinois' temperature and soil, making upkeep easy. Perfect your garden or lawn, helping increase biodiversity, conserve water, and enjoy the particular charm of a local plant.

    Pollinator-Friendly Plants

    Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

    In Illinois, planting Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) in your yard or lawn has several benefits. This vivid native perennial offers color to your environment. It attracts pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, improving your local ecosystem. Its aromatic leaves smell good when brushed, and its herbal characteristics make it a good addition to any herbal garden. 

    Bee Balm makes your outdoor space look better in bright and slightly shaded places since it adapts to Illinois' environment. In your garden, its deer and rabbit resistance ensures its durability. Plant Bee Balm to beautify your Illinois garden, help local wildlife, and add herbal charm.

    Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.)

    Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.) is an excellent addition to your garden or lawn in Illinois. Its tall, graceful stems adorned with clusters of pinkish-purple flowers add visual appeal and offer numerous benefits to your landscape. This native perennial is well-suited to the Illinois climate and soil conditions, making it a hassle-free choice for your outdoor space. Its sturdy growth and hardiness make it a reliable plant that requires minimal maintenance, making it perfect for both experienced and novice gardeners.

    Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

    Planting Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in your Illinois garden or lawn has many benefits. This native perennial is attractive and vital to local ecosystems and pollinators. Its bright orange blossoms attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects, boosting outdoor biodiversity. 

    Butterfly Weed thrives in Illinois' climate and soil, making it a low-maintenance landscape accent. Its thick roots prevent soil erosion and increase water retention. Butterfly Weed beautifies your yard and protects local wildlife and natural equilibrium.

    Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

    Goldenrod is an excellent addition to your Illinois garden or lawn's beauty and ecological value. The vivid yellow blossoms attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, boosting local ecosystem health and biodiversity.

    Goldenrod requires little maintenance once established, making it excellent for busy gardeners. It can endure sun partial shade and varied soil conditions. It blooms in late summer through fall, adding color to your garden when other plants have done.

    Goldenrod's robust root system prevents soil erosion, making it ideal for sloped gardens and lawns. Conserve your region's natural heritage and enjoy native Illinois flowers by planting Goldenrod.

    Native Fruits

    Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

    Planting Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in your Illinois garden or lawn has many benefits. This native fruit-bearing tree thrives in the area and has several benefits.

    Pawpaw fruit tastes like a mix of banana, mango, and melon, making it a tasty addition to your produced vegetables. Pawpaw trees are easy to care for once planted, making them ideal for beginners and experts.

    Pawpaw trees enhance your landscape with their enormous, tropical-looking leaves and attractive form. The tree's large leaves shade and provide solitude, making the outdoors comfortable.

    Pawpaw trees attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, improving local wildlife habitat. 

    Wild Blackberry (Rubus spp.)

    Planting Wild Blackberries (Rubus spp.) in your garden or lawn in Illinois can bring many benefits and enjoyment. These native plants thrive in the local climate. Wild Blackberries produce sweet and juicy berries that delight your taste buds and are rich in antioxidants and vitamins.

    Once established, Wild Blackberries need minimal care, making them a hassle-free addition to your garden or lawn. These plants attract various wildlife species, such as birds and butterflies, enhancing the biodiversity of your outdoor space.

    The white flowers in spring and the dark berries in summer create a beautiful contrast that adds aesthetic appeal to your landscape. The dense growth of Wild Blackberries helps prevent soil erosion, especially on slopes or areas prone to runoff.

    These plants can spread naturally through their root systems, filling spaces and providing ground cover. Wild Blackberries can adapt to various soil types and sun conditions, making them versatile for different areas in your garden or lawn.

    Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

    Illinois gardeners and lawn owners should consider planting elderberry (Sambucus spp.) for aesthetic and functional purposes. Elderberries are native to Illinois and thrive in its climate and ecology.  Elderberries are easy to grow for beginners and experts.

    The clusters of small, white blossoms and dark berries attract bees, butterflies, and birds who eat them. This plant restores native plant communities and feeds and shelters wildlife. 

    Elderberries are tasty and beautiful. The berries can be made into jams, jellies, syrups, and wine. Traditional uses for elderberries include immune-boosting anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidants.

    Wild Plum (Prunus americana)

    Growing Wild Plum (Prunus americana) in your Illinois garden or lawn has many benefits. This natural shrub or small tree beautifies your outdoor space, nourishes local wildlife, and produces tasty fruits for people and animals. Its white spring flowers attract pollinators, and birds adore its fruits. Its tolerance to many soil types and hardiness in Illinois makes it a good landscape plant. This growing habit makes it ideal for hedgerows and naturalizing areas. Consider planting Wild Plums on your landscape for aesthetics and ecology benefits.

    Native Vegetables

    Prairie Turnip (Psoralea esculenta)

    If you want a distinctive, significant plant for your Illinois garden or lawn, consider the Prairie Turnip or "Indian Breadroot." Native American cultures relied on this tuber for sustenance and its nutty, earthy flavor when cooked. 

    Growing Prairie Turnips ties you to the rich history of Native Americans eating this tuber. Prairie Turnips' nutty, earthy flavor gives a fresh flavor to your cooking.

    These prairie-adapted plants are drought-tolerant and suitable for Illinois' climate. Once established, Prairie Turnips take little care, making them a simple garden or lawn addition.

    The plants can attract pollinators and helpful insects, creating a healthier outdoor ecology. Enjoy picking your tubers, bringing self-sufficiency to your garden.

    Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

    Planting Jerusalem artichokes in your garden or lawn enhances your food. These knobby tubers provide robust roasts, acidic pickles structure, and a sweet, nutty flavor.  Sunchokes are pleasant and healthful since they include dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  A single plant can yield many tubers, ensuring a plentiful harvest throughout the season. 

    Their tall, sunflower-like stems and dazzling yellow blooms beautify and nourish your landscape. Jerusalem artichokes adapt well to Illinois soil and weather. Once established, these tubers need little care, making them easy to grow.

    Jerusalem artichokes' bright yellow blossoms attract pollinators and beneficial insects, boosting garden ecosystems.

    Woodland Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum)

    If you're considering enhancing your garden or lawn in Illinois, planting Woodland Wild Leek, also known as "ramps," can be a fantastic choice.  Woodland Wild Leek is native to the region, making it well-suited for Illinois' climate and ecosystem. Adding ramps to your outdoor space contributes to your springtime dishes and offers several benefits.  

    Ramps provide a distinct and powerful onion-garlic taste that can elevate your cooking. Ramps are among the earliest edible plants to emerge in the spring, offering a fresh and exciting ingredient after the winter months.

    These versatile wild onions can be used in various dishes, from salads and soups to sautés and pickles. Ramps are rich in vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy addition to your diet.


    Native plants enhance your yard and lawn and assist the local ecology. Illinois' diverse native plant collection appeals to nature lovers and gardeners. Native plants beautify your landscape, feed native wildlife, preserve water, and reduce maintenance.

    When planning your garden and lawn renovation, consider Illinois' natural wonders. Let your garden become a living homage to Illinois' natural flora, where nature thrives, and you can connect with the land. 

    Roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and nurture your garden and our planet. Your garden will burst with vitality and help preserve Illinois' unique natural heritage.

    Leave a comment