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Native Plants and Healthy Hedges

Planting Native Species

Native plants are beautiful, hardy, less expensive and easier to maintain. Once your native habitat is established, it will save you time and money. And it will reduce air pollution as well as the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and watering.

Plus, native plants have adapted to provide food and shelter for wildlife, even in drought or freezing conditions. Native plants that flower produce an abundance of nectar, while non-native counterparts don’t.

At our annual Native Plant Sale held on Mother’s Day weekend, you can purchase a variety of native flowers, ferns, forbs, grasses, trees and shrubs suited to almost any property. Online sales are open now through October 31, 2022. Your purchases will be shipped to your door!

In addition, our annual OAKtober Native Tree & Shrub Sale takes place the first Sunday in October at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. Fall is a great time to plant native trees and shrubs!


Healthy Hedges

By developing a network of critical landscapes, everyone can work together to safeguard the resources and places that benefit people, wildlife and the economy.

Native plants play a critical role in increasing biodiversity—the variety of species living in a particular habitat. These plants provide food and homes for insects, birds and mammals. Healthy habitats are essential for ecological processes such as capturing carbon, recharging groundwater, maintaining water quality, and storing floodwaters.

No matter what style of garden is your favorite, you can create it using native plants. See recommended species in the Healthy Hedges publication.


Healthy Habitats

Managing for wildlife habitat and the health of ecosystems creates vibrant communities of native species. It’s all connected. Whatever happens to one parcel or woodlot influences neighboring properties. The strategies highlighted in the Healthy Habitats publication provide food and homes to birds, butterflies and other wildlife on public and private lands alike.

Learn More About Healthy Habitats


How to Properly Plant a Tree

There’s an art and a science to properly planting a tree. Manager of Restoration Ecology Matt Ueltzen and Environmental Educator Mark Hurley discuss and demonstrate.

Call Julie at 811 before you dig!
It's a FREE service.


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Unpacking Native Landscaping

It can sometimes feel daunting to start native landscaping if you have limited experience working with local species. Take some tips and tricks from Environmental Educator Eileen Davis, who’s cultivated them in her yard for nearly 20 years.

Start with the Basics

  • Identify the plants you already have in your yard.
  • Research native plants found in your area. Take a walk in the preserves and observe what’s growing. Do any plants catch your eye? Where are they found—in an open, sunny field, or in shady woods? What time of year are they blooming?
  • Do your neighbors use native plants in their yard? What do you like about them? What would you do differently? Might they share seeds or divide plants?
  • Remove all non-native, invasive species.
  • Test your soil conditions. This will help you identify which plants will do best.

Delve into Design

  • Study your property. Use graph paper to make a map to scale. Do any areas hold water after a heavy rain? What parts get full sun (six hours or more per day) for most of the growing season? Which portions are shadier (four hours or fewer of sun per day)?
  • Decide if you want to use native plants in a traditional, manicured way or in a naturalized form like you would see in the preserves.
  • Plan around existing structures. Install paths, stone walls, and pavers before plants.
  • Design for blooms throughout the growing season. Remember to add fall bloomers such as asters and goldenrods, which are great sources of fuel for migrating butterflies.
  • Advertise and humanize. Make your garden look intentional with pathways, bird baths, benches, or a sign reading “butterfly garden” or “native garden.”

Plant Some Roots

  • Place taller plants in back, shorter plants in front.
  • Plant in odd-numbered groups.
  • Give plants space to grow. Check maximum height and width for each species.
  • Don’t hesitate to move plants around. You will know if a particular location suits them by how well they grow. Listen to them.
  • Plant your garden in spring or fall. Avoid summer heat.

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