Gardening with Natives

Why Natives? Local is better...naturally!

Plants grow through photosynthesis, a process where carbohydrates are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water using chlorophyll and light from the sun. Most forms of photosynthesis release oxygen as a byproduct. (

A rain garden is a shallow, flat depression, 4-8" deep, planted with native plants and/or other species, that are adapted to the expected moisture conditions of the garden. They are located in the landscape to collect and hold rain water run-off from surrounding surfaces such as turf, pavement and roofs. Typically, rain gardens fill with water after a storm, which slowly soaks into the ground within 24 hours. Rain gardens are dry between rainfall events.

The amount of shade a plant can tolerate varies on its ability to produce carbohydrates through photosynthesis at the lower energy levels available to the plant at less light. Shade-tolerant plants are typically more energy efficient and typically more adpated to the more nutrient-rich soils of the woodland floor. Morning light is considered cooler while afternoon light can be considerably hot. A plant's ability to grow and thrive in different soil types and varying levels of light and soil moisture depends on the region in which it evolved over time.  

Butterflies, moths, bees and other beneficial insects have co-evolved with native plants and are dependent upon them for survival and reproduction. These relationships, in turn, support the food needs of our native bird populations much more efficiently than introduced ornamental species. Native plants provide nectar or foliage for food and shelter at all life stages in complex relationships that are not easily replaced.

Native plants attract pollinators. Many people are not aware that most native bees are not the familiar fuzzy yellow and black bumblebees or the yellow-banded honeybees we typically think of. In fact, most native bees do not live in colonies but rather live out solitary lives burrowing in the soil, or in hollow plant stems or tree holes. In Illinois there are more than 225 native bee species that range in size from just a few millimeters to 1.5 inches. Our native bees, which don’t sting unless stepped on by accident, have developed specific life-cycle relationships with native plants. Because of these associations and their efficieny as pollinators, native bees are extremely important to native wildflowers. 

Native plants' attract birds through a variety of mechanisms that include protective cover, safe nesting sites that may not be offered by introduced species,and food through fruit, seeds or berries. Most importantly, however, native plants serve as hosts for the protein and fat-rich insects our native birds rely on for migration and raising young.

Download Additional Information