When undertaking landscaping in one of the Midwestern states, gardeners have to consider several important factors that can influence the survival of their plants--from harsh winters and blistering summer heat to severe weather. Knowing the variations in your local conditions is key to deciding what to plant, when and where to plant it. While this may sound daunting, there is a shortcut that is too often overlooked--checking into the plants that wildlife prefer and the plants that already grow near your home.
Go native for hardy plants that are made to thrive in your area. Natives accustom themselves to the unique conditions of microclimates. Use of native plants helps preserve their presence in the landscape and allows you to present a piece of local color in your yard. The Ohio State University Extension advises that gardeners can count on natives to be relatively low maintenance. Some are able to withstand a wide variety of environments, while others need a more specific match to the conditions in which they grow naturally. Wild lupine, wild geranium, blue flag iris and black-eyed Susan are just a few examples. Such plants can attract birds, bees and butterflies and even provide cover and food for animals.
When planning a butterfly garden, you increase your opportunity to attract the lovely creatures by providing foods for both the caterpillars and the adult butterflies. The different species all have their own likes and dislikes. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, carrot, dill or parsley will bring black swallowtails. Viceroy, sylvan hairstreak and mourning cloak like willows. Milkweed and butterfly weed are favorites of monarch caterpillars. Adult butterflies like coneflowers, impatiens, yarrow and bee balm. The flowers of lilac, sumac or azalea shrubs will also encourage them to stop by. Some of these same flowering plants attract hummingbirds for an additional treat.
With the increasing loss of habitat to suburban encroachment and farm land, wildlife can use our help to secure basic needs. Instead of growing a bed of flowers or empty patch of lawn, consider selecting plants that add interest for you and act as shelter and a source of food for wild birds and animals. Trees, shrubs and plants that produce nuts, berries and seeds that last into winter can mean the difference between life and death for some wildlife. Consider planting trees like oak, walnut and hawthorne; cover crops of oat, wheat and alfalfa; or native grasses and flowers like rye and coneflower. Add a few feeders and a birdbath or source of water and let the plumage and antics of wild visitors make up for the lack of showy blooms.