A diverse population of native plants grows in the woodlands, prairies and wetlands of the midwestern United States. Many of these plants grow well in home gardens and require little maintenance. Native plants rarely require supplemental watering or the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Gardening with native plants also provides food and shelter for wildlife and limits the chances of invasive species taking over areas near your home.
Celtis occidentalis, or northern hackberry, is a fast-growing tree that reaches heights of up to 90 feet. Some hackberry trees grow narrow and upright, while others produce a wide canopy. Twiggy growths, known as witches’ brooms, may grow on the branches. In the fall, the fruit of the hackberry tree ripens, often attracting birds and other animals. Plant hackberry trees in full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.
Prunus virginiana, commonly known as chokecherry, grows in the form of a small tree or shrub and produces dark red fruit that frequently attracts birds. Chokecherry seeds can prove poisonous to humans if consumed in mass quantities, but the flesh is safe to eat and is often used to make wines or jellies. Chokecherry will tolerate a variety of soil types as long as it receives full sun or partial shade.
Aquilegia canadensis, or wild columbine, features red and yellow flowers that hang down from the tips of the stems. These flowers appear in late spring or early summer and often attract hummingbirds. Wild columbine grows between 12 and 24 inches tall. This plant tolerates full sun in more northern climates and almost full shade in southern areas of the Midwest. Established plants tolerate dry periods, but newly planted columbines need frequent watering.
Viburnum opulus var. americanum, also known as the highbush cranberry, grows wild in the woodlands of the Midwest. This medium to large shrub features clusters of white flowers in the spring and red berries in late summer and fall. Plant highbush cranberry in slightly acidic soil in full sun or partial shade. Keep the soil moist, and mulch with wood chips.
Asclepias incarnata, commonly called swamp milkweed, features clusters of pink or white flowers in the spring. Butterflies often feed on the flowers of swamp milkweed. This plant grows in wetland areas in its natural Midwest habitat and prefers constantly wet soil and full sun when grown in gardens.
New England Aster
Aster novae-angliae, or New England aster, produces clusters of lavender, blue or white flowers in late summer and early fall. These flowers attract butterflies and bees. Plant New England aster in full sun and moist soil.
Silphium perfoliatum, commonly known as the cup plant, grows wild in the prairies of the Midwest. Leaves meet at the stem and form a “cup” that holds water after rain. Yellow flowers similar to daisies bloom in the summer. This plant can grow up to 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Provide moist soil and full sun for cup plants.