The theme for Earth Day, April 22 is Restore our Earth. One way to make your own green footprint is to plant natives in your yard. The Growing Place carries over 100 species of native plants that provide the food and shelter our birds, butterflies, and bees need for survival.
One of the earliest spring blooming native favorites is Virginia Bluebells. Mertensia virginica are an ephemeral that emerges early with dark purple foliage turning to green as the stems grow. Pink floral buds open to trumpet-shaped pale blue flowers, providing an early nectar source for bees and other pollinators as they emerge from their winter slumber. As an ephemeral, it will go dormant somewhat soon after blooming, allowing space for other plants to fill in for summer months. Plant in full sun to full shade. Perennial Manager, Kyle Lambert adds “They work as a native alternative to tulips or other bulbs.”
Wild Columbine is one of the first nectar sources for hummingbirds as they migrate north, making it a popular choice. The attractive, nodding flowers are red and yellow bicolor. The dainty foliage and flowers provide softness when planted next to coarsely textured ferns and shrubs. Plant in full sun to part shade for late spring to early summer blooms.
Celadine Poppy is another native substitute for Daffodils in a partial to fully shaded area. Mid to late spring brings bright yellow flowers, topping the deeply lobed foliage.
Milkweed is a must for Monarch butterflies. They are a specialist insect that will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. As the eggs hatch, the caterpillars’ sole food source is milkweed. Once they have metamorphosed into adult butterflies, they can enjoy nectar from a wide range of flowers. Top native favorites are Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and the orange blooming Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Plants native to the Chicago area are marked at The Growing Place with green “Native” flags above plant signs on the tables. There are natives for sun and shade, including grasses and ferns. We have 25 varieties available as plugs for easier coverage over a larger area.
Everyone is anxious to see color in the garden for spring. Kyle says “But wait, there’s much more to come!” Coneflowers (Echinacea), Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Asters and many more natives will continue to flower, inviting pollinators to your garden. Visit The Growing Place and ask our staff for the right selections for your place.