A common misconception that many people have about plant species native to Illinois is that they are unattractive weeds. This idea is incorrect as manty native plants have desirable traits to fill nearly any horticultural need. Native plants are available in several growth habits including woody species of trees, shrubs and vines as well as herbaceous species. These native species grow in a variety of habitats such as prairies, woodlands and wetlands so they can fill several environmental niches in gardens such as sun vs. shade or wet vs. dry. With native plants, a variety of colors and interesting traits are available throughout the season such as spring ones for flowers, summer ones for flowers or shade, fall ones for flowers, summer ones for flowers or shade, fall ones for flowers, fruits or fall foliage, and winter ones with attractive bark or evergreen characteristics. Some native plants also have specialized features such as being attractive to hummingbirds and songbirds, useful in flower arrangements or resistant to deer.
In addition to the attractive features of native plants, they also are more environmentally friendly to the landscape. They are well adapted to Illinois environmental extremes so once established they require little specialized care such as mulching, watering, or fertilizing. They are relatively resistant to natural pests suchs as plant diseases and insects, so require less use of and release of pesticides into the environment. They also are less apt to become invasive than many non-native species commonly used. In addition, they provide food and shelter for native wildlife.
Hence, native plant species can expand diverity in the horticultural landscape while offering environmentally sound choices to gardeners.