Each native shrub


What is this?

Native shrubs are woody plants that evolved with the rainfall, seasons, soils, and wildlife of this region.  A shrub - or bush - is smaller than a tree and usually has several stems at the base.  Examples of beautiful native shrubs are spicebush, winterberry and witch-hazel. Examples of non-native shrubs (also lovely) are lilacs and forsythia.

The shrubs considered native to northeastern Illinois are ones that grew in this region prior to European settlement. They are listed in a fairly technical book: Plants of the Chicago Region by Floyd Swink and Gerald Wilhelm. Here's our list of shrubs native to northeastern Illinois. Or try some of our other resources for Plant Finders.

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. Be sure to select shrubs that will thrive in the spot you have in mind for them. Why fight an uphill battle with poorly selected species that will barely survive compared to well-selected ones that thrive? Think about how sunny or shady your spot is, and how dry or moist.
  2. Some vendors claim to sell natives but actually offer hybrid ornamentals (identified by a three-part scientific name that includes an “x”) or plants native to other parts of North America – these do not count toward certification points.
  3. When designing a landscape with songbirds in mind, it helps to know they prefer areas that offer a lot of shrubs with a variety of heights. Find some great tips and species suggestions here:  Trees and shrubs for birds
  4. Consider the mature height and width of the shrub. You don’t want to be pruning large woody plants to make them fit into a small area – otherwise you may never see the beautiful blooms or seeds of these plants in your landscape!

Take time to plant your shrub correctly or it is likely to do poorly or die. Here are some short videos on how to plant various sizes of shrubs or trees. How to plant a tree

  1. Dig a hole about that is two or three times wider than the root ball and no deeper than the root ball.  
  2. If the slightly swollen spot where the trunk meets the roots (the root flare) is not visible at the soil surface, then lightly shave the soil from the top of the ball.
  3. Remove all root ball packaging including burlap, twine, etcetera.
  4. Place the shrub in the hole, fill the hole with soil and tamp down to eliminate air pockets. 
  5. Evenly spread a two- or three-inch layer of mulch in a circle (no volcanoes or donuts). Make the circle as far out from the base as the tips of the branches go. Mulch should not touch the stems of the shrub where it can lead to disease. 
  6. Water one inch per week until the ground freezes the first year, unless we get good soaking rains every week. This is important. We see too many plants that do not receive enough water their first year in the ground.
  7. If deer or rabbits are an issue, encircle the shrub with a wire cage, especially in the winter.

Here’s a great guide to pruning.

Hire some help
If you’re looking for a professional designer who is skilled at blending aesthetics with native plants, view our Local vendors.  

Why is this important?

 If you incorporate native shrubs into your landscape, many of our region’s songbirds will benefit from the much-needed habitat.

Native shrubs are important because they provide valuable habitat for wildlife, especially songbirds. They offer food and places to hide, rest and raise young. For people, native shrubs provide a wise investment compared to delicate or high-maintenance cultivars. They are generally more resistant to disease and, once established, require relatively small amounts of water and NO fertilizer. Research repeatedly shows that a well-designed landscape that incorporates shrubs leads to higher home values due to beauty, privacy, and sound absorption. Native shrubs come in many sizes and are pretty year-round due to spring flowers, summer berries, autumn leaves, winter stem colors, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

Tip: Shade your air conditioner with one or more pretty shrubs and watch your energy bill go down.


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