Landscape supports at least 15 species of native perennials, shrubs and/or trees

What is this?

These are the trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, ferns and vines that grew in this region prior to European settlement. Examples include white oak, prairie rose, wild ginger and little bluestem. They are inventoried in the authoritative book Plants of the Chicago Region by Floyd Swink and Gerald Wilhelm. View this more practical resource.

The more species (types) of native plants on your property, the more points you receive – with 10 points for 15 species and another 10 points for 30 species.

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. You might already have some nice natives such as oak trees or viburnum shrubs. Lucky you!
  2. There’s no need to rip out your beautiful roses, tulips or Japanese maple. Instead, look for ways to attractively incorporate some native plants into your existing landscape.
  3. Think about your goals, budget and lifestyle to identify good additions.
    • If you love to garden, you might want to add some perennial beds.
    • If you’re looking for strong aesthetics, beds of shrubs make an impact.
    • If budget is a concern, go for baby oaks (see our Oak Selection Guide).
    • Summer sun beating down on your air conditioner or patio? Consider fast-growing shade species.
    • Certain native plants can help with drainage, erosion or privacy issues.
  4. Aesthetics are important. Natives can work beautifully in both formal and casual landscapes. Consider these tips if you’re going for a more traditional look:
    • Keep late-blooming perennials from getting tall and floppy by pruning back any time before July 4. 
    • Reduce the number of species used while increasing the number of plants used. Or repeat the same group of plants several times in the landscape.
    • Use well-edged borders and beds.
    • Incorporate well-designed patios, walkways or other hardscaping and consider focal points such as a bench, arbor, water feature or gazebo.  
  5. Looking to buy native plants? May is the easiest month, bringing a variety of native plant sales to Lake County. View our Local Vendors page for other options. Note that 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.
  6. We have two big suggestions. First, choose plants that will really thrive in the spot you’ve picked out, based on their sunlight and moisture preferences. Second, take care in planting and watering your new investment – it will pay off.
  7. We can help. Explore other resources on our website and request a property consultation – we will help identify existing natives and offer suggestions for additions. For classes and workshops, look to College of Lake County (, Lake County Forest Preserves ( or Lake County’s Wild Ones (  

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 have increased diversity on your property, you can better accomplish the goals of higher quality wildlife habitat, extended bloom season for both you and valuable pollinators, plants with year-round beauty, and increased protection of our important lakes and streams in Lake County.

Many native plants are no longer common and most of our remaining songbirds cannot survive solely on the Eurasian ornamentals that make up so much of today’s landscape. Also, some people compare the loss of native plants to the loss of mom and pop shops that have been replaced by national chains – the natives embody the local flavor and heritage of this landscape we call home.

If you can incorporate more native plants into your landscape, you will provide critical food and habitat to songbirds and other beneficial wildlife. You will help to buffer and connect Lake County’s remaining natural areas, and you will enrich your soil and make it possible for more stormwater to soak into the ground.

Native plants are essential food and shelter for our beloved songbirds, butterflies and other beneficial wildlife. Many also have deep, fibrous roots that are exceptional at filtering stormwater, enriching soil and protecting soil from heavy rains.

Because of our unique geology and geography, Lake County has the richest variety of plants in Illinois – a landscape worth celebrating and cherishing.


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