15 Best Chicago Native Plants

Ralph Astley is a retired gardener from Philadelphia who specializes in outdoor plants and trees. With years of hands-on experience, Ralph not only cares for a diverse range of outdoor flora but also shares his extensive knowledge through well-written articles and social media posts. A trusted authority in arboriculture, he's committed to helping the community grow healthier, more robust gardens.
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Create a sustainable and vibrant landscape while supporting local biodiversity with the Best Chicago Native Plants!

Explore the remarkable diversity of Chicago Native Plants suited to growing in the city’s unique climate and soil. Discover the ideal selection to create a thriving, sustainable garden.

Chicago Native Plants

1. Oakleaf Hydrangea

Chicago Native Plants 1

Botanical Name: Hydrangea quercifolia

USDA Zones: 5-9

Oakleaf hydrangea is ideal for borders or informal hedges. It features creamy white pyramidal flowers with oak-like leaves.

2. Black Cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus serotina

USDA Zones: 3-9

The black cherry, a native tree highly valued for its wood, offers year-round beauty with white spring blooms, purple fruit, and vibrant autumn foliage.

3. Wild Bergamot

Chicago Native Plants 3

Botanical Name: Monarda fistulosa

USDA Zones: 3-9

Wild bergamot, with its lavender or pink petals surrounding upright tubes, adds vibrancy to any garden, blooming in the middle of summer.

4. Foxglove Beardtongue


Botanical Name: Penstemon digitalis

USDA Zones: 3-8

Foxglove beardtongue grows delicate bell-shaped blooms in late spring to early summer with beautiful autumn foliage.

5. Garden Phlox

Chicago Native Plants 5

Botanical Name: Phlox paniculata

USDA Zones: 4-8

Garden phlox brings bursts of purplish-pink flowers to your yard, with delicate symmetrical petals that bloom in July. Some taller varieties may require staking for support.

6. Culver’s Root

Botanical Name: Veronicastrum virginicum

USDA Zones: 3-8

Culver’s root is a striking perennial that thrives with some sun. Its tall spikes of light blue or white flowers add height and texture contrast to your garden.

7. Sweetgum

Chicago Native Plants 7

Botanical Name: Liquidambar styraciflua

USDA Zones: 5-9

The sweetgum is a narrow tree that transitions into a round form. The star-shaped leaves come in shades of orange, yellow, red, and purple.

8. Elderberry Bush

Botanical Name: Sambucus

USDA Zones: 3-8

It prefers sunny conditions and produces fragrant white flowers from clusters, followed by edible black elderberries that attract various bird species.

9. Butterfly Weed

Chicago Native Plants 9

Botanical Name: Asclepias tuberosa

USDA Zones: 3-9

The clusters of brilliant yellow to bright orange flower offers long-lasting color from early spring to the first frost.

10. New England Aster

Botanical Name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

USDA Zones: 4-8

Native to most of North America, this purple-pink flowering plant is a low-maintenance perennial. It attracts honey bees and monarch butterflies.

11. Dense Blazing Star

Chicago Native Plants 11

Botanical Name: Liatris spicata

USDA Zones: 3-9

This tall and slender perennial showcases stunning purple flowers from July to September. Thriving in full sun and preferring moist soil, it can also tolerate dry conditions.

12. Dutchman’s Breeches

Botanical Name: Dicentra cucullaria

USDA Zones: 3-7

Dutchman’s Breeches produces upside-down breech-like blooms, this white flowering plant thrives in indirect sunlight and is also easy to look after.

13. Wild Quinine

Chicago Native Plants 13

Botanical Name: Parthenium integrifolium

USDA Zones: 4-8

This plant features pearl-like buds that beautifully complement the dense green foliage.

14. Pale Purple Coneflower

Botanical Name: Echinacea pallida

USDA Zones: 3-10

This native flower can reach heights of up to three feet. It is low-maintenance, requiring minimal watering and care.

15. Red Columbine

Chicago Native Plants 15

Botanical Name: Aquilegia canadensis

USDA Zones: 3-8

Wild Columbine showcases delicate light pink flowers. This plant has low maintenance needs and is adaptable to sandy and clay soils, requiring minimal watering.

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