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Starting a Garden: What to plant in Chicago

Purple Coneflower stand visited by butterfly.png
If you're starting a garden for the first time the selection of plants at a garden center in Chicago can seem rather daunting. Factors like; sun, shade, wind & the condition of your soil come into play when choosing plants for your first garden in Chicago. Wouldn't it be great if someone just gave you a list of plants you can buy at a garden center or nursery that you could reasonably expect to do good in your garden?

The Chicago Department of Transportation Division of Infrastructure Management publishes the City of Chicago Roadway Plant List. This list of plants planted in Chicago roadways is intended to be a resource for landscape architects but is it just as valuable to the home gardener. If these plants can survive the sun, wind, salt sprays, pollution & trash while planted along roads, they shouldn't be a problem in a urban garden where they are given extra attention.

The plant categories cover:

  1. Bulbs
  2. Evergreens
  3. Groundcovers
  4. Ornamental Trees
  5. Perennials
  6. Shade trees
  7. Shrubs
  8. Vines

Make sure to read the cell titled "Concerns" because it has information that you won't get from looking at plant labels in the garden center. View, download, print the Chicago Plant List PDF and take it with you on your next trip to the garden center or nursery.

Another good resource for Chicago gardeners is the Illinois' Best Plants website by the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Illinois' Best Plants website is what the City of Chicago Roadway Plant List should be. It allows you to search for plants based on criteria like flower color and the size of the plant.

Landscape Plants of the Upper Midwest is an interactive website where you can browse for trees, shrubs, vines & ground covers. The website even has an audio feature where you can hear the pronunciation of the Latin names of plants. The website is a product of the of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Horticultural Department. 
One more resource is are the IPLANT pages by the University of Illinois Extension.  Illinois Plant, Landscape and Nursery Technology (IPLANT) is another resource posted for professionals in the gardening field but there is no reason why you can't read the same pages and plant the garden plants recommended there.

I'm not in the habit of recommending plants but the image above is of a few clumps of coneflowers in my garden. I like them because they are tolerant of dry conditions and they attract a lot of cool bugs into my garden. You can see the butterfly visiting but if you look behind it and to the left you may be able to spot the bumblebee collecting pollen on another coneflower.

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    Just saying thanks wouldn’t just be enough, for the fantastic fluency in your writing. landscaping in Charlotte

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