I know many folks who are interested in growing native plants but feel they can’t because they don’t have a yard or room in their yard to grow them.
But virtually any native plant you want to grow can be grown in a container if you can mimic its natural environment. Follow these basic tips and you too can have some native plants beautifying your landscape.
Pot or Container Selection
Since we’re talking about native plants that grow in Illinois, remember that these plants have large root systems. Putting them in a shallow little container will not only make it hard for the plants to spread out their roots, it’s going to keep you very busy watering them. Select a pot that can accommodate a 15- to 17-inch soil depth. Also, be sure the pot has a drain hole on the bottom that allows water to flow through and not sit at the bottom of the pot.
Nodding wild onion (Photo by Tricia J)
Location, location, location
Before you decide on the plants you want, look at where you want to place this container. Is it in the full sun or shade? Think about how the area is going to look when the trees leaf out. Areas are considered full sun if they get five or more hours of sun each day, part sun would be 2 – 5 hours of sun per day, and shade would have less than two hours of sun per day. The nice thing about using a container is if it's getting too much sun or not enough, you can always move it to a better location.
Soil and Moisture
Plants native to DuPage County grow in a variety of different soil types, from dry, sandy soil to wet, silty soils. It’s best to purchase a soil or potting mix for your planters. This is especially important when planting with annuals or nonnative perennials. Gauge your watering based on whether the plant prefers a wet or dry soil, and be sure your container has good drainage.
Fillers, Thrillers and Spillers
When selecting plants for a container garden, the general rule of design is to have a “filler, thriller and spiller:” plants that can fill up the container (fillers), attention-getting plants with striking characteristics (thrillers), and plants that “spill” over the sides of the container (spillers).
Sweet black-eyed Susan
Here are some examples of native species that can work well in container gardens:
|Full sun||Part sun||Shade|
|Prairie coreopsis||Nodding wild onion||Wild geranium|
|Wild bergamot||Wild columbine||Virginia waterleaf|
|Yellow coneflower||Purple coneflower||Turtlehead|
|Prairie blazing star||Sweet black-eyed Susan||Common spiderwort|
|Prairie dropseed (grass)||Jacob’s ladder||Wild ginger|
|Eastern prickly pear cactus||Wild petunia||Common oak sedge|
Wild geranium. (Photo by Cranbrook Science)