It’s time to start planning our spring gardens! Starting from seed is a great way to save money and get more bang for your buck. Some plants are trickier than others to start from seed, but if you stick to native plant species that grow naturally in the Midwest, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all!
Starting Native Plants from Seed
The great thing about native plants is that they have adapted to live here naturally. As such, the care requirements are very minimal—especially when compared to exotic annuals that need lots of water and attention. You can directly sow them into the ground, and they’ll germinate quickly enough to take root and continue developing.
Alternatively, if you want to get a head start, you can start your seeds indoors before the cold weather passes. Seed starting kits or mini greenhouses complete with sun lamps are an easy way to get things growing ahead of schedule—you just need to take care in transitioning your seedlings from indoors to outdoors. This process, called hardening off, requires you to take your seedlings out into the sunshine for an hour each day to start, bringing them back indoors afterward, and then gradually increasing their time in the sun each day. That way, they can handle direct sun all day long without getting scorched. It is beneficial for young plants to go through the hardening off process so that they avoid stretching.
Our Favorite Native Plants to Start from Seed
Create your dream garden without breaking a sweat by planting these colorful, carefree wildflowers and plants that thrive in our climate.
With deep-burgundy centers, golden-scalloped tips, and forest-green foliage, this native wildflower has a rich, warm color palette that’s very on-trend for 2022. Coreopsis looks beautiful against raw wood or stone and in containers made from natural materials. These plants bloom from summer until frost, so you’ll get long-lasting color with minimal maintenance required.
These whimsical flowering plants have a double layer of petals in contrasting colors, creating quite the visual spectacle! Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine is a particularly beautiful plant—we’re lucky to be able to cultivate it so easily here in the Midwest! With icy-indigo outer petals, a milky-white center blossom, and a golden cluster of feathery stamens, this native perennial is sure to be a must if you’re planning to start your garden from seed.
These shrubby, native Illinois perennials have lovely flower clusters, making them an attractive addition to the landscape, but with the bonus of drawing in Monarch butterflies from near and far! Monarchs exclusively rely on Milkweed to feed their young, so planting this native flower will help to support this threatened species. It’s a win-win!
The perpetually cheerful Black-Eyed Susan has sunny golden petals with dark, contrasting centers. These fast-growing plants have a super long bloom time, from June to October, and they tend to spread out quite a bit! If you don’t want your Black-Eyed Susan’s to take over your garden, divide these perennials every year or two.
Brighten up your garden with a splash of warm sunset colors! Blanket Flower, also known as Gaillardia, is a spectacular perennial with a very long bloom-time through summer and fall. Fiery-red blossoms appear as though the tips of their petals were dipped in gold, creating a halo of light surrounding each bloom.
This mega-bright perennial is a favorite among pollinators because all the nectar in its big conical center is easy to snack on! You might recognize the Coneflower’s botanical name—Echinacea—from packages of cold medicine and throat lozenges. That’s because it’s a powerful medicinal herb, and it’s excellent in herbal teas for soothing a sore throat.
Create a Wild Prairie Garden
Scattering a wildflower mix is such a simple way to achieve a magnificently-vibrant garden full of lush, low-maintenance native plants. Some seed mixes have a combination of native plants of Illinois and exotic wildflowers with similar care requirements for a fabulously diverse display. If you want to spend less time tending to a plain, green lawn and instead create something that benefits local wildlife and looks beautiful, start scattering wildflower seeds this spring!
Want to discover more native plants in Illinois and Indiana? Visit one of our Alsip Nursery locations and ask our experts! We’ll be happy to show you all the gorgeous wildflowers and plants you can easily grow at home.