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Fall brings a time of change for the garden. Can your garden still remain a showplace in fall and winter? If you use native wildflowers and grasses, the answer is “Yes!” These plant species are adapted to the Illinois climate, so caring for them is easy. Native grasses provide gorgeous colors and interesting shapes in fall. They provide food and shelter for native wildlife. They are perennials, so you can welcome their presence year after year.
side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Photo © 2009, Kathy Andrews, IDNR Office of Public Services. Photo rights available for purchase.
Side-oats grama is a grass that grows in dry soil in clumps or as single stems. It does not tolerate shade. Its leaves are flat and very narrow. Reaching two to three feet in height, it blooms in August and September. The name “side-oats” was given to this plant because the double-row of seed heads is only on one side of the stem. The leaves of this plant become red-orange in fall, making an attractive highlight to the late season garden. In Illinois, this plant grows naturally on bluffs along the Mississippi River and in the northern half of the state.
For more information about native Illinois plants, including where to purchase them and planting guides, the following publications are available through the IDNR order form at http://dnr.state.il.us/teachkids.
Prairie Establishment and Landscaping
Landscaping for Wildlife