Want to improve your quality of life?

Get your hands dirty and plant something. That’s right, putting trees, flowers or shrubs in the ground doesn’t just provide you with beauty and shade, it can also improve your property value, lower your energy costs, clean the air and water—even lower your heart rate.

ICN PRO TIPS AND PLANT SELECTIONS

Seasonal Tips

January

January

  • Teach. Be a role model for a child. Teach them to love a garden. Watch their eyes light up when a seed they planted germinates. Help them nurture a plant, whether it is a houseplant or a plant outdoors. Create a passion for them that they can carry with them their entire life.
  • Use less water. Water restrictions are becoming a fact of life in many areas. We are all guilty of wasting water, and if we all try to do a little better in our water usage, we can make a difference!

February

February

  • Start a compost pile. Compost piles are surprisingly easy to start and maintain. Follow these tips to start: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/building.cfm
  • Be on the lookout for new plant introductions! Every year there are many new plants introduced to garden centers. Do your research. Know your hardiness zone and your soil type- these two things can help you pick plants that will perform better in your landscape. The ICN PROs at your local garden centers are ready, willing and able to help too! They can help you choose plants for your area and help you figure out where to put them! For the latest plant introductions check out www.chicagolandgrows.org.
  • Hire a landscape designer. Have you ever purchased a plant from your local nursery, took it home and then had no idea where to put it? A professional designer can help you maximize your space; choose the plants that will thrive in the appropriate areas of your landscape and help you phase the plan in according to your timeline and budget. The result = less waste and stronger results! You can buy plants, know where you’re going to put them and be confident that they are going to work for you.

March

March

  • When weather allows, get out and clean up your gardens. Cut back ornamental grasses, perennials and roses. On your roses, cut back to a healthy outward facing bud. Complete all pruning activities before the buds break. The various types of roses have varying pruning needs. Make sure you choose the right method for roses. Prune dormant deciduous trees to remove dead, diseased & damaged branches. Prune shrubs to maintain shape, encourage new growth and clean out winter damaged branches. Cut back deciduous grasses, ferns, and epimedium to the ground before new growth. Prune summer and fall flowering clematis. If you have questions, you can contact the ICN Pro at your local garden center for recommendations.

April

April

Lawn

  • April is a good month to sow your grass seed. Remember that you CANNOT apply crabgrass preventer on newly seeded areas! It is not recommended to immediately fertilize newly seeded grass because you may burn the tender, new shoots.
  • Now is the time to sign up for lawn applications: Crabgrass treatments should be applied BEFORE the crabgrass can be seen. A common practice is to apply lawn fertilizer and crabgrass preventer at the same time. This is granular formulation that can be applied with a spreader. This formulation should only be applied once soil temperatures reach 50 degrees. Consider the growing number of organic programs available for lawn application to prevent damage to the soil’s naturally occurring microbiology which can be caused by synthetic products.
  • Towards the end of April, in Central Illinois, you may begin treating the weeds that are growing in your lawn. It is a good idea to wait until then so that the majority of the seed has germinated and the weeds are actively growing.

Garden

  • Your bulbs will continue to pop up and bloom throughout April. After they bloom be sure to let their foliage ripen! This means that you should let the foliage die away on its own- do not cut it back, tie it in knots, or otherwise destroy it. The foliage will continue to feed the bulb, allowing it produce a flower next season. Once the foliage is completely brown then it may be cut back. NOTE: One great idea is to combine your bulbs with groundcovers and ornamental grasses. The groundcovers and grasses will help hide the bulb foliage after the bloom.
  • When planting your annuals you need to think about the danger of frost. Some annuals, like pansies and violas, can tolerate a frost, others will not. Most annual planting should be delayed until after the frost free date for your area passes. Your ICN Pro will be able to tell you the frost- free date for your area.
  • If you are planning to install a new garden area, or revamp an old one, now is the time to do your bed preparation. If your soil is poor you should work an organic material into the soil. Application rates can vary depending on your soil type. An ICN Pro at your local garden center can help you determine how much you should apply.
  • Perennials will be arriving at your local garden center throughout the month of April. Be sure to visit your garden center frequently to see what’s in bloom! There will be something new blooming every week!

Water Garden

  • April is a great month to awaken your water garden! Get your filters cleaned out and ready for the upcoming spring and summer!
  • If your fish start coming to the top, wanting fed, it is ok to begin feeding them again. Be careful not to feed them any more than what they can consume in a few seconds. Feeding less will help to reduce algae problems in your pond!

Native landscapes

  • If you are maintaining a native landscape all of your burning should be completed by the middle of April. It is very important to check with your local fire authorities before you burn to make sure you have the proper permits.
  • If you are establishing a new native landscape, April is a perfect time to start controlling your existing vegetation. On a flat site, vegetation can be controlled using a combination of tillage and round- up. On a sloped, or highly erodible site, only a contact herbicide like Round- Up should be used.

Insect & Disease

  • April is the month to treat for Peach Leaf Curl. If you have Cherry, Apricot, or other Prunus species, they need to be treated before the buds break. Lime Sulfur and Captan can be used to effectively treat for Peach Leaf Curl. If you have questions, an ICN Pro will be able to help you.

Birds & Butterflies

  • If you are trying to attract butterflies to your gardens, remember that you must provide for the larva and the adult butterfly. The butterfly larvae are caterpillars that are very hungry. They will feed on certain species in your garden. Most plants will tolerate this feeding without any trouble. Remember in order to have butterflies; you have to have the larva also!
  • If you have questions about butterfly gardening or need to have a caterpillar identified, consult with your ICN Pro at your local garden center.

May

May

Lawn

  • Remember a vigorous turf is a healthier turf. One of the best ways to maintain the vigor of your turf is to keep your mowing height up, not one or two inches, but three or four inches! A taller turf stands a much better chance at competing with weeds!
  • If you are looking to install an irrigation system for your lawn, be sure you contact a professional. To find an irrigation professional in your area, visit http://www.illinoisgreen.net/membersearchform.php

Garden

  • Beginning in May it is recommended to start feeding your roses. If you have hybrid tea, grandiflora, or floribunda roses they will benefit from regular feeding. You can use a rose food that has a systemic insecticide in it. The systemic insecticide will attack any chewing insects that decide to feast on your roses. If you have had black spot or powdery mildew on your roses in the past, you should begin your spray regime in May. There are two recommended products: 1) a systemic fungicide, or 2) a systemic fungicide mixed with a systemic insecticide. Beware that the use of these products is harmful to birds, butterflies and other desirable creatures, as well as the less desirable ones. Only spray when necessary!
  • For weed control in your landscape beds you can use a pre-emergent herbicide. A common product name is Preen (treflan). This is a granular formulation that can be applied with a spreader or a shaker can directly into the bed. This product helps prevent weed seed from germinating; it will not kill weeds that are already growing. To treat your existing weeds spot treat with a broad-spectrum herbicide like Round- Up or Killz- all.

Insect & Disease

  • Towards the end of May, you’ll want to spray any young trees that you have for borers. All young trees are susceptible to borer damage and there is no cure. In order to prevent borer damage, you should spray your young trees in late May and again 2 weeks later (in Central Illinois).
  • Check with your local ICN Pro for recommendations on the appropriate pesticides for your area. Most garden centers will have a spray program available.

June

June

Lawn

  • Keep your mowing height up! Mowing taller will keep your turf healthier, and a healthy turf is more able to withstand drought and compete with weeds! It is a good idea to maintain turf at 3-4” tall.
  • Sharpen your mower blades. A sharper blade gives a cleaner cut. A cleaner cut looks better and cuts more uniformly than a dull, dinged up blade.

Garden

  • Now is the time to begin fertilizing your annual flowers. There are many different formulations available. Check with the ICN Pro at your garden center- they’ll help you feed your plants right!
  • It is also time to start fertilizing and spraying your roses. If you have hybrid tea roses they will benefit from a fertilizer application about once every 30 days. Hybrid tea roses can be very susceptible to black spot and powdery mildew. There are many products that can be used to treat these diseases, consult an ICN Pro for recommendations in your area.
  • Your bulbs have finished flowering for this year and they are now busy making food for next year’s flowers! Do not cut, tie or otherwise destroy their foliage, yet! Towards the end of June, the leaves will be turning very brown and they will begin to dry up. At this point, it is ok to cut them back.
  • Remember, it’s not too late to plant! Annuals, perennials, shrubs, and most trees can still be planted without worry! In fact, as long as someone is willing to water, the planting season can extend all the way through summer and on into fall! So stop by your local garden center, and see what’s blooming!

Water Gardens

  • Your water garden becomes a peaceful, cool retreat when the temperatures really start to heat up! There are two big things you can do to keep it looking its best. Cut back on feeding your fish. Don’t feed them any more than they can eat in a few seconds, and when it gets really hot, it’s a good idea not to feed them at all. Keep plenty of plants in your pond. 50% or more of the surface of the water should be covered with lush plant material. Use floating plants & water lilies to achieve shaded water. Add marginal plants, like sedges, rushes, flowering plants to add beauty and texture. Use oxygenators to help bring life to your water.

Native Landscapes

  • If you are establishing a new native landscape, and have the vegetation on your site controlled, then it is time to seed! Seeding can be done through the middle of June. It is generally recommended to use a blend of 60% grasses and 40% forbs, or flowering perennials. Be sure to use a high quality seed mix to ensure clean seed and few to no annuals!
  • If you have an established native landscape- sit back and enjoy the beautiful colors and all of the beautiful birds and butterflies!
  • Plots less than 2 years old should be mowed to control annual weeds, before they go to seed.

Insect & Disease

  • Bagworms will be hatching in June. Bagworms will feed on evergreen trees and shrubs the majority of the time. Arborvitae and spruce are particularly susceptible to bagworms. Many nurseries and garden centers will have a spray program that treats for bagworms. This is probably the easiest means of control, especially for large evergreen trees. If you have questions about bagworms, or need treatment recommendations, contact an ICN Pro at your garden center.
  • Some newly transplanted trees are susceptible to borer damage. June is a critical time to spray to prevent borer damage. There are a few new products that have been released that can aid in the prevention of borers. Consult the ICN Pro at your garden center for recommendations in your area.

Birds & Butterflies

  • Keep your hummingbird feeders clean and filled!
  • Apply any chemicals with great caution! Remember that chemicals to kill undesirable insects also kill desirable insects such as butterflies! Only spray chemicals when it is absolutely necessary!
  • Provide larval food! A butterfly comes from a hungry caterpillar. So in order to get and keep butterflies around, you must provide food for the caterpillars. Different caterpillars prefer different species of plants.

July

July

Lawn

  • Raise your mowing height! The higher you mow the more vigorous your turf will be. The more vigorous your turf is, the more it will be able to withstand drought and compete against weeds.
  • Thinking of an irrigation system? Check with the irrigation professional associated with the Illinois Green Industry Association. They can provide you with a system that is well-designed, and efficient.

Garden

  • Cut back and dead-head (pinch off spent blooms) annuals and perennials. If you find your garden is lacking color for the summer months, stop by your garden center and have their Illinois Certified Nursery Professional (ICN Pro) show you some summer bloomers that will add some vibrant color to your garden.
  • Treat your roses for black spot. Hybrid tea roses can be very susceptible to black spot. What to look for: black spots with a yellow halo on the leaf. There are several different products that may be used for the treatment of black spot. Consult your ICN Pro for recommendations for your area.
  • Harvest vegetables, fruits and herbs frequently. Picking encourages the plants to produce more and it helps to decrease insects and diseases. Now is also the time to plant more beans, beets, & carrots for fall harvest.
  • Divide and transplant iris, towards the end of the month.
  • Prune out and destroy old fruiting canes of raspberries after harvest.
  • Harvest onions and garlic when the tops turn brown.
  • Control weeds in your gardens. Weeds like the hot, humid days of summer. By controlling weeds now you can prevent them from going to seed and spreading. For advice on controlling weeds in your gardens, consult your ICN Pro.
  • Water your newly planted trees and shrubs. It is very important to water thoroughly! Taking a 5-gallon bucket of water out to your new tree and dumping it on it is NOT watering your tree! For proper watering techniques and advice on how often to water, contact the ICN Pro at your local garden center.
  • Blossom–end rot of tomatoes and peppers occurs when soil moisture is uneven. Water when soils begin to dry; maintain 2-3 inch layer of mulch.

Water Garden

  • On the hottest days of summer, your water garden can become a cool, relaxing retreat! In the heat of the summer it is a good idea to cut back on feeding your fish. It is ok to not feed them at all. There is plenty of “natural” food for them in the garden itself. This can also help to reduce algae problems in your pond.

Native Landscapes

  • For those of you who are lucky enough to have a wildflower or prairie garden, sit back and watch it grow! The prairie will be in its full glory in July and August – the purple coneflowers, black–eyed susans, sunflowers and Liatris will be in full bloom soon. This amazing display of color will attract swarms of butterflies, birds and other insects! If you think you might be interested in establishing a pretty patch of prairie on your property, contact the ICN Pro at your local garden center. They should be able to provide you with a wealth of information on different establishment techniques.
  • If you have a new prairie planting, you should mow it back to about 4-6inches. Mowing it back will help to prevent weeds from going to seed and spreading.

Insect & Disease

  • Spray your evergreens for bagworms. Bagworms MUST be treated when they are young. There are several products labeled for use against bagworms. Consult with the ICN Pro at your garden center for their treatment recommendations.
  • Watch for fall webworms. Fall webworms will form large nests in trees. The nest will look like oversized cobwebs. Prune out or remove these nests from your trees. It is generally not necessary to spray for fall webworm. Note that the damage fall webworm causes
  • Spider mites love hot, dry weather. Keep your eye out for these little critters. Forceful sprays of water and insecticidal soaps are effective controls.

Birds & Butterflies

  • Keep your hummingbird feeders filled with FRESH liquid! If possible, hang your feeder in an area that receives shade in the afternoon.
  • Keep your birdbaths clean and full! In the heat of the summer, a clean birdbath can be paradise for our fine, feathered friends!
  • Don’t forget that it’s not too late to plant! Your local garden center still has a nice selection of perennials, shrubs, and trees to choose from. The ICN Pro at your garden center can give you the advice you need to be successful with all your gardens.

August

August

Lawn

  • Keep your mowing height up! Raising your mowing height increases the vigor of the turf. A more vigorous turf is more tolerant of dry conditions, and more able to compete with weeds. Never apply weed sprays or fertilizers to your lawn in the summer months. If you have weeds that you believe need treatment, contact the ICN Pro at your local garden center for recommendations on timing and types of applications that need to be made.
  • If you are considering installing an irrigation system that is effective and efficient you should contact an irrigation professional. There are many laws and ordinances that govern irrigation systems, and getting a professional can save you time and money. To find an irrigation professional in your area, visit http://www.illinoisgreen.net/membersearchform.php

Garden

  • Weeds can become a major problem in July and August. There are many tricks to maintaining a weed-free bed, besides spending hours a day pulling weeds. There are several products available that are safe and effective, but before you take action, check with your local ICN Pro. They will be able to tell you what products will be most effective in your situation! It will save you time and money!
  • Bulbs will be arriving at your garden center in late August or early September. Bulbs work beautifully when combined with perennials and groundcovers. For companion planting suggestions, contact the ICN Pro at your local garden center. He or she will have many ideas of how to use bulbs effectively in your landscape.
  • Cut back annuals and perennials when they begin to look gnarly. Spent blooms can be cut off, and brown leaves can be trimmed back. If you see fungus, mildew or other plant maladies that concern you, snip off a piece and take it to your local garden center for professional diagnosis.
  • Fall mums and pansies will be arriving at your garden center in late August. Chrysanthemums are the traditional fall flower! These hardy plants come in many different colors and can be planted just about any time, but be sure to mulch them! There are many new and improved pansies available now! Some can be planted in the fall for a beautiful bloom and many varieties will survive the winter and come back to bloom the next spring.
  • Remember that its NOT TOO LATE TO PLANT! Whether you want to establish a new perennial garden, re-do your foundation planting, plant a tree, or just need some ideas that will spruce up your yard, consult a landscape designer at your local garden center. Remember that you can plant successfully until the ground freezes in December!

Water Garden

  • When temperatures heat up, it is a good idea to stop feeding your fish. Feeding contributes to algae in the pond and the fish will survive just fine without feedings.
  • Try to stay out of your pond – the more the pond is stirred up, the more algae you will have.

Native Landscapes

  • If you have a new native landscape, it is a good idea to mow it to help prevent the weeds from going to seed. When you mow, you will want to set it on the highest setting. If you have an established native landscape, it should be in its full glory! Sit back and enjoy the birds and butterflies that will flock to feed on the beautiful flowers!

Insects and Disease

  • In high humidity, powdery mildew can become a problem on roses, bee-balm (Monarda), phlox and many other of our favorite garden plants. Powdery mildew can be controlled with a fungicide spray. Ask your local ICN Pro for the recommended fungicide and application rates for your area.
  • Stay abreast of state-wide insect and disease problems like Emerald Ash Borer. Knowing about these pests can assist local authorities in tracking the pests’ movement. For up-to-date information,visit http://hyg.ipm.illinois.edu/

Birds and Butterflies

  • Keep your bird feeders and hummingbird feeders clean and full! Dirty feeders spread disease.

September

September

  • Fall is for planting- trees, shrubs, bulbs, grass seed, mums, asters, pansies and the list goes on. The cooler temperatures, and more plentiful rainfall makes fall a wonderful time to plant. An added benefit to fall planting is that it gives you a head start for next spring. Plants that are planted in the fall will be all settled in and ready to grow when the ground thaws and temperatures warm up next spring.
  • Your local garden centers will have all kinds of great fall items to add color and interest to your garden. Hardy chrysanthemums, winter hardy pansies (bloom in the fall and again the following spring), shrubs, trees, and a whole lot more, are available!

Lawn

  • Fall is also a good time to treat for weeds in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds can be sprayed once temperatures begin to decline. Fertilizer may also be applied depending on the condition of your lawn. It is a good idea to get advice from a professional at your local garden center before making lawn applications, to avoid unnecessary applications.
  • Plant grass seed. Whether you just have a few patches to fill in, or if you want to re-do your entire yard, or do a new yard- September is the month to do it. Looking for a disease resistant, drought resistant turf? Try using a fescue blend rather than bluegrass.
  • If you have trouble with compaction in your lawn, your lawn may benefit from core aeration.

Garden

  • September is a great month to plant a tree! Strategically placed trees can help reduce energy costs as well as add value to the property.
  • Bulbs will be arriving at your local garden center in September. There are many different kinds of bulbs – old favorites like tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, and crocus, and naturalizing bulbs like: anemone, snowdrop, snowflake, glory-of-the-snow, and so many more! Your ICN Pro will be able to help you figure out which bulbs will do best in your site and will also be able to help you figure out which end of the bulb is up!
  • If you’ve been feeding your plants, like water lilies or roses, September is the month to stop. It is good idea to stop feeding them now so that they will harden off before winter begins.
  • Mums will be showing their full glory in September. When you plant your fall mums, be sure to mulch around them. The mulch will help to insulate them when the cold winter months come around.

Water Gardens

  • It’s almost time to start getting your water gardens ready for the fall and winter months. Now is the time to cut back on feeding your fish. It is also time to cover your pond with netting to help keep the falling leaves out.

Native Landscapes

  • Asters and goldenrod should be in full bloom soon, making a bold fall statement! If you are thinking of establishing a native landscape, now is the time to start controlling existing vegetation on the site. Seeding will typically take place in June, and you want your area to be clean and weed-free before you seed!For tips and techniques on establishing a native landscape consult an ICN Pro.

Birds & Butterflies

  • September is the month to stop feeding your hummingbirds. Hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, and although no one knows for sure exactly how they travel. It is a wise idea to stop feeding them in order to encourage them to begin migrating.
  • September is the month to hang out your birdfeeders again (if you don’t feed through the summer months). Be sure that your feeders are clean to prevent spreading diseases to your fine feathered friends

October

October

Lawn

  • Fall fertilizers probably should have been applied in September, but if you didn’t get that done, there are winterizer fertilizers that can still be applied. Check with your local ICN Pro for timing and product recommendations for your area.
  • Remember that it’s still important to keep your mowing height up! A taller turf is a healthier turf! A taller turf is more vigorous and able to better compete with weeds.

Garden

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch can act as an insulating blanket for plants. It is a good idea to apply mulch under your trees and shrubs. Be careful to avoid volcano mulching (where you pile up mulch on the trunk of the tree). This can lead to insect and fungal problems. Mulch also works exceptionally well in perennial beds. The mulch will protect the crown of the plant from the freezing and thawing action that happens when temperatures fluctuate in the winter.
  • Plant mums! Mums are the signature flowers of fall. They come in a variety of different flower shapes, sizes and colors. Mums are considered to be hardy plants throughout most of Illinois, however they will greatly benefit from a protective layer of mulch. The mulch will help to protect them from the freezing and thawing of the upcoming winter months. Mums will also prefer well-drained soil. Be careful to not place them in an area that stays wet, like by a downspout.
  • Plant TREES! Whether you would like to add a shade, flowering or evergreen tree to your yard this fall is a splendid time to do it! When you plant in the fall the tree will begin to grow new roots almost immediately, and will continue growing those roots until the ground freezes in December. Then when the ground thaws in the spring, that tree will be ready to grow!
  • Plant BULBS! There is nothing more beautiful, and welcome, in the spring than a grouping of colorful bulbs! Whether they are tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, or a smaller naturalizing bulb- now is the time to plant these spring beauties! Also be sure to try a new bulb this year! There are so many different types of naturalizing bulbs like snowdrop, anemone, snowflake, Siberian squill, Glory of the snow, … and the list goes on. These bulbs and flowers are typically smaller than a tulip or daffodil, but they are just as charming!
  • WINTER PANSIES-Winter hardy pansies are a great way to give a fresh look to your annual beds. Winter pansies will bloom this fall and then most will come back the next spring to bloom again!

Landscape

  • Fall is a wonderful time to plant trees, and it is also a great time to plant shrubs! If you have considered landscaping this year, but think you’ve waited too long, you’re actually just in time! Consult with a landscape designer at your local garden center.
  • Plan for spring- If you’d like to update your landscape but aren’t quite sure where to start or what to do once you’ve started, fall is a great time to plan! Consult with a landscape designer at your local garden center. They’ll be happy to help you and then when spring comes along, you’ll be ready to get started!

Birding

  • Hang out your birdfeeders and begin feeding. Your fine-feathered friends will need more food in the months ahead. Now is the time to familiarize them with your yard and your feeders!
  • Get a good Bird Book! Bird watching is an interesting hobby all by itself, but it becomes even more interesting and somewhat challenging if you make an effort to identify the birds that are feeding at your feeder! You’ll be surprised that the number of different birds you have!
  • Set out your squirrel feeders — squirrels are very inquisitive animals and can be very entertaining to watch. Try setting out a feed box or a squirrel chair and watch your furry friends scurry about!
  • Keep your birdbaths clean and open. Birds need a fresh water source in the winter. Birdbaths are a nice way to entice more birds to your yard. There are a number of different birdbath heaters available that help to keep your birdbaths open all winter.

Houseplants

  • Bring your house plants inside when the night-time temperatures begin to slip into the low 40’s. When you bring them in watch for insects and diseases to develop. Often times if houseplants have been outside in the summer, when they are brought in they lose some of their leaves. This is a normal reaction to the change in light.
  • Be sure to not over-water your houseplants! Some species like more water than others, but in general it is a good idea to let the soil dry out between waterings.

November

November

Lawn

  • What should I do with all of those leaves? Start a compost pile! Leaves are excellent organic material and can be a great component of your compost pile. Leave them alone. Leaves could be considered Mother Nature’s mulch. Most of the time, the leaves do no harm to your lawn and will slowly break down, adding organic matter to your soil. If your leaves are thick enough that they are killing out the turf beneath, you have a couple of options: add them to your compost pile, run the mower over them to chop up and disperse them, wait for a windy day and let them blow into the neighbor’s yard!

Garden

  • There is still time to plant TREES! Trees are the backbones of our landscapes and they give back so much. They shade our homes reducing our electric bills, they provide habitat, they help to clean our air, and their roots help to filter our ground water cleaning our water supplies … And the list goes on! You don’t have to look very far, or think very hard to find a good reason to plant a tree!
  • To cut or not to cut? This time of year in doing landscape clean up our garden center receives many calls about pruning all sorts of plant materials. Here is a list of some of the most popular questions we receive and my suggestions:
    • Ornamental Grasses: Leave them through the winter – their winter presence adds depth to the landscape and some of the native species provide food for birds. Cut or burn them off in February or March.
    • Lilacs: A definite no-no! If you trim them in the fall, you will cut the flower buds off, reducing or eliminating your spring flower display.
    • Coneflowers and other perennials: Leave them until March or April – sometimes their winter presence is not much, but their seed heads can provide birds with another food source. Additionally, you’ll find it easier to clean them up in the spring after their foliage has gone through the winter. Plants like hosta and daylilies are easy to just twist and lift the old foliage away in the spring.

    For shrubs and trees, the recommendations are often more specific – contact your local ICN Pro.

Birds & Butterflies

  • Hang out your bird feeders if you haven’t already. There are many different kinds of birdseed available. Birds can be picky eaters, but most everyone will feed on the black-oiled sunflower seeds.

Houseplants

  • Be sure to not over-water your houseplants – a common mistake! The amount of water a plant requires is dependent on a number of conditions: the species, the humidity in the house, the amount of light it receives, the amount of air movement in the area. You cannot rely on anything but the old-fashioned finger test. Stick your finger into the soil, if it is moist, the plant is probably ok. Wait until the soil is quite dry before watering houseplants to reduce the amount of fungal-borne diseases that the plant is susceptible to.

December

December

Did you know that gardening helps to reduce stress for many people? There’s something about the nurturing nature of gardening that makes us all feel better on the inside. There are many things that you can do in the winter that can give you that ‘just in from the garden feeling’. Here are just a few ideas that might help you avoid getting the winter blahs, and just might help to reduce your stress level as well!

  • Get a fresh cut Christmas tree! Live trees bring wonderful fragrance into your home and are so much fun to decorate! The natural branch spacing is perfect for ornaments of all shapes and sizes!
  • Get a poinsettia, give a poinsettia. Poinsettias come in a plethora of colors and are sure to brighten anyone’s day! The ICN Pro at your local garden center will be able to give you tips on keeping your poinsettia looking its best.
  • The Christmas Cactus is another fantastic plant for the winter months and there are a few different species. Some bloom around Thanksgiving, while others bloom closer to Christmas. Lighting plays a key role in bloom time. Christmas cactus’ are long-lived plants and often become family heirlooms.
  • There are many houseplants to choose from that can help to clean the air in your home or office space. Be aware that some common houseplants are toxic to animals and children. Visit http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/houseplants/ for general houseplant identification and care, and to find out which ones might pose a risk to your children and pets.
  • Bring some fresh cut greens inside. They add a wonderful fragrance, and are fantastic to use on mantels, or as a swag on your door. Outside, try using the greens with contrasting colored branches, like Red or Yellow Twig Dogwood or holly in your pots, or window boxes.
  • Force bulbs to grow indoors! Hyacinths, paper whites, grape hyacinth, and crocus are all bulbs that are pretty easy to force into bloom indoors. Some may require a cold period, before they will bloom well. Forced bulbs are excellent gift ideas and their happy faces can chase away the winter blahs from the weariest gardener!

 

Plant Selections

Believe it or not, there are some plants that actually like the heat and humidity of Illinois in the summer! Native plants like Purple Coneflower, Black Eyed Susan, Sunflowers, and grasses like Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, and Switch Grass all thrive in the hot, humid weather that most of us dread. Other non-native plants like Sedum, Daylilies, Phlox and other Ornamental Grasses are great tough plants that will add summer color to your gardens! The Illinois Certified Nursery Professional (ICN Pro) at your local garden center will be able to show you these summer beauties and many more!

 

Natives Recommendations by our ICN Pros

Baptisia austrailis:

Baptisia_australis

False Indigo. Likes full sun, and will tolerate a range of soil types. Beautiful bluish-purple blooms in spring.

  • Grows about 3’ tall by 3’ wide.
  • Works great in combination with Little Bluestem (Schizaschyrium), Switchgrass (Panicum), Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), and Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus).

Asclepias tuberosa (ButterflyWeed):

Asclepias_tuberosa_002A lover of full sun and sandy soils. Bright orange flowers in summer (June).

  • Grows roughly 2’ tall by 3’ wide.
  • Is food for the larval and adult forms of the monarch butterfly.
  • Works great in combination with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), and Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea).

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflowers):

Echinacea_purpureaFull sun and adaptable to poor soils.

  • Growing 3’ tall and spreading.
  • Works well in combination with native grasses like Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus), Switchgrass (Panicum sp.) and other native forbs like Butterfly Weed (Asclepias), Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Purple prairie clover (Dalea).
  • Also check out other Echinacea species: Echinacea pallida and a new introduction from the Chicagoland Grows program, Echinacea ‘Pixie Meadowbrite.

Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susans):

Black_Eyed_Susan_(8807941048)Sunny, gold daisy shaped flowers with black centers that are raised.

  • They grow about 3’ tall and are spreading.
  • They love full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Work great in combination with Switchgrass (Panicum sp.), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium), Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), and Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea).

Sporobolus (Prairie Dropseed):

Sporobolus prairie dropseedA perfect ornamental grass for the front of the border or bed edges.

  • Grows 18-24” tall, and about 24” wide.
  • Fine texture in all respects. Loves full sun, well drained soils.
  • Works well in combination with Butterfly weed (Asclepias), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea), and Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’).

Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem):

SchizachyriumAnother easy to use ornamental grass. Perfect for the front or mid-border. There are several cultivars available.

  • Carousel’ Bluestem grows 18-24” tall and wide and does not flop.
  • Metallic blue summer color, with an array of pinks, coppers, and red fall color.
  • Works well in mass or as a specimen plant. Perfectly suited for use with Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Landscape roses (Rosa rugosa),and False Indigo (Baptisia).

Panicum (Switchgrass):

Panicum switchgrassAnother easy to use ornamental grass. There are many cultivars available. ‘Prairie Fire’ and ‘Shenandoah’ have streaks of burgundy in their summer foliage. ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Northwind’ have a more metallic blue summer color. All are very durable.

  • Growing 4-5’ tall and 3’ wide.
  • Tolerates a variety of soils- very dry to moderately wet.
  • Works well in mass or as a specimen. Use in combination with Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), False Indigo (Baptisia), or other grasses.

Are you hungry for more? Visit your local Illinois Certified Nursery Professional to learn more about how to select plants based on criteria such as plant type, the hardiness zone, where you reside, what size and shape of plant you’d like, your soil type, etc.



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