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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.

Plant Selection for a Sustainable Landscape

Sustainable Landscaping is a buzz word you may have heard lately. But what exactly is it?

According to Colorado State Extension (which has a variety of factsheets related to sustainable landscaping here: ), sustainable landscaping should include an attractive environment that is in balance with the local climate and requires minimal resource inputs, such as fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, time, and water.

For many people, the reason to implement a more sustainable landscape is to reduce their inputs and save money in the long term. That may mean reducing the amount of turf area so that there's less to irrigate, installing a rain barrel, or putting in more drought tolerant plants, to name a few examples.

In a couple of upcoming blog posts, I'm going to break down a few of the main points of creating a more sustainable landscape, beginning with: Plant Selection for a Sustainable Landscape

The first step to creating a sustainable landscape is to include plants that are either native to your area or well adapted to similar growing conditions. Illinois native plants are a great choice because most are naturally pretty drought tolerant and disease/pest resistant. But they're not always the perfect choice. One must still choose the right plant for the right location. A woodland native that likes shade to part-shade in its natural setting for example, should be planted in a spot with similar conditions in your landscape. Read more and find a good native plant listing here:

Non-native species can be sustainable as well. Just choose species that are non-invasive and are adaptable to a range of growing conditions. It's also an added benefit if the plant provides habitat for local wildlife. Find out which plants are invasive in Illinois here:

Choose plants with resistance

By just selecting a variety with resistance to a variety of diseases, you can save yourself a lot of headache and labor down the line in trying to manage diseases.

For example, if you want to plant a crabapple, select a cultivar, such as 'Prairiefire', with resistance to apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fireblight and mildew. Look for this information on plant labels at your local garden center.

Choose plants that require minimal care

  • Choose compact varieties that require less pruning
  • Choose insect- and disease-resistant varieties that require less spraying
  • Plant drought-tolerant plants that require less water
  • Use annuals only in small areas. These require planting year after year, which is added labor.

Purchase from a local nursery

Buy tree and shrubs locally so they will be grown on similar soil and under similar winter conditions. This will help ensure better transplant success.

Stay tuned for more sustainable landscape posts coming soon! Like the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture- Northwest Illinois Facebook page to stay up to date on the most recent posts:

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