En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - February 08, 2009

From: Rock Falls, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Drought and pollution resistant flowers for Rock Falls, IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am looking for hearty flowers for our city planters that are both resistant to drought and auto emissions. We are located in northern Illinois. Planting is done in May.

ANSWER:

We're not sure if you are looking just for herbaceous flowering plants, or also for flowering shrubs, so we'll suggest some possibilities for both. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we constantly encourage the use of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being planted. Because they have become accustomed to the climate, rainfall and soil conditions, native plants will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance. We're not sure if there is research available naming some plants more resistant to pollution than others, but all plants, in the process of photosynthesis, are absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen. It can be a huge tree or a tiny grass, it works the same way, if not on the same scale.

We will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Illinois on the map, NARROW YOUR SEARCH, and select first for "Herbs" (herbaceous plants) and later for "Shrubs" under Habit. Then, we'll take a look at the individual plants and eliminate the ones that call for high water use. Follow the plant links below to the webpage on each plant, where you can establish the size, light requirements and bloom time of each plant. You can go back, using the same procedure, and select also on Light Requirements (sun, part shade, shade), Soil Moisture, etc. and make your own choices. These plants are all commercially available; when you have found some plants you are interested in, if you are having difficulty locating them, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in the name of your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environment consultants in your general area.

FLOWERING PLANTS FOR NORTHERN ILLINOIS

Herbaceous Plants 

Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower) - annual, blooms blue, purple June to August

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - perennial, blooms yellow April to June

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) - perennial, blooms pink, purple April to September

Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium) - perennial, blooms white, pink, purple March to July

Helianthus strumosus (paleleaf woodland sunflower) - perennial, blooms yellow July to September

Liatris aspera (tall blazing star) - perennial, blooms pink, purple August and September

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower) - perennial, blooms red May to October

Rudbeckia subtomentosa (sweet coneflower) - perennial, blooms yellow July to September

Shrubs

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (shrubby cinquefoil) - 3 to 4 ft. high and wide, may be deciduous or evergreen, blooms yellow June to September

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) - 4 to 6 ft., blooms white, green April to July

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) - 3 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms white March and April

Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle) - 3 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms red, orange, yellow, purple June to August

 

From the Image Gallery


American bellflower
Campanulastrum americanum

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Spotted geranium
Geranium maculatum

Paleleaf woodland sunflower
Helianthus strumosus

Tall blazing star
Liatris aspera

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Sweet coneflower
Rudbeckia subtomentosa

Shrubby cinquefoil
Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Combining yellow columbine and Malvaviscus arboreus
March 07, 2008 - Can yellow columbine coexist peacefully with Malvaviscus arboreus? I have a nice stand of the former and would like to plant the latter to take over when the columbine starts to look ratty in the hea...
view the full question and answer

Plants for oak shade from Whitney TX
December 24, 2012 - I live in Whitney, Texas and have a number of beautiful Live Oak trees in a portion of my yard providing deep shade. Asian Jasmine grows in about 5 ft circle around them and then nothing! I have walk ...
view the full question and answer

Choosing the right Coreopsis species for Tennessee
November 28, 2015 - I live in Bristol Tennessee and have replaced most of my lawn with native plants. I have been trying to learn more about the Coreopsis genus. In TN, we have C. auriculata, grandiflora, lanceolata, m...
view the full question and answer

Low, Easy Care Perennials for Lake Ontario Shore Planting
October 04, 2015 - I'm on Lake Ontario in New York. I have a lake bank slope, thatís about 1/8 mile long and about 40 feet high, and is on about a 40 degree angle. It is very hard to keep clear. The bank has just been ...
view the full question and answer

Is Hibiscus coccineus still considered native in Dallas, TX?
July 15, 2011 - Is Hibiscus coccineus still considered native?. I recently was told by someone with the Native Texas Plant Society that it was no longer thought to have crossed the Sabine naturally. Thoughts...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center