For Your Garden - January 2010

Winter is a season of rest for the garden. Can your garden remain a showplace in winter? It can if you use native plants in your landscaping. These species are adapted to the Illinois climate, and their foliage can add color and interest to the garden in winter, as well as providing food and shelter for wildlife species. As perennials, you can enjoy them for many years to come.

prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Prairie dropseed is a native grass that can be found throughout Illinois , although it more commonly grows in the northern half of the state than in southern Illinois. It grows in mesic prairies, those that have good drainage but remain moist during most of the year, and also in hill prairies and other dry areas. This bunch grass grows in a cluster and is sometimes described as looking like a “fountain of grass” as the long, thin leaves arch gracefully to the ground from the central portion of the plant. Leaves may be 20 inches long and are about one-eighth inch wide. The plant can be two to three feet tall. It blooms in August and September. The flowers are on individual stalks in a cluster at the top of the flowering stems. Prairie dropseed turns orange-brown in autumn, and its leaves and flowering stalks persist in winter.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

 Illinois Range

 Native Plant Information

For more information about native Illinois plants, including where to purchase them and planting guides, view the following publications at our publications page. You can access more information on the Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant page, too.