Locavore Gardening: 12 Best Bet Flowers to Grow in Chicago


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Chicago has many nicknames, "the Windy City", the "City of Big Shoulders", "Chi-Town", or my favorite, "the Chi", and now we can add "Zone 5" or more specifically, "Zone 5b" to the list. That's right, Chicago is a "Zone 5" city in gardening circles. If you're a Zone Fiver, check out this list of hearty flowers that are perfect for the Chi.

The entire U.S. is broken up into zones, which are based on the average minimum winter temperature in a given area. Zoning helps gardeners choose plant life that will thrive in their area. Some zoning maps are more general while other maps are more specific.

Zoning is a great way to get a baseline for what will and won't work in your area, but other factors include sun exposure, daytime temperatures, wind, humidity, and soil quality. If you're in Chicago, or even the Midwest, here are some hearty Zone 5 flowers for you to check out!

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Top Row (left to right):
1.Knock Out Rose – Fragrant and fast growing, these roses are considered to be some of the hardiest, most disease resistant roses available. They thrive in full sun (5-6 hours a day). Approximately 4 ft. tall with blooms throughout the season.
2.Salvia (Garden Sage) – A fragrant perennial (from the mint family) that is great for container gardens because it grows approximately 2 ft tall x 2 ft wide. Thrives in full sun with regular pruning.
3.Azaleas – Vary in size and color. Azaleas do best with afternoon shade and low pH soil (slightly acidic).

Second Row:
4.Bleeding Heart – Hearty perennial that blooms in early spring (so perhaps for next year). Does well in chillier climates and prefers partial shade and damp, well-drained soil.
5.Columbine – Perennial that blooms in spring and early summer. Comes in a variety of colors, thrives in full sun and attracts butterflies.
6.Spotted Joe Pye Weed – A native perennial to Illinois, this flower thrives in partial shade and will grow quite tall, between 3 - 7 feet, with blooms late in the season. Also great for attracting birds and butterflies.

Third Row:
7.Common Foxglove – Ornamental, short-lived biennial (requires two growing seasons to fully flower) that grows tall and slender (2 -5 ft). They thrive in partial shade and soil with a high pH. They are also poisonous to humans, so let's all remember not to garnish our homemade gelato with a foxglove flower, or our garden parties will turn into an Agatha Christie novel.
8.Yarrow – Well known as butterfly attracting flowers, yarrow will tolerate poor soil and thrive in full sun, with blooms throughout late spring and all summer.
9.Daylily – Fragrant perennials that are recommended for landscaping due to their height, full blooms, and low maintenance. They thrive in full sun to partial shade.

Bottom Row:
10.Garden Peony – Perennials known for their stunning blooms, they thrive in full sun and grow from 2 - 4 ft tall. Blooming usually occurs in early summer.
11.Jacob's Ladder – A native Illinois flower that is wonderful for attracting bees and butterflies; also a sprawling flower that thrives in partial shade and does well in mixed foliage gardens.
12.Sundrops – Known for attracting butterflies, these small flowers (18-24 in. tall) thrive in full sun and will bloom in early summer. They are also known for keeping deer away, which is an issue for many Chicago-area suburbs.

(Images:1.Herb Companion, 2.Heronswood, 3. Stringer's Nursery, 4.Wikipedia,5 Boggled, 6.Lake Chicago Shores, 7.Mindy Barledge, 8 Outside Pride, 9. PBase, 10. Flower Info, 11.Illinois Wild Flowers, 12.Gardens with Wings)