Much of the Midwest is known not only for its fertile cropland but also for its rolling hills and prairies. These plants have adapted to the windy and harsh environments, providing erosion control and holding the soil where it belongs with deep roots. Today, we'll talk about five native plants from the Northern Midwest United States. Native plants are defined as plants that have been established in a given area for hundreds of years. This definition is often paired with a geographic location, like the Northern Midwest United States. It is challenging to pinpoint an exact geographical boundary, as plants do not follow the same boundaries people do, so we will just limit it to the Northern portion of the Midwest in general - zones 2 through 6.
Evergreen - Black Hills Spruce
With dark evergreen foliage, Black Hills spruce provides an excellent backdrop year round. Short needles are soft to the touch, and Black Hills spruce does not require any pruning to help it keep its pyramidal shape. It is deer resistant, and will provide a fair amount of protecting during the winter months. Use it in a windbreak or as a focal point in your yard; regardless, it will soldier on through the coldest weather.
Deciduous Tree - Cottonwood
Reaching over 70 feet tall at maturity, cottonwood trees are a formidable addition to any landscape. Triangular leaves balance on incredibly thin stems, allowing them to quake in the wind and create a very soothing sound. In the fall, the leaves turn a gorgeous yellow, and in the winter, the intricate gray bark provides some interest to an otherwise dreary season.
Shrub - Red Osier Dogwood
Redosier dogwood has a little bit for every season. In the spring, small white flowers bloom, followed by white berries adored by wildlife. Bright green foliage in the summer becomes reddish-purple in the fall. The winter appeal is the best part about redosier dogwood; the stems are bright red, and the color lasts throughout the entire season. Use it as a mass planting for incredible results or as a single plant to contrast against other evergreens and deciduous stems in the winter.
Flowering perennial - Blanketflower
Bright flowers brighten up any yard, and blanketflower doesn't fail in that category. Appearing in the early summer and persisting through the fall, blanketflower's yellow and red petals are sure to be a long-lasting addition to your garden. Blanketflowers are adapted to many of the intense conditions found in the northern Midwest, and will thrive, even when faced with drought and hot summers.
Grass - Switchgrass
Often found within prairies, switchgrass makes a fantastic addition to any planting. With cultivars that range in color from blue-ish (Heavy Metal Switchgrass) to reddish-purple (Red Switchgrass), the airy seed heads bring a bit of the prairie to your yard. Planted en masse results in a stand of grasses that will thrill and delight long into the winter months.
Each of these plants has adapted to the climatic conditions of the northern Midwest windy and dry summers and harsh winters. Use them in your yard to bring a bit of the wild to your house and enjoy as they stun you with their colors year-round. To see our favorite native plants for other regions, check out these articles: Native Plants for the Northeast Native Plants for the Southeast Native Plants for the Southern Midwest Native Plants for the Southwest Native Plants for the Northwest