Deer Resistant Plants

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Deer Resistant Plants

We’ve been asked a few times about deer-resistant plants, and we’ve done some research and have compiled the below list sorted by sun requirements.

To assemble the document we cross-referenced from different sources that report these native plants as being deer resistant.  Sources include personal experiences from prairie restorationists, Prairie Moon Nursery, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Special Collections pages: (, Morton Arboretum: (

A very helpful page is

Unless noted, soil conditions are assumed to be typical garden soil here in the Chicago area–clay/loam which tends to hold onto moisture but still drain.  Plants in the full sun group can generally take part sun too, and those in the shade group can likewise take part sun.  To determine correct plants for your site, further research should be done.  Many of our sources warn that hungry deer in the spring are less discriminate about their meals then.  Just as a note, not all deer resistant plants are rabbit resistant.

Let us know if you have a plant that deer seem to avoid in your garden, and it’s not listed here.  We’ll add it.


Full Sun Plants


Plant name Bloom time Height Special notes
Monarda species Summer 3-4’  Hummingbird/Bumblebees
Rudbeckia spp Summer/Fall 2-3’ depending on species Butterfly host plant
Asclepias spp Summer 2-4’ depending on species Monarchs
Solidago spp Fall 2-5’ depending on species  Provides for many insects
Coreopsis spp Summer 2’
Filependula rubra Summer 4′ with spires
Echinacea spp Summer 3-4’ Butterfly host plant
Eupatorium spp Summer/Fall 3-5’ depending on species
Artemesia Fall–flowers generally inconsequential–foliage is silvery gray 3” Butterfly host plant
Allium spp Summer 12”  Some species provide early nectar
Liatris spp Summer 2-5’ depending on species
Ruellia Summer 1-2′  May feed Buckeye butterfly caterpillar
Amorpha spp Summer 2-3’ Butterfly host plant
Asters spp Fall  varies; you can prune Butterfly host plant
Eryngium yuccifolium Summer  3-4′
Vernonia spp Summer/Early Fall 4-5’
Parthenium integrifolium Summer (long bloom time!)  2-3′ Great pollinator plant
Agastache spp Summer 3-4’  3′-4′ depends on species Great pollinator plant; seeds for birds
Baptisia spp Spring 1-3’ depending on species Butterfly host plant
Senna hebecarpa Summer 4’5’ can be pruned Butterfly host and great pollinator plant
Pycantheum spp Summer 2-3’ Great pollinator plants
Euphorbia corollata Summer 2-3’
Hypericum spp Summer 2-4’ tall depending on species Amazing pollinator plants
Dalea purpurea Summer 2’


Part Sun


Plant name Bloom time Height Special Notes
Anemone candanesis(grows in shade too) Late spring 1’ adaptable, aggressive, good for groundcover
Shooting Star Spring 1-2’
Gentian spp Fall  2′
Solidago spp Fall  2-5′ depends on species
Phlox divaricata Spring/Summer  1′
Helianthus strumosus Summer/Fall 3-5’
Penstemon digitalis Summer  3′
Eupatorium maculatum  Summer  3-4′
Zizea aurea Spring 2’ Black swallowtail host plant
Ceanothus americanus Summer 3’ Hosts azure butterflies, duskywing
Asters spp Summer-Fall  varies  Pearl Crescent butterfly
Campanula spp Summer  2′
Verbena spp Summer 4’
Chamaecrista fasciculata Summer 2’  Great pollinator plant; hosts sulphur butterflies
Lobelia sp Summer 3-4’ Hummingbirds
Helenium autumnale Fall 3-4’
Physostygia virginia Summer 3-4’ Can be aggressive, hummingbirds
Iris virginica Spring 3’  2-3′ Moist soil
Pedicularis canadensis Spring 1’





Plant name Bloom time Height Soil
Sanguinaria canadensis Spring max 12”
Tiarella cordifolia Spring “  “
Solidago (Elm-leaved Goldenrod, Zig-zag Goldenrod are a couple examples that will take shade) Fall  varies
Polemonium reptans Spring  1-2′
Asters spp  varies
Actea spp Spring flowers and berries in fall  1-3′
Cimicfuga racemosa Summer 5’ when in bloom
Asarum canadense Spring, interesting flowers Ground cover
Arisaema triphyllum Spring, interesting flower and berries late summer 1-2’
Geranium maculatum (can handle range of light conditions) Spring 1-2’


What’s in a Leaf Pile?

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What’s in a Leaf Pile?

Many beneficial (and beautiful) insect overwinter in our yards. For instance, the Katydid (important food source for birds during late summer) and Preying Mantis overwinter as eggs attached to twigs, stems, and/or leaves. Ladybugs and Lacewings also spend the winter in our gardens.  Native bees find winter homes in soil, plants (stems, under grasses), and leaves. Cutting down a garden and removing all litter in the fall reduces these insect populations, most of which are beneficial. According to the University of Maine, 97% of insects in our yards are beneficial (  Furthermore, many of these insects are critical food sources for migrating birds and for birds raising their young. 95% of birds feed insects to their young even if the adults eat seeds (Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home).  Keeping your healthy leaves either as garden mulch or in piles under trees or shrubs will offer you many benefits over the year:

Luna Moth Cocoon Jack Gibson

Luna moth cocoon secured to an oak leaf. Photo courtesy of J. Gibson

• feed microrganisms which feed your plants (there are complicated relationships under ground); these organisms in turn clean the water and air and improve soil texture.  Many woodland/savannah plants require the leaf layer for the resulting rich humus.

• keep water levels stable–absorbs more water, drains better, and keeps moisture available to your plants through drought(lots of seeming contradictions but it’s true)

• mulch your garden through the winter

• provide cover for overwintering bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects

• provide food for those above creatures provides food for birds

• reduce the need to buy bags of mulch or compost (and then the associated pollution and costs connected to those items (plastic bags, transportation))

• reduce pressure on finances and resources of the village; money saved there could go to more positive use

Tiger Swallowtail Wood Lily

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail–overwinters as a chrysalis, usually attached to a stem or twig but could attach to a leaf. Many trees are host plants: Ashes, Tulip Tree, Magnolias, Birches, Willows, Black Cherry.

For further reading: Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalist and Gardeners, James B. Nardi.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition,                 Lowenfels and Lewis

Jack in the Pulpit, quintessential woodland plant

Jack in the Pulpit, quintessential woodland plant

Start-up Guide for Native Gardens in West Cook County

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Native Gardening Basics

by Marni Curtis for West Cook Wild Ones

There are many ways to start using native plants in your garden. You can start to incorporate native plants into your existing landscape – or – you can start completely from scratch.

First, make an assessment of the environmental conditions (shady or sunny, drainage, soil types, irrigation, etc.). Also, make an inventory oIMG_3095f your existing plants.

It is also helpful when creating a naturalistic landscape design to consider the associations found in specific plant communities (a prairie, wetland or forest). You may also want to visit some local natural areas to observe these associations first-hand.

Planning and planting a native garden does not have to be done all at once. It can be installed in phases as your budget and time allows.


Soil Preparation

If weeds are a big problem, you may want to consider not only hand-pulling, but maybe even covering them with a sheet of clear plastic for several months – a process known as solarization. Other methods to kill weeds are pouring boiling water or vinegar on them. By eliminating weeds first, as much as possible, before planting, it will be much easier than trying to control them in a newly planted site.  Just as anote, methods that involve solarization, vinegar, boiling water may also kill the beneficial life in the soil.  If you use those methods, allow some time for pH of the soil to return to normal and consider adding good compost or healthy soil from other areas of your garden to help repopulate your soil with beneficial microorganisms.

Native plants usually do not require fertilizer. Many thrive in poor soil and applying fertilizer could chemically burn them, or stimulate either lush or spindly, weak foliage growth with few flowers.

  If you are planning to replace your lawn with a prairie type garden, you may want to consider the using the sheet        mulching method – water your lawn and then cover it with newspaper or cardboard. Water the newspaper or  cardboard and cover with mulch. On top of the cardboard you can put grass clippings or fall leaves on, and then cover    with mulch.  Allow a month or two before planting to make sure you have won the battle.  Fall is a great time to do  sheet mulching.

  Plant Selection and Plants

Choose species based on the soil, light, and water conditions of your site and for the size, shape, texture, and color you   desire.

  Suggested Prairie Plants (full sun):


Spiderwort, Golden Alexanders, Prairie Smoke, Prairie Phlox, Cream Prairie Indigo


Purple Prairie Clover, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Butterflyweed, Culver’s Root


New England Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, Stiff Goldenrod, Showy Goldenrod


Little bluestem, Big Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, Indian grass, Switch Grass

Suggested Woodland Plants (shade):


Wild geranium, Virginia bluebells, wild columbine, celadine poppy                               IMG_2906


Marginal shield fern, ostrich fern, Christmas fern


Wild ginger, May apple, Allegheny foam flower

Three-Season Plants:

Solomon’s seal, Solomon’s plume, white baneberry


Short’s aster, large-leaf aster, elm-leaved goldenrod, zig-zag goldenrod


Hazelnut, witch hazel, arrowwood viburnum, pagoda dogwood


Maintaining Your Landscape

Your native plants will need time to become established. The critical period for watering and weeding is two to three weeks after planting – or longer if you are planting in warm, dry seasons. If you are planting trees or shrubs, apply a four to six-inch layer of organic mulch around them (but, not touching the main stem) and a one-inch or less mulch layer for perennials. Mulch can help control weeds, reduce temperature fluctuations, help retain moisture and give a finished look to the landscape.

Enjoy the butterflies and birds that visit. Each year add more native plants. Make more prairie and/or woodland spaces. Educate your neighborhood by example! Once you get started, it becomes easier and easier every year to maintain your property/grounds — less mowing and watering; more wildlife and soil improvement.


Behind the Scenes at a Wild Animal Hospital & Seed Swap

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Jack MacRae with a patient who doesn't appreciate the paparazzi.

Jack MacRae with a patient who doesn’t appreciate the paparazzi.

West Cook Wild Ones will bring Jack MacRae, a Naturalist from the DuPage Forest Preserves, to present “Behind the Scenes at a Wild Animal Hospital.” This presentation gives a look at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, the oldest and largest wild animal hospital in the U.S. Mr. MacRae will speak to us about the animals that come to the rehabilitation center, what happens to them while in care, and about what we can do to help out the wildlife in our region.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center opened in 1952 as a rehabilitation and refuge center for injured and orphaned animals, and in 1983, it added an education facility. You can visit the more than 80 live permanently injured animals that are native to IL there (including birds, foxes, and eagles). Mr. MacRae has spent more than 34 years in interpreting the natural and cultural history of the Chicago region.

Free and open to the public; no RSVP required

When: November 16, 2014 2:30-4:30 pm
Where: Room 259, The Priory, Dominican University, 7200 W. Division (corner of Division and Harlem, right next to Priory Park, NOT on the main campus), River Forest, IL

Seed Swap
After the presentation, please feel free to bring your native seeds to share for an informal seed swap. Bring envelopes and pen.

Get your yard ready for monarch migration

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What kind of milkweed do you have?  You can still plant milkweed, just keep it watered.   If you can, it would be great to plant more milkweed for next year, and you can sow seeds now—they’ll stay dormant until after winter/spring.  Some patches of milkweed (and different kinds is even better) around your yard is ideal.   A female won’t lay all her eggs on one plant; she tends to flit around to different plants which is smart to disperse her eggs.  Very few eggs laid make it to adulthood, and the eggs and young caterpillars can be eaten by any number of predators/parasitic wasps/flies (generally excepting mammals/birds ).

Eggs are laid on the underside, and I’m not so sure if you’ll find any more eggs now; right now is sort of transitional time between the reproductive ones and the ones that migrate for our area.  They are different.

An important thing, really important– is to have nectar plants that are fall blooming because you could have Monarchs that are migrating from further north come through your yard.  That’s where native asters and goldenrods and annuals like zinnia and Mexican Sunflower come in really handy.   The Monarchs have to GAIN weight as they travel down to Mexico because they will not feed while they hibernate.  I guess that on warmer days they wake up a little and might get to some water, but that’s it.

I think we are planning on having some seeds available, and I can try to pot up a lot of seedlings I have that are about a foot tall (too many in one section).  Mine are mostly Swamp/Rose Milkweed.  I still have some Showy Goldenrod seedlings—I can pot those up too. If anyone has any extra small yogurt containers and potting soil, that’d be helpful.


Photo Credit : Nancy Ortenberg

Native bees in the garden.

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Ms. Fisher’s talk “Native Bees in the Garden” will discuss our wild native bees from a gardener’s perspective. Everyone knows how important honey bees are for pollination, but native bees are even more important, especially in the garden.Topics will include the differences between native bees and honey bees, their life cycles, what they like for habitat, and what types are likely to show up in your back yard.

Ms. Fisher will have a door prize of a copy of Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants, by Heather Holm. This is an excellent book researched over the last ten years and published this year by a Wild Ones member in Minnesota. It is perfect for native plant gardeners. Cover photo attached.  Her review is at and has been picked up by

 Bio: Adrian Ayres Fisher is a long-time native plant gardener and volunteer with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Her background spans the humanities, environmental conservation, and horticulture. In her job as Sustainability Coordinator at Triton College, she leads workdays for environmental biology students. Adrian blogs at and contributes to City Creatures Blog,



“Jens Jensen The Living Green”

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Celebrate the urban conservation movement in one of the world’s most spectacular urban settings, Thursday, June 19. Join director Carey Lundin, WTTW program host and producer Geoffrey Baer, and planting designer of Chicago’s Lurie Garden, Piet Oudolf for the free Millennium Park premiere of “Jens Jensen The Living Green”(link to on The Screen at Pritzker Pavilion.


For this historic event, Millennium Park will partner with Chicago’s WTTW (PBS) for a first-ever simultaneous broadcast, screening this award-winning documentary about a pioneering landscape architect described as “Poet of the Prairie, Maker of Public Parks and Prophet of Conservation.”


“Jens Jensen The Living Green”traces the inspirational story of a penniless Danish immigrant who came to Chicago in the 1880s and became a champion of the environment. As timeless and relevant a story today as it was then, Jensen (1860-1951) fell in love with the peaceful, wild prairies located just west of the bustling metropolis. The prairie became his inspiration, as this conservation hero fought to infuse the calming beauty of nature into the industrial urban squalor.


Jensen’s vision of a sustainable city was in his time revolutionary, as he transformed the lives of Midwesterners with prairie-style parks and community gardens –urban oases that fed the soul and body. In a legendary career that combined art, architecture and activism, Jensen helped save the Indiana Dunes and created unforgettable, natural public spaces for Chicago’s west side, including Humboldt, Douglas and Columbus parks, as well as the Garfield Park Conservatory.


“Jensen’s message could not be more relevant,”said Carey Lundin, the film’s director and co-producer, and president of Viva Lundin, which produced the project. “As humanity has moved off the farms and into cities, as countries like China move into their own industrial age, and as our world experiences the ravages of climate change, we need conservation heroes now more than ever.”


Visit the film’s Facebook ( page and Tweet @JensJensenMovie to join the conversation. A tweetup from the Millennium Park event will begin June 19 at 7 p.m. No tickets are required and seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Grab a few friends and join this celebration of sustainability in Chicago!

Plants for sale

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The following is our current inventory:

The following are $2.50

5 * Little blue stem
3 * Woodland Brome
21 * Palm Sedge
5 * Wild garlic
25 * Prairie Milk weed
21 * Swamp Milkweed
1 * Butterfly weed
4 * Calico aster
11 * Black-eyed Susan
4 * Zig-Zag Goldenrod
5 * Wild Petunia
3 * Golden Alexander
5 * Prairie Blazing star
4 * Joe Pye Weed
3 * Rose Mallow
6 * Purple Prairie clover
10 * White wild indigo


The following are $10

4 * Wild ginger
4 * Blood root


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Our First Native Plant Sale was a Great Success!

Thanks to your enthusiastic participation, nearly 750 additional native plants will be growing in our communities this Spring!  The money we raised will provide resources to help us bring in expert speakers and create demonstration gardens in parks and schools.  Together we’re making the West Cook Wild Ones Wildlife Corridor a reality. Watch for details on pick-up and plants we’ll have available for last-minute shoppers on May 17 at the Oak Park Conservatory.


Don’t Miss Doug Taron this Sunday!

Butterflies of the American Prairie
By Dr. Doug Taron, Curator of Biology, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Sunday, April 13, The Priory Campus of Dominican University, Room 259
7200 W. Division in River Forest, IL (corner of Division and Harlem)
2:30-4:30 pm

ButterflyDoug Taron, is Curator of Biology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. As part of his duties, Doug manages Butterfly Haven, the only permanent, year-round exhibit of live butterflies in Illinois.  He is active in butterfly conservation research in the Midwest, and is currently breeding swamp metalmarks, regal and silver-bordered fritillaries, and Baltimore checkerspots in the lab.

The talk,  titled Butterflies of the American Prairie, explores the butterfly species of northeastern Illinois, their life cycles, and their ecology, with special emphasis on the relationship between caterpillar food plants and habitat. Digital images showcase local species from urban environments, prairies, wetlands, and woodlands and document regional butterfly conservation efforts being undertaken at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.



Save the date

West Cook Wild Ones member Maria Onesto Moran has offered to throw a party at her beautiful store, Green Home Experts, 811 South Blvd in Oak Park, to mark our first year as an official chapter—and we have enthusiastically accepted!  Mark your calendar for May 18th at 6 PM.  Help us celebrate our many successes and choose the things you would like to see happen in the future.  It will be quite a festive event and a great opportunity to have fun and meet new friends who share your passion for the joyful work of bringing biodiversity back to our gardens.