When you consider the commercial landscaping around your business –  whether you operate a retail center, industrial facility, HOA, warehouse, healthcare facility, school, or office park – there is quite a bit for you to consider.

You want to make a first good impression on folks who are visiting your site – no matter if it’s for the first time or a repeat visit. You want your landscape to look good, giving people a positive feeling that amplifies your business reputation.

And you need to stay within a budget, keeping maintenance in check, so your commercial landscape seems effortless, tidy, and professional.

When choosing plants for your commercial site, it can be overwhelming. There are so many options available. How can you possibly know what will work best for your specific location and conditions?

This is what can make native plants such a great choice for commercial properties. These plants can be more tolerant of drought and stress. And being from the local region they grow in, native plants can thrive best in the conditions of that region.

What’s more, you can get native plants, trees, groundcovers, ornamental grasses and shrubs, so there are tons of options. These options can even be good for the environment.

Let’s talk about some options for plants native to Chicago that you can try in your commercial landscape.

All About Chicago Native Plants

As you try to figure out how to beautify your Chicago commercial property, you might be wondering what native plants are and how they can fit into your design vision.

By definition, native plants of Illinois are those that occur naturally in a particular area or ecosystem.

landscape planting beds and crew truck at an HOA

As you search for native plants, you might also hear the term, “naturalized plants.” Don’t be confused: a naturalized plant is not technically native, but it reseeds itself and spreads, attracting pollinators as if it were native. So you are looking for native vs. naturalized plants.

In fact, in Chicago, we tend to use plants called nativars, which are plants that have been developed from other native plants. These plants are unique because they have all the benefits of traditional native plants so they can fit into trendy commercial landscape designs with brighter colors, enhanced foliage, or even a more compact size, if needed.

Now that you know what a native plant is, knowing why they are beneficial can be helpful as you make your decision to choose these types of plants.

Native plants are a great addition to your site because they support the local ecosystem. This means the plants will draw in pollinators like beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. This helps the local environment, meaning your business is contributing to sustainability.

Native plants also better tolerate any regional weather extremes that might happen, keeping the plants healthier longer and avoiding any unnecessary replacement expenses.


On top of those benefits, native plants typically require less care and attention. They also require less inputs like water and fertilizer to keep them healthy and strong. This means your overall maintenance costs can be lower.

In a well-designed landscape, you shouldn’t be able to tell what’s native or non-native. A design can be just as grand and artfully arranged with native plants. Of course, just like any plant, you have to plant native varieties properly in the right locations based on sun and water conditions.

The Top 5 Plants Native To Chicago

Now that you know the benefits of native plants, you might be asking yourself, “Which plants are native to Illinois?”

Let’s look at some of the plants that do well in Greater Chicago commercial landscapes and share some of their characteristics so you have some options when looking for new additions to your facility.

1. Oak Trees

Not only are oak trees on the Illinois native plants list, the white oak is actually the state tree of Illinois and you can find it in every county in the state.

quercus alba white oak tree CC

White oaks can grow to a 60- to 70-foot height, but there are roughly 20 species of oak trees that are native to Illinois so the heights will vary a bit between the red oak, white oak, and swamp white oak.

In terms of care, oaks are fairly drought tolerant, and with proper mulching, fertilization, and pruning they can thrive, providing vital wildlife habitats and acorns as food for more than 100 species of wildlife.

2. Wild Black Cherry Tree

This Chicago native plant is a showstopper with showy, white flowers that appear in clusters in early spring, adding some pizzazz to your commercial property.

prunus serotina wild black cherry CC

Then in late summer, dark, pea-sized fruits appear. The tree’s bark is dark with scales and flipped edges that are attractive.

This tree can reach a 50- to 60-foot height with a 20- to 30-foot width. Plant it in full to partial sun.

3. River Birch

This fast-growing native plant of Illinois boasts attractive reddish-brown bark that peels to reveal a lighter color beneath, giving a lot of interest to your commercial site.

Betula nigra river birch CC

The foliage on this tree is dark green, and it turns a soft yellow in fall.

It’s also a great medium-sized tree for smaller spots, reaching 25 to 40 feet in height with a 20- to 30-foot width.

For best results, this tree enjoys full sun and moist, well-drained soil.

4. Chokeberry

Red and black chokeberries – both native plants of Illinois – prefer full sun to partial shade and can tolerate wet and dry areas of your commercial facility.

red chokeberry aronia arbutifolia CC

When choosing between these two types of chokeberries, you might consider their different features. Black chokeberry has pretty white flowers in spring followed by edible fruit.

Some great varieties of black chokeberries are Aronia ‘Iroquois Beauty’ and Aronia melanocarpa ‘UCONNAM165.’ Red chokeberry, on the other hand, grows 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide and has clusters of small, white flowers in mid-spring followed by small, round, bright red fruit in late summer and fall.

5. Bush Honeysuckle

This Chicago native plant has dense, dark green foliage that turns yellow-orange and then reddish-purple in autumn – great, show-shopping colors for highly visible areas of your site.

diervilla splendens bush honeysuckle CC

Make sure you plant this one in full-sun locations to maximize the color.

As a small, mound-shaped shrub, bush honeysuckle makes a great choice for shrub borders. Yellow, honeysuckle-shaped flowers turn red as they mature and attract butterflies and other pollinators throughout the growing season.

Looking to Add Chicago Native Plants to Your Commercial Facility? Ask KD Landscape For Help

Illinois is certainly home to some great native plants that you can incorporate into your commercial property landscape design.

And since native plants are so well adapted to the local climate, temperatures, sun exposure, and soil, they can be highly drought tolerant and grow deeper, stronger roots. This makes for stronger plants and trees in the long run, which require less water and inputs and can save you money. On top of that, they look attractive and professional, drawing in butterflies and birds to the scene as well.

Reading to explore adding native plants of Illinois to your commercial site in Chicago? Maybe you have some ideas, but you aren’t sure where to begin. Let KD Landscape help. We can bring our years of commercial property experience working with all kinds of plants to your space, giving you something extremely special and unique to your brand.

Ready to see how KD Landscape can transform your Chicago commercial facility with native plants? We’d love to share our professional expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can help you elevate your business image and reputation in the local community.

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Image Sources | White Oak, Wild Black Cherry, River Birch, Red Chokeberry, Bush Honeysuckle