Two photos side-by-side: Left, little bluestem in fall; right, purple and yellow violas

With over 400,000 species of plants in the world, one might wonder which ones are the best to grow in your garden or landscape. Many plant associations select a “Plant of the Year” using rigorous criteria to highlight plants they feel are deserving of the title. Consider these plants when planning your garden or looking for something new to grow this year.

A young girl sits in grass with a pile of harvested vegetables

Cultivating a love and knowledge of gardening in youth can be a rewarding experience for all. A garden offers a place to learn, play, and grow through hands-on experience in the freedom of their own backyard. Kids LOVE to dig in the soil and get their hands & feet (or even head to toes!) dirty. Many of the gardeners today share memories of gardening at a young age with a parent or grandparent. 

Chinese Evergreen

Growing plants indoors can add a soft green touch, create a focal piece, or incorporate nature inside, transforming any room. Houseplants vary greatly in color, texture, size, and shape—there is a plant perfect for any spot. Research has also shown plants to improve air quality, lower stress levels, and increase productivity when they are grown in indoor spaces and homes.

pollinator on oregano flower

With a new year comes new gardening trends we can all get excited about. Each year, predictions are made about types of plants, colors, containers and how we utilize them. Experts use last year’s gardening purchases to make these predictions.

Nick Frillman teaching pruning workshop at Refuge Food Forest

For those of us who are lucky enough to have access to fruit trees, fruit bushes, bramble fruits, or cane fruits during the year, we have a chore that needs doing this winter: pruning. Pruning out dead, dying or diseased wood from all those wonderful plants and trees is an absolutely essential part of their management if good quality and quantity of fruit harvest is desired. Pruning is done in the dormant season, which for this part of Illinois is roughly January 1st until mid-March (depending on spring weather). Don’t prune outside of that window.

bush bean seeds in hand

Here we are, knee-deep in the holidays, and our gardens have finally been tucked in for the long winter nap. It’s a time of year many growers look forward to, a time to finally put up their aching feet, assess how the growing season went, reflect on successes, failures and what to do better next year. Some of the decisions many folks reflect on, including myself, are: did I grow the right garden plants this year? The right variety? The right amount? The good news is that we have a nice chunk of time to look through seed catalogues and think all this through.

Millions of Poinsettias are bought each year as decoration and gifts. Sales continue to increase as people use the plant to create a festive atmosphere. Poinsettias are the epitome of Christmas time and reflect the holiday decorating trends.

While the traditional rich red Poinsettia in a 6-inch pot will garner the most sales, some of this year's Poinsettia trends might help inspire your holiday décor.

Stacked pumpkins in front of a hay bale

Celebrating the year’s crops with a Thanksgiving feast has been a tradition for over 400 years. Likely in 1621, individuals fed their families and communities by growing vegetables in the field. This past summer, Illinois residents went to farmer's markets despite pandemic conditions as America continues to demand locally sourced vegetables and increased access to healthy food.  

The glow of the intense bright red color, corky ridges on the branches, and bright orange or red berries  of your neighborhood burning bushes may entice you, but remember planting and growing them will lead to further degradation of the Illinois wildscape. The ornamental berries of this common landscape plant spread aggressively by birds and other wildlife in the understory of our forests and outcompete native plants.

It will soon be time to put our gardens to bed for the year. Fall is a perfect time to get the kids out in the garden, with the cool temperatures and changing of the season. Have them help you with some garden chores combined with fun activities, engagement with nature, and even learning too! 

Like it or not, fall and winter will be here before we know it! During the off-season, too many gardeners leave their vegetable or flower gardens bare over winter. This can cause major problems for the following growing season, especially an invasion of winter weeds and erosion of high-quality topsoil to boot. Beat the weeds and hang on to your soil this fall, winter and spring by planting a cover crop, or at least putting down some straw. 

Fall garden with pumpkins

Are you ready to toss in the towel on your overgrown, drab-looking container gardens for the year?

Unfortunately, our gorgeous summer containers are now fading due to the stress of the summer heat, possible insects or diseases, and the changing temperatures and sunlight in fall. Don’t give up! Now is the perfect time to give them a fall makeover and create a beautiful display of autumnal colors amongst the pumpkins on your front porch for a couple of months.

We are officially into the dog days of summer; with daylight noticeably shorter than around the June solstice, berry season is sadly coming to an end. However, there is one local berry that is putting on a show right now. Besides its fruit, elderberry has many other contributions to the landscape that we can be thankful for. If you’re reading this in September, you’ve missed the berries, but read on so you can be on the lookout for edible perks of the elderberry next year!

Chive flowers

Growing up, a summer meal at grandma and grandpa’s house wasn’t complete without a giant, juicy tomato and fried squash blossoms. Squash blossoms are one example of edible flowers that are already growing in our gardens and just waiting for us to enjoy. Edible flowers can be added as the main ingredient in a new recipe, offer a little spice to a dish, or even used as a garnish to add some color and texture to a plate.

Monarch Caterpillar and Butterfly

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The state insect, the monarch butterfly, is facing a crisis. Each May, Illinoisans celebrate the monarch butterfly, but University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup says that Illinois residents should be worried.

Leaves and frost damage

Some trees may be showing damage from the late frost much of Illinois had in May for several months to come as well as diseases that pop up during the rainy, cool spring weather. Watering during the hot dry months of summer will help these trees back to being a beautiful specimen.

A recent study tracking butterfly abundance in Ohio over the last 20 years has discovered a 33% decline. We can only assume that in Illinois we have similar patterns in decline in our butterfly populations. Scientists believe the decline may be attributed to climate change, habitat degradation, and agricultural practices. 

brilliant red-orange oriental poppy pixabay

If you have a vigorous perennial that has been in the garden bed for more than a few years, or it is starting to choke out some other plants and no longer looking healthy, then it may be time to divide.

Plants that need to be divided cannot support healthy foliage and flowers. Some perennials like to be divided yearly (chrysanthemum); some can go three to five years without division; some can go much longer. Some do not require division at all, like butterfly weed with the taproot, or baby’s breath.

zz plant thrives indoors

Most homes have insufficient light, inconsistent temperatures and tap water containing fluoride — all of which make it nearly impossible have lush foliage during the winter months. However, most tropical houseplants can be sustained and even thrive in these conditions. Houseplants such as devil’s ivy, dieffenbachia, and peace lily do very well with low light and temperatures that are not the ideal 75 to 80 degrees.

University of Illinois Extension Livingston County Master Gardeners would like to welcome spring with an educational workshop entitled “A Day in the Garden Patch” on Saturday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to Noon.

A Day in the Garden Patch is all about inspiring, educating and encouraging gardeners, whether they have a balcony and a sunny window or an acre to grow. This educational event is for all who love plants and want to discover new gardening tips while having fun.

Aralia cordata 'Sun King' Photo credit Janet Draper

The Perennial Plant Association is proud to announce the 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year®! Aralia ‘Sun King’ is a fabulous high-impact perennial that brings a bold pop of glowing color and texture to the shade or part shade garden. It's a secret that just Perennial Plant Association (PPA) members know! PPA members can annually nominate 2 perennials for consideration. The top 5 nominees are put on the ballot. PPA members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year® each summer.

When do I plant? Should I plant seeds or transplants? What about seed spacing? Find what works best for backyard vegetable growers in Illinois!
Bronze leaves of Tree of Heaven

In the world of landscaping, trees are the backbones of the landscape. They are permanent structures that have stately features, shade our homes, provide spring floral displays, and some amazing fall color. There are, however, some trees that just behave badly. You’re likely familiar with maples that drop their helicopter seeds (known as samaras) all over the neighborhood, sprouting up scattered shoots in our lawns and flowerbeds—hard to call this a bad tree with the fun they bring to children, but a nuisance to be sure.

brandywine viburnum

Have you ever heard a horticulturists encourage the use of plants having “multiple seasons of interest”? This might be said in response to someone’s complaints about forsythia, for example.

Forsythia blooms in spring, an explosion of lemon-yellow blossoms covering the plant. But the rest of the year, it is drab and unruly. The unruliness causes many gardeners to shear the shrub into boxes (completely unnecessarily) and then when spring comes again the flower display is subpar and sparse—one season of interest is all you will get from forsythia.