9 Illinois Wildflowers for Your Garden

closeup of blue wild indigo plant

Some of the best wildflower options for Illinois include bee balm, blue false indigo, and columbine. But there are many more, and in this article, we bring you nine colorful Illinois wildflowers for your garden.

Wildflower seeds can be purchased in local nurseries and even online retailers. You can also ask a neighbor for a division or seeds of the plant you like. In this guide, we’ll include prairie and woodland wildflowers that will enhance your home landscape. Let’s dive in: 

9 best Illinois wildflowers

1. Liatris (Liatris spicata)

Blazing star with purple flowers
Drew Avery | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Liatris is a perennial that grows vertically, adding structure to your home’s landscaping composition. Perfect for full sun areas, its flowering spikes attract hummingbirds to your yard and can bloom in white, lavender, or purple.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Sun: Full sun

Soil: All; moist but well-drained

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Vanilla

Bloom Time: July and August

Water Needs: Moderate

Mature Height: 2 to 4 feet

Potential Hazards: None

Maintenance Needs: Low. Taller stalks may need to be staked to remain upright.

2. Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)

vibrant pink flowers from garden phlox
Michele Dorsey Walfred | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking for a color boost in your garden, the garden phlox might be the right one for you. This native Illinois wildflower comes in a variety of colors, from white to red, purple, and pink. Reaching up to 4 feet high, garden phlox adds structure and height to your landscape with its tall stems and large flower clusters.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Sun: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Chalk, clay, loam

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Sweet scent

Bloom time: July to September

Water needs: Medium

Mature height: 2-4 ft

Potential hazards: No hazards

Maintenance: Medium. Pruning is required to improve the airflow and prevent powdery mildew. It also may need staking to support the blooming flowers.

3. Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm (Monarda didyma) with red showy flowers
Watts | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

With minty and aromatic foliage, bee balm has a long flowering season. Blooming in striking red flowers, bee balm fits perfectly as a border plant in your wildflower garden design. They attract bees (hence the name) and other important pollinators. Why not use them as part of a pollinator garden?

Important note: The only non-native Illinois plant in this list, bee balm has been naturalized to the state. This means that although it’s not native, bee balm has adapted itself to the state’s environment.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9 

Sun: Full sun, partial shade

Soil: Chalk, clay, loam, sand

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Minty fragrance when leaves are crushed

Bloom time: June – August

Water needs: Average

Mature height: 2 to 4 feet

Potential hazards:

Maintenance: Medium. Bee balm benefits from spring fertilization and thinning stems in the early season to improve air circulation.

4. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)

bright bluish-purple flowers from a blue false indigo plant
Fritz Flohr Reynolds | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Let’s start this list of native wildflowers with one of the best perennials for full sun in Illinois. Blue false indigo is native to Illinois, and if you have a deer problem, know that this plant is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Growing best under full sun, it is also drought-tolerant when well-established. Blooming in June, its purple flowers adorn its blue-green foliage, forming a beautiful sight.

USDA hardiness zone: 3-9

Sun: Full sun

Soil: Loam, sandy; well-drained

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: None

Bloom time: Mid to late spring for about 3 weeks

Water needs: Low to moderate 

Mature height: 3 to 4 feet

Potential hazards: Toxic if ingested

Maintenance needs: Low. The stems need to be cut back in early spring before new shoots appear or during late fall.

Pro Tip: For more on rabbit-resistant landscaping, including a list of rabbit-resistant plants, check out our Guide to Rabbit-Resistant Landscaping.

5. Prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya)

Close-up of purple flowers from prairie blazing star
Joshua Mayer | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Prairie blazing star is an Illinois prairie wildflower that can be found statewide, and it is one of the few liatris flowers that can grow in damp soil. A great native plant to add to your home landscape, its interesting flowerheads are spike-shaped and bloom in red to pink or blue-purple colors. Its nectar attracts a variety of pollinators, from butterflies to bees.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Moist clay, silt, or sandy soil that’s well-drained

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: None

Bloom Time: September – October

Water Needs: Low, does not need additional watering once established

Mature Height: 1 to 5 feet, depending on species

Potential Hazards: N/A

Maintenance Needs: Low. You may want to cut back the flower stakes after flowering. If planted alone, it may need staking. But you can plant prairie blazing star with other plants on which it will lean.

6. White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)

closeup of White Snakeroot plant with clusters of white flowers
MONGO | Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

Occurring in almost every county of the state, white snakeroot is a white Illinois wildflower that is especially common to woodlands and wooded areas. One of the last flowers to bloom in the late summer to late fall, the white snakeroot has a great shade tolerance. If you decide to add white snakeroot to your garden, however, be mindful that this plant is highly poisonous to humans. 

USDA hardiness zones: 3-9

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Chalk, clay, loam

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Leaves can be foul smelling – like turpentine

Bloom time: July to November

Water needs: Low to average

Mature height: 3 to 5 feet

Potential hazards: White snakeroot has a high-severity poison that may be fatal if ingested. White snakeroot is also highly toxic to cattle and horses.

Maintenance: Low. Cut back fading flower heads before they start to seed to prevent unwanted reseeding.

7. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

eye-level with a purple coneflower
alvaroreguly | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

As the name suggests, purple coneflower is a purple Illinois wildflower that can add visual interest to your garden with a pop of its beautiful color. The leaves are large and have toothed edges. It can be found in prairies and floodplains across Illinois, reaching up to 5 feet tall.  

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Sun: Full sun, partial shade

Soil: Prefers a fertile, loam soil. It tolerates some gravel or clay.

Duration: Perennial 

Fragrance: Light, sweet, honey-like

Bloom time: July – September

Water needs: Medium

Mature height: 2 to 5 feet

Potential hazards: None

Maintenance: Low. Purple coneflower will benefit from a thin layer of compost in the spring. Cutting back in the fall is optional.

8. Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

red and yellow columbine flower
Art Poskanzer | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

A native Illinois woodland wildflower, columbine loves rich and moist soils. In the buttercup family, its foliage makes a great groundcover to use in deer-resistant landscaping and shady garden borders. In the spring, red and yellow tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bumblebees.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Clay, silt, or sandy soil that’s well-drained, moist, dry-ish

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: N/A

Bloom Time: Mid-April to July

Water Needs: Weekly or whenever soil is completely dry

Mature Height: 1 to 3 feet

Potential Hazards: Moderately flammable/risk of fire

Maintenance Needs: Low. Deadheading is optional and can be done in late summer.

9. Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

closeup of showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) with many yellow flowers

What about adding a touch of gold to your garden? A bright yellow Illinois wildflower, the showy goldenrod makes a true spectacle in autumn, adding fall interest to your garden: The leaves turn orange and copper, complementing its beautiful golden blooms. 

Showy goldenrod’s high adaptability means it easily takes over other plants, so consider this when choosing where to plant it. The best species for home landscaping are the “fireworks” wrinkle-leaved goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), and the native stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum).

Hardiness zones: 3a to 8b

Sun: Full sun, partial shade

Soil: Rocky, clay

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Mild

Bloom Time: July to September

Water needs: Low to medium

Mature height: 1 to 5 feet

Potential hazards: Medium flammability

Maintenance: Low to medium. You may have to divide it every two years to manage its size.

More Illinois resources

If you’re interested in learning more about lawn management, read our other guides tailored to help Illinois homeowners:

FAQ about Illinois wildflowers

When should I plant wildflower seeds in Illinois?

The best seasons to plant wildflower seeds are late fall or spring. If planted in the fall, it is best done late enough so the plant doesn’t germinate: 

  • Fall planting dates: From September 15 until the soil freezes.
  • Spring planting dates: From March 1 to June 20.

Pro tip: If you’d like to know the best time to plant grass seed in the state, visit our article The Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Illinois.

Can I collect wildflower seeds from wild areas?

No, it is not advisable to collect seeds or plants from wild areas, as it may be illegal in some places and can endanger the plant. Instead, buy seeds from trusted nurseries. You can also buy them from online retailers and garden centers, or even ask your neighbor to share a division. 

What is the Illinois USDA hardiness zone?

The latest USDA Hardiness Zone map shows Illinois in hardiness zones 5a to 7b.

Find a pro near you

Taking care of a lawn is a relaxing task for some, but for others it can be draining. If this is the case for you, know that you can still have a beautiful lawn without having to lift a finger. Contact an Illinois lawn care pro near you and get your dream lawn started.

Main Image Credit: Joost J. Bakker | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Teresa Joaquim

A psychologist by training, Teresa is a creative writer with a background in scientific research. With a passion for art and a deep connection with nature, she enjoys leisurely visits to the park and listening to music while admiring the beauty of local flowers and the native landscape.