5 Plants that Attract Chicago-Area Wildlife in the Fall

Gardening is a wonderful hobby that allows you to add color and style to your home exterior, and in Chicago, planting the right flowers can also attract wildlife like bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds. Below are five flowers that you can plant this fall to make your yard a haven for Chicago wildlife both now and in the spring. In fact, most will thrive in containers, which can make maintenance and care a breeze when the weather is unpredictable.


Goldenrod is a classic autumn flower that is available in more than 100 different species. Though it can certainly attract insects, goldenrod is also notorious for attracting spiders and birds that feed on those insects. As such, adding goldenrod to your fall gardening plan might provide some all-natural pest control. It’s a hardy plant that is exceptionally easy to grow directly from seed in full-sun areas.  


There are two main types of asters: those that bloom in spring and those that bloom in fall. You can sow seeds in the ground in spring, but most Chicago-area residents prefer to purchase potted asters as they tend to bloom later in the year and can be brought indoors. They perform best in full-sun locations, but a handful of varieties will survive partial shade – albeit with fewer blooms.


Sunflowers are typically associated with summer thanks to their huge golden-yellow blooms, but it’s entirely possible to start, grow, and enjoy them throughout the fall months, too. Aside from their abundant seeds, which are a favorite among many of Chicago’s native bird species, they also offer a treasure trove of pollen and nectar for bees. These giant flowers are also relatively easy to care for and grow, and they make an excellent focal point when planted along the sides of garden sheds or garages, too.  


Zinnias are beautiful spherical blooms that come in colors ranging from pale yellow to hot pink and even crimson red. They are widely regarded as some of the simplest and best annuals for beginners since they require very little in the way of care. They perform best in full sun, and while they will still bloom in part shade conditions, they will have fewer blooms and be more susceptible to disease. Like other flowers on this list, zinnias are simple enough to grow from seed in the spring, but they can also thrive in containers. Try placing potted zinnias on porches or near windows so you can watch the dozens of hummingbirds they attract.

Bee Balm

Last, but most certainly not least, bee balm is another excellent option for attracting wildlife. As its name might suggest, bees are especially drawn to the beautiful purple, red, pink, or white flowers, but it’s also a favorite among hummingbirds thanks to its abundant sweet nectar, and butterflies seem to love it, too. It performs best in full sun, and while you can grow it in only part sun, the blooms will be fewer and more lackluster. It’s important to note that bee balm can be somewhat invasive in home gardens because its seeds grow quickly and easily, but this can be managed by keeping bee balm in containers.

Bees, insects, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other forms of wildlife are often drawn to a wide variety of flowers found in Chicago-area gardens. Though goldenrod, asters, sunflowers, zinnias, and bee balm are some of the most well-known, this is only a partial list. Other options include butterfly weed, coneflowers, wild quinine, elderberries, and various forms of hydrangeas.

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