The Gardener's Guide to Prairie Plants


By Neil Diboll & Hilary Cox

Available at
University of Chicago Press
Barnes & Noble
Aaron's Books

The Gardener’s Guide to Prairie Plants is the one-stop compendium for all gardeners aspiring to use native prairie plants in their gardens. Neil Diboll and Hilary Cox compile more than four decades’ worth of research to offer a wide-ranging and definitive reference for starting and maintaining prairie and meadow gardens and restorations. Alongside detailed synopses of plant life cycles, meticulous range maps, and sweeping overviews of natural history, Diboll and Cox also include photographs of 148 prairie plants in every stage of development, from seedling to seedhead. North America’s grasslands once stretched from the Blue Ridge to the Rocky Mountains, and from Texas to Manitoba, blanketing the mid-continent with ecologically important, garden-worthy, native species. This book provides all the inspiration and information necessary for eager native planters from across the country to welcome these plants back to their landscapes. The Gardener’s Guide to Prairie Plants is a must-have reference for gardeners, restorationists, and every flora fan with a passion for native plants, prairies and meadows.


"If you are looking for the complete—and I do mean complete—guide to prairie ecosystems, you will not do better than his much-needed book. Diboll and Cox cover not only what prairie species look like at each of their growth stages (a first!), they also dive deep into their historical and ecological roles in prairie ecosystems."

– Douglas W. Tallamy, University of Delaware


About the Authors

Neil Diboll received his degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay in 1978, and attended the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, MI ("Boot Camp" for Biologists) during the summer of 1977. He has since worked for the U.S. Park Service in Virginia, the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado, and the University of Wisconsin. Neil began his his involvement at Prairie Nursery, In 1982, producing native plants and seeds and designing native landscapes. Today, he continues to devote his efforts to championing the use of native plants in contemporary American landscapes, as Prairie Nursery's President and Consulting Ecologist.

Hilary Cox is a horticulturist, garden designer, botanist, and photographer. She was the owner and landscape designer of Leescapes Garden Design for over twenty years and has previously held positions as a designated collector of prairie and woodland seeds for the joint projects of the Millennium Seedbank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Seeds of Success USA, which was coordinated by the Chicago Botanic Garden.

More reviews

Library Journal, April 2023
Diboll, Neil & Hilary Cox. The Gardener’s Guide to Prairie Plants. University of Chicago Press.
Natural-lawn enthusiasts will rejoice at this incredibly thorough volume about native prairie plants. Prairie Nursery president/consulting ecologist Diboll and landscape designer/botanist/photographer Cox provide charts that detail what botanists and science-savvy gardeners need to know as they explore and plan a prairie garden. The book includes pictures of 148 selected plants in every phase of growth so that gardeners can identify each and avoid accidentally pulling new growth in the mistaken belief that it is a weed. There are also descriptions of the plants and instructions on how to recognize when plants have gone to seed. There’s even a section for novices about confusing look-alikes. And it doesn’t stop there. Curious gardeners can learn about pollinators and pests, expectations for specific fertilizers, safe ways to burn small or large prairie sections, and best practices for determining and adjusting the quality of the soil. VERDICT: An excellent addition to any library, this plant guide will prove to be a lasting resource for gardeners and nature lovers.  —Elizabeth Majka

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