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Get Search Help

Here are a few tips for using the Tree and Plant Finder.


Find more plants than you needed?

Remember that if you check two (or more) boxes within the same set of search criteria, your results will include plants that match one OR the other. For example, if you select both Zone 5 and Zone 6 under Hardiness Zones, you will see plants that are hardy to either Zone 5 OR Zone 6.

Conversely, if you check boxes in a different group of criteria, it will further narrow your search. For example, if a search for “Medium shrub” and “Full sun” resulted in too many plants, consider also checking boxes in other areas like Soil Preference or Native Locale.


Find fewer plants than you expected?

If the search is not returning as many plants as you’d like, try deselecting checkboxes from different categories on the page. If you’ve checked a lot of boxes already, use the “RESET FORM” button at the bottom of the page to start from scratch.

If you’re looking for plants to add to your garden / yard / landscape, start with site-specific criteria (e.g., hardiness zone, light exposure, soil preference) before adding aesthetic criteria (shape, color, season of interest) to make sure you’re getting the most relevant plants.


What is the difference between the different tree / plant searches on the Arboretum's website?

Tree and Plant Finder: This search will allow you to find detailed information (including size, hardiness zone, planting considerations, and seasonal appearance) for over 500 tree and plant species. Many of these species have been planted at the Arboretum; check the detail page for a map showing where to find them! 

Northern Illinois Tree Selector: This tool helps you find the perfect tree for your site. You'll choose your site conditions (light exposure, soil conditions, etc.) as well as aesthetic considerations (flower color, shape) to generate a list of species that have been specially selected by Arboretum and green industry experts.

BRAHMS Online: This comprehensive database contains records of all of the living tree and plant specimens on the Arboretum grounds. Use BRAHMS Online (BOL) to find out accession information, geographic range, and map coordinates for the over 4,300 types of plants we've collected since the Arboretum's founding in 1922.


What do the different search fields do?

  • SEARCH TERMS: This field is not mandatory; you do not need to put any search terms in the “SEARCH TERMS” box. Use standard boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) to further refine your search. Putting terms in quotes (e.g., “pin oak”) will yield exact results.
  • PLANT TYPE: If you’re not sure whether the plant is a small tree or a shrub, or whether it is a perennial or a ground cover, check both boxes.
  • SIZE RANGE: You can check more than one box. For example, to see what plant might fit under a power line, you might check both “Large shrub” and “Compact tree.”
  • HARDINESS ZONES: These refer to the US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which divides the country into regions based on their average low winter temperature ranges. Plants are assigned to hardiness zones based on the low temperatures they have been found to tolerate. The Chicago region is in Zone 5. To find plants that are hardy from Zone 5 to Zone 8, click all the boxes in that range.
  • GROWTH RATE: This rate is relative to the type of plant. For example, what is a fast growth rate for a tree would be slow for a vine. For trees, “slow” indicates less than 10 inches per year, “moderate” is 10-20 inches per year, and a fast-growing tree is more than 20 inches per year.
  • FOLIAGE: Evergreen plants keep green leaves all year. Deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves in winter.
  • NATIVE LOCALE: If you check “North America,” the results list will include plants native to Illinois and to the Chicago area as well as the rest of the continent. If you click “Chicago area,” the results list will include only plants native to northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana, based on Plants of the Chicago Region by Floyd Swink & Gerould Wilhelm.
  • FLOWERS, COLOR, AND FRAGRANCE: These boxes refer to flowering plants, such as shrubs, ornamental trees, and perennials.
  • SEASON OF INTEREST: These boxes refer to the time of year that the plant is most attractive. For example a tree with lovely fall color is most attractive in the fall, while a flowering shrub may be at its most attractive in spring or summer. Many plants are interesting in multiple seasons for different reasons; they may have interesting bark in winter, for example, but flowers in summer. You can check multiple boxes.
  • LIGHT EXPOSURE: If you are not sure how much daylight there is in the place where you plan to put the plant, click all the boxes you think might apply.
  • SOIL PREFERENCE: Click the type of soil you have to find plants suited to it.
  • CAN TOLERATE: To find plants that can tolerate less than perfect growing conditions, click the boxes that apply to your site.
  • SHAPE OR FORM: Some terms, such as “Oval,” will apply better to trees and some, such as “Creeping” will apply better to shrubs and perennials.
  • LANDSCAPE USES: Check all that apply. “Utility” refers to trees and shrubs that are compact enough to fit safely beneath a power or telephone line.