Select Page

Gardening with Pacific Northwest Native Plants

Download a pdf of Gardening with PNW Native Plants

David's Penstemon

Penstemon davidsonii

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an incredible array of native plants which are great ornamentals for the garden. Because these plants have evolved in our wet-winter, dry summer climate, they are able to thrive in gardens that may be challenging for introduced or exotic species. It is still important to know the right environment for each native plant you plan to use in your garden; each native species has its preferred environmental niche. If you have soil that is very sandy and lean, choose drought tolerant species that prefer well drained soils and can tolerate drought. If your soil is heavy and tends to stay wet well into summer, choose plants that tolerate wet soil.

We’ve put together an abbreviated list of Pacific Northwest Natives with some very general information about what type of soils and sun exposures they prefer. Click on the links for more information about habitat and range.

Plant Light Exposure Soil Type Preferred Size at 10-15 Years Comments
                                                                                                           Trees
Acer circinatum- Vine Maple Sun to shade Rich, well drained 15′-20′ Drops leaves early if too dry
Arbutus menziesii- Pacific Madrone Sun to partial shade Lean, Well drained 20′-30′ Difficult to establish
Betula papyrifera- Paper Birch Sun Average to Wet 30′ Fairly tolerant of wet soil
Chamaecyparis(Callitropis) nootkatensis- Alaskan Cedar Sun-partial shade Average to moist 15′ Narrow form
Cornus nuttallii- Pacific Dogwood Partial shade Moist, well drained 20′-30′ Subject to canker
Corylus cornuta- Beaked Hazel Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 10′ Small edible nuts
Picea sitchensis- Sitka Spruce Sun Average to Wet 12′-15′ Fairly tolerant of wet soil
Pinus contorta contorta- Shore Pine Sun Average to Wet 10′-12′ Tolerates both drought and wet soil
Prunus emarginata- Bitter Cherry Sun to partial shade Average to Wet 10′-12′ Good wildlife tree as birds like the fruit
Quercus garryana- Oregon White Oak Sun Lean, Well drained 15′-20′ Drought tolerant when established
Pseudotsuga menziesii- Douglas Fir Sun Rich, well drained 12′-15′ Needs deep soil to tolerate wind
Rhamnus (Frangula) purshiana- Cascara Partial to full shade Dry to wet 10′ Fairly tolerant of wet soil
Taxus brevifolia-   Pacific Yew Partial to full shade Rich, well drained 8′-10′ Drought tolerant when established
Thuja plicata -Western Red Cedar Sun to partial shade Average 12′-15′ Excellent hedging tree
Tsuga heterophylla-   Western Hemlock Sun to shade Rich, well drained 10′-15′ Grows large
Tsuga mertensiana – Mountain Hemlock Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 6′-8′ Best conifer for small yards
                                                                                                          Shrubs
Amelanchier alnifolia-Serviceberry Sun to partial shade Average to wet 10′-12′ Good wildlife tree as birds like the fruit
Arctostaphylos columbiana- Hairy Manzanita Sun to partial shade Lean, well drained 4′-8′ Drought tolerant when established
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi- Kinnikinnik Sun to partial shade Lean, well drained 6″-12″ high, 3′-4′ wide Drought tolerant when established
Cornus sericea- Redtwig Dogwood Sun to partial shade Average to wet 6′-8′ Very tolerant of wet soil
Garrya elliptica-Coast Silktassel (Oregon native) Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 6′-8′ Drought tolerant
Gaultheria shallon-   Salal Sun to shade Average to wet 3′ high, Spreads Prefers moist
Holodiscus discolor- Ocean Spray Sun Lean, well drained 8′-10′ Drought tolerant when established
Kalmia microphylla- Mountain Laurel Sun to partial shade Average to wet 4′-6′ Fairly tolerant of wet soil, not drought tolerant
Mahonia aquifolium-   Tall Oregon Grape Sun to shade Dry to wet 6′-8′ Tolerates many soil types
Mahonia nervosa- Low Oregon Grape Partial shade to shade Rich, well drained 2′-3′ high, Spreads Prefers rich soil
Morella (Myrica californica)-Pacific Wax Myrtle Sun to partial shade Lean, well drained 10′-15′ Drought tolerant when established
Myrica gale-Sweet Gale Sun to partial shade Average to wet 5′-6′ Very tolerant of wet soil
Pachistima myrsinites – Oregon Box Sun to shade Lean, well drained 2′-3′ Drought tolerant when established
Philadelphus lewisii- Mock Orange Sun to partial shade Lean, well drained 6′-8′ Drought tolerant when established
Physocarpus capitatus- Western NineBark Sun to partial shade Average to wet 8′-12′ Very tolerant of wet soil
Rhododendron macrophyllum- Pacific Rhododendron Partial shade to shade Lean, well drained 5′-6′ Drought tolerant when established
Ribes sanguineum- Red Flowering Currant Sun to partial shade Lean, well drained 6′-8′ Drought tolerant when established. Good wildlife shrub, flowers for hummingbirds, and berries for songbirds.
Vaccinium ovatum- Evergreen Huckleberry Sun to shade Rich, well drained 6′-8′ Sweet, edible berries late summer
Vaccinium parviflorum- Red Huckleberry Partial shade to shade Rich, well drained 6′-8′ Needs organic rich soil to thrive
                                                                                                   Native Perennials
Adiantum pedatum (aleuticum)– Maidenhair Fern Partial shade to shade Average to wet 2′ Needs moist summer soil
Blechnum spicant– Deer Fern Partial shade to shade Rich, well drained 2′ Drought tolerant when established
Polystichum minutum– Sword Fern Sun to shade Dry to wet 2′-3′ Drought tolerant when established
Aquilegia formosa – Western Columbine Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 1′-2′ Loved by hummingbirds
Asarum canadensis– Wild Ginger Partial shade to shade Rich, well drained 6″ high, spreads Drought tolerant when established
Camassia leitchlini– Great Camas Sun to partial shade Spring wet, summer dry 2′ Summer dormant
Camassia quamash– Lesser Camas Sun to partial shade Spring wet, summer dry 1′ Summer dormant
Cornus canadensis (unalaschkensis)- Bunchberry Partial shade Rich soil, some moisture 6″ high, spreads Some drought tolerance
Dryas octapetala– Mountain Avens Sun Lean, well drained 6″ high, Spreads Drought tolerant when established
Erythronium oregonum – Fawn Lily Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 6″-8″ Summer dormant
Fritillaria lanceolata – Chocolate Lily Sun to partial shade Spring wet, summer dry 8″ Summer dormant
Gymnocarpium dryopteris – Oak Fern Partial shade to shade Average to wet 6” high, Spreads Will go dormant early in dry summers
Iris douglasii- Pacific Coast Iris Oregon native Sun to partial shade Spring wet, summer dry 8″ Drought tolerant when established
Iris inominata- Golden Iris Oregon native Sun to partial shade Spring wet, summer dry 6″-8″ Drought tolerant when established
Lewisia columbiana – Columbia Lewisia Sun Lean, well drained 6″ Drought tolerant when established
Lilium columbiana – Western Tiger Lily Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 8″-12″ May go dormant early if dry
Penstemon davidsonii– Davids Penstemon Sun Lean, well drained 4″-6″, Spreads Drought tolerant when established
Smilacena (Maianthemum) stellata– Star flowered Solomon Seal Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 8″, Spreads Will run in rich soil
Smilacena (Maianthemum) racemosum– Large false Solomon Seal Sun to partial shade Rich, well drained 2′-3′ Attractive berries for the birds
Trillium ovatum– Pacific Trillium Partial shade Rich, well drained 8″-12″ May go dormant early if  dry
Vancouveria hexandra- Inside OutFlower Partial shade Rich, well drained 10″-12″, spreads Some drought tolerance when established

Gymnocarpus dryopteris, Oak Fern

 

Resources:

Pacific Northwest Wildflowers
Washington Native Plant Society
Native Plants PNW

Books:
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast  Pojar & McKinnon

Gardening with Native Plants Arthur Kruckeberg

 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This