Some plants thrive better than others in the Oregon area. It doesn’t matter if you want your garden to be mainly composed of perennials or shrubs, it’s strongly recommended to choose species that are adapted to the area. Choosing native plants to the Pacific Northwest region could be a smart decision for a healthy and lush garden. They tend to tolerate summer drought better and can thrive in the local garden soils.
Although it’s a considerable advantage to grow native adapted plants in Oregon, it’s still important to help establish them properly by tending carefully to their needs. Not all Pacific Northwest soils are alike so it can take some extra effort to grow certain plants depending on your exact location. The microclimate in your garden can also have some distinctive characteristics compared to the typical Oregonian climate.
If you’re looking for inspiration to create a beautiful garden with native plants that aren’t difficult to grow, check out the following selection of the best options suitable for the Oregon area.
1. Western Bleeding Heart
Judging by its delicate appearance, the western bleeding heart seems like it would be difficult to grow but this is actually a very hardy plant. This is a non-invasive perennial that can be found in woodland areas in its natural habitat. It’s an excellent native addition to an Oregon garden where the flower goes well together with summer peak plants.
Western bleeding hearts show off dainty features such as light green leaves and pendulous clusters of pink flowers. Its blooming season extends from the middle of the spring to early summer. Sometimes, flowers will also make a comeback in the fall. This native bleeding heart works ideally for woodland gardens with humus-rich soil and adequate moisture.
2. Seep Monkeyflower
Also known as the common yellow monkeyflower, this plant has an expanded native range across western North America. It’s an herbaceous wildflower that thrives near banks of streams and seeps. Including this plant in your garden is a sure way to attract hummingbirds. The seep monkeyflower grows quickly and should be treated as an annual.
The flowers of this plant show off a bright yellow color while the light-green leaves have a toothed appearance. The blooms have a striking resemblance to snapdragon plants. If you have a pond in your garden, the seep monkeyflower can feel in its optimal habitat. It relies on its root systems to filter the water in aquatic gardens. Keep in mind that it can spread quite aggressively when given these living conditions.
3. Blue Columbine
The state flower of Colorado, blue columbine can grow very well in Oregon as well. This is a hardy perennial that boasts large bi-colored blooms that will quickly attract attention in your garden. This is a fairly short-lived flower that can form clumps. It’s found in many regions in the wild, especially at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains.
Blue columbines can be grown directly from seed. It doesn’t have fussy requirements when it comes to soil quality as long as it’s rich in organic materials. To allow it to thrive, it’s recommended to choose moist soil areas with very good drainage. Deadheading works great for this flower to enjoy more attractive purple-white blooms. Use blue columbines in cottage gardens or borders.
4. Oregon Grape Holly
If you have a shade garden and wish to grow a beautiful shrub, the Oregon grape holly seems like your best bet. This is a cheerful evergreen shrub that’s not overwhelmingly fragrant. It produces purple edible berries. The fruit clusters show a striking resemblance to grapes and will attract birds and other wild animals.
Oregon grape hollies are most impressive looking in the spring when the golden blooms appear next to the lush bronze foliage packed with leathery lives. The leaves turn to a glossy green during the summer. Considering its status as the State Flower of Oregon, the ornamental shrub seems like an ideal choice for your garden if you live in the state.
Found in open meadows and along the edge of forests, fireweed wildflowers bring a pop of color to many places in North America. The name of the plant refers to its interesting ability to grow fast in areas affected by fires. Its brilliant pink blooms can also decorate an Oregon garden. Fireweed is part of the evening primrose family of plants and can be a little hard to keep in check.
This is a hardy perennial with distinctive leaves showing off circular veins. It boasts tall stems that can reach 9 feet in some cases though it mostly stays around 5 feet in height. The magenta flowers adorn the stems during the summer. Fireweed shoots are edible while tea can be made from its leaves.
6. Black Mondo Grass
With a stunning purple-black appearance, this ornamental grass is worth growing in your Oregon garden to add an elegant backdrop for more colorful flowers. Black Mondo grass is a clumping plant with characteristic arching leaves that take your mind to a dramatic grass. It’s a fairly hardy plant that can withstand wild animals such as deer. The evergreen look and drought tolerance are also appreciated.
Growing black mondo grass is not a particularly difficult task as long as you provide the plant a rich, moist soil with good drainage. You have better chances of establishing the plant properly in early spring during rainy conditions. The unique look of this grass makes it an ideal choice for landscaping along borders in the garden.
7. Chinese Dogwood
Oregon gardeners looking for a great small- to medium-sized tree to plant should opt for a Chinese dogwood. This is a deciduous tree that can grow up to around 30 feet in height at most. Depending on the cultivar selected, you can also plant trees with a shrubby habit and smaller heights. Young trees offer a compact vase-shaped appearance with low branches.
Chinese dogwoods are highly appreciated for their ornamental potential. Landscapers enjoy their brilliant white flower clusters that bloom in the spring. Pink berries will appear in early fall complementing the brick red foliage transformed from vibrant green during the season. Another notable characteristic of this small tree is the attractive gray bark with a peeling appearance.
Many wild areas in Oregon can be populated by bearberry. This is a low-growing groundcover with leathery green leaves producing small cherry-red berries. As the name of the plant suggests, bears and other wildlife animals are attracted to the fruits. Although it may look a little plain at first, bearberry is a must-have addition in gardens requiring low-maintenance groundcovers.
As opposed to other plants, bearberry has no problems growing in poor soil conditions as it can thrive in more inhospitable areas of your garden where other groundcovers struggle. The plant grows well in different sunlight conditions, including partial shade. It appears to have a slow start initially but the plant needs a period to establish itself. Given some time, bearberry grows its characteristic greenery mats that cover the ground and cascade down rock walls.
9. Deer Fern
A native plant of the Pacific Northwest region, deer fern is a distinctive evergreen plant that grows in west coast coniferous forests. This fern species can be integrated into a shade garden where you can fully admire its spike-like fronds. Deer fern stays attractive year-round and has a pretty long lifespan. The leaves turn to a coppery-red color at the start of spring.
The name of the plant comes from its great appeal to deer and other wildlife. In its natural habitat, this fern is sought out by small mammals and birds looking for shelter. Due to spreading through short rhizomes, deer fern isn’t particularly easy to grow. As long as you provide with the right moist and shaded conditions, however, the plant should thrive in no time.
10. Oregon Iris
Native to northwestern Oregon, this species of iris can easily become a focal point in your garden. The Oregon iris is naturally found in grasslands and forest openings where it shows off its attractive flowers. Bloom colors are typically purple but some flowers can be pink and white sometimes. The iris appears even more graceful when observing the foliage on its slender stems.
This perennial flower grows in grassy clumps and will tolerate different environmental conditions. Oregon irises prefer moist to rather dry soils and full sunlight. The blooming period extends from spring to early summer. Some varieties don’t just show different colors but may also contain a nice fragrance. Hummingbirds and beneficial insects are attracted to the plant’s showy flowers.
11. Goat’s Beard
With tall and fluffy blooms, the goat’s beard plant is worth checking out if you’re a gardener in Oregon. It might seem surprising but this plant is part of the rose family. It shows off some attractive qualities and it’s safe to say that the name doesn’t do justice to its beauty. There are lots of uses for goat’s beard in the garden as it’s a versatile addition.
The creamy white blooms can look appealing to create a backdrop for more colorful flowers. Goat’s beard plants also work as the main feature of an island garden. The considerable height of up to 6 feet makes it suitable to create a blocking screen for certain areas. Goat’s beard requires full sun exposure and well-draining soil that’s sufficiently moist.
Also known as wild hyacinth, camassias are naturally present in various meadows and woodland edges in the Pacific Northwest area. The plants offer a brilliant visual display through their tall spires of flowers colored in shades of blue, pink, and white. Compared to other spring bulbs, camassias are hardier and easier to grow. They tolerate heavy soils and produce reliable clumps of flowers.
The star-like florets of camassia would look most attractive spread through borders but they can be flexibly integrated into various gardens in Oregon. Pollinators are drawn to the blooms while common pests don’t seem to bother the plants too much. Most camassia varieties reach around 30 inches but there are taller ones that grow up to 35 inches in height.
13. Oregon Crabapple
As the name suggests, the Oregon crabapple is a native of the state and can be found in temperate coniferous forests. This is a deciduous tree that produces edible fruits with a particularly sour flavor. Oregon crabapples feature solid ornamental qualities so it’s not surprising to see them grown in parks and gardens.
The spring blooms show off a white or pale pink color. Both the fruit and the bark of this tree feature medicinal properties. This is a tough tree with durable wood. It won’t grow particularly tall and can sometimes form as a thicket shrub. There are no special requirements in terms of soil or sun exposure but the Oregon crabapple seems to thrive in wetland areas.
14. California Lilac
If you’re searching for a good native shrub to plant in your Oregon garden, the California lilac represents a solid pick. It’s naturally found across the western wilderness of North America. Aside from its glossy green foliage and bright blue flowers, the plant also stands out for its impressively fragrant blooms. One great reason to add this shrub to your garden is the low maintenance.
California lilacs thrive in various types of soils and the only notable requirement is full sun exposure. There are different species of California lilac. Some can reach tall heights of around 9 feet but there are smaller low-growing options as well. California lilac is a very attractive plant for deer so that’s something to keep in mind if these animals are abundant in your area.
15. Blue-Eyed Grass
Blue-eyed grass is a perennial herb that’s simple to grow if you’re looking to add some nice pops of color at the edges of your garden. Despite its name, the plant isn’t actually a grass but a member of the iris family. The blue-eyed grass is a native of western North America found predominantly in California but it can also be grown successfully in Oregon.
This is a hardy plant with a long blooming period. Even though it prefers a bit of moisture, it has decent drought tolerance. The blue-eyed grass should be ideally planted in loamy soils and full sun to partial shade. Its small, purple flowers make an attractive combination with the grassy, tufted foliage that grows fairly tall at nearly one foot in height.