Monday, June 15, 2009

What To Grow- Perennials

This is just a selection of our many native species, favoring those that are easiest to grow in average conditions and excluding the hard-to control.

Aquilegia formosa / WESTERN COLUMBINE

Delicate and distinctive perennial for shade. Divided, blue-green leaves and graceful red and yellow flowers nodding atop wiry, branching 3-4 ft. stems. Drought-hardy, but blooms longer where moist.

Aruncus dioicus / GOAT'S BEARD

A tall, bushy perennial with several stems arching out from the ground, 4-6 ft. tall in bloom. Airy leaves are divided into may toothed leaflets. Tiny white flowers arranged in large, nodding plumes make a graceful show in early summer. A real beauty that needs a moist, partly shady spot.

Aster chilensis / COAST ASTER

Bouquets of summer flowers in shades of lilac blue on a bushy 2-3 ft. tall plant. Grows wild on coastal meadows; easy and drought hardy in gardens.

Camassia/ CAMAS LILY

Starry flowers in shades of blue are arranged along sturdy stems above a clump of narrow leaves. The great camas (C. leichtlinii) grows 3-4 ft. tall with light blue flowers; common camas (C. quamash), is half as tall, with deep blue flowers. Both are variable, sometimes white. Easy to grow, they like moist soil in spring, dry in summer.

Carex tumulicola / FOOTHILL SEDGE

Of our many sedges, this one is among the most drought-hardy and adaptable. Thin, bright green leaves form a dense 15 in. mound, with wiry flower spikes above that. Evergreen and always attractive, it makes a great meadow or even a formal edging, in sun or light shade.


Deciduous perennial carpeting patches of forest with delicate, dissected, pale green leaves up to 12 in. high. Soft pink, rose or white flowers nod from 12 in. stems in spring, and often into summer where moist. Charming and indispensible for shade; more vigorous than it's delicate looks would suggest.

Erigeron glaucus / SEASIDE DAISY

Evergreen mats of broad, blue-green leaves make this a decent groundcover. Add to that a nearly year-round crop of fat, lilac daisies on short stems and you have a fine landscape plant. Give it sun and sandy soil.

Erigeron speciosus / CASCADES FLEABANE

Aster-like flowers in shades of lilac blue to rosy pink cover rounded, leafy mounds 2 ft. tall in summer. This native is so garden-worthy it is the parent of several cultivars. Good in sun or part shade.

Eriophyllum lanatum / OREGON SUNSHINE

Too rare in gardens, yet easy to grow in sun and sandy soil. Deep mats of divided, wooly gray and white foliage spread 2 ft. wide. Bright golden yellow daisies on short stems make a brilliant glow for many weeks in spring.

Fragaria chiloensis / COAST STRAWBERRY

Long popular as groundcover, this evergreen needs well drained, preferably sandy, soil to thrive. Its glossy foliage is sprinkled with white flowers in spring, but alas, it seldom fruits in cultivation. It does well in sun or moderate shade.

Fragaria virginiana / BLUELEAF STRAWBERRY

Little known except to hikers, this strawberry is another nice groundcover, notable for its blue-gray foliage. Typically evergreen west of the Cascades, it spreads as strawberries do to form large mats. Tiny but luscious berries are a bonus. Wants sun, good drainage.

Heuchera micrantha / SMALL-FLOWERED ALUMROOT

Mats of rounded, lobed, shiny leaves make good evergreen cover in shade or part shade. Tiny cream flowers in misty sprays in early summer. Attractive and adaptable, but needs good drainage.

Iris douglasiana / DOUGLAS IRIS

These evergreen perennials are among our most useful landscape plants. Glossy, arching strap-shaped leaves make broad clumps 12-18 in. high. Typical iris flowers in patterns of white, lilac, blue, purple and cream just clear the foliage in April or May. Hybrids with this iris and other Pacific Coast species- the Pacific Coast Hybrids- extend the color range into yellow, rust-red, mahogany, burgundy, amethyst, peach, etc.

Penstemon serrulatus / COAST PENSTEMON

This is one of the few among our dozens of penstemons that is really easy to grow. Makes a bushy clump of leafy stems topped by spikes of rosy pink to purple flowers in summer. Usually reaches 2-3 ft. tall. Adapts to damp or dry situations, in sun.

Polystichum munitum / SWORD FERN

So common, yet such a good plant. A large evergreen fern with many 2-4 ft. fronds. Great as a large scale groundcover, fine in small groups with other ferns, mahonia, rhododendrons, almost anything shade-loving. These will even grow in sunny rockeries!

Sedum spathulifolium / BROADLEAF STONECROP

Clinging to rocky outcrops along the coast and Puget Sound, this handsome succulent makes mats of chalky white rosettes, usually tinged pink or purple. Yellow flower clusters open in spring. Great cover in rocks or gravel in sun.

Tellima grandiflora / FRINGECUP

Evergreen clumps of rounded, scalloped leaves make a nice groundcover in shade. Tiny creamy cups along 2-3 ft. wands in spring slowly age to pink over many weeks. A lovely but overlooked native.

Tiarella trifoliata / FOAMFLOWER

This Heuchera relative spreads a small carpet of variously lobed or divided leaves over the forest floor, overtopped with a mist of tiny white flowers. Evergreen and surprisingly drought-hardy, foamflower is a charming addition to the shade garden.

Vancouveria planipetala / UPSIDE DOWN FLOWER

An evergreen groundcover from redwood country, making small patches of glossy leaves that are divided into triangular leaflets. Tiny white flowers suggesting parachutes dangle from wiry stems. A fine, small scale cover in shade and woody humus. Unfortunately scarce in nurseries.


  1. Job well done guys, quality information.
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  2. Really great news!!! this information is well worth looking everyone. Good tips. I will be sharing this with all of my friends! Thank you for sharing valuable information.
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  3. good pm, can i ask about the name of the plant in number 4, the mint look-alike plant, its leaves having white and green color. thanks a lot.

  4. good pm, can i ask about the name of the plant in number 4, the mint look-alike plant, its leaves having white and green color. thanks a lot.