But Which Ones are Native Plants?

As I mentioned in my very first blog post, my goal is to provide a fabby garden for the people who live here as well as for the birds and bees and, well, Chickadees. That means a lot of things: beauty, continuity, interesting plants, bird baths, mason-bee houses, plants for pollinators and native plants.   

Sedum spathulifolium - can take some shade and is oh-so-lovely

Why native plants? Without sounding dull, it boils down to this: Native plants attract native insects that the birds feed to their young. Basically, that's it. Birds need the right kind of insects. Well, of course, there's more to it than that but I'll cover that further in future blog posts. For now, let's enjoy some plants!

Solidago 'Fireworks' (I'm pretty sure) - full sun, bees love it.

Invasive plants leave no room for anyone else. Invasive plants support very little life, if any, besides their own. Native plants belong here, they were evolved to do so. I try to incorporate them when and where I can, but by no means is it all natives. I loves me some glorious ornamentals, too!

My goal is to make it all blend together with a seamless flow, not to have one section look like the woods of Forest Park (well, that wouldn't be so bad, Forest Park IS gorgeous, just a different kind of gorgeous for my small garden). I want to use natives as ornamentals and show off their beauty for many are quite gorgeous. Let's have a look at a few today.

Western Sword Fern - Polystichum munitum - likes shade but tolerates sun and is evergreen. I have them in pots, in shade, in sun and I tell you that when the dark days of winter are upon us, this evergreen fern is a welcome sight. This one is growing out of a rock retaining wall and gets full morning sun. Still looks great in September! I do NOTHING for it, it was here when we bought the house.

Mimulus aurantiacus - Sticky Monkey Flower - purchased at Cistus Nursery
a FABBY plant, semi-evergreen woody subshrub...takes some serious pruning by me...a hummingbird magnet and just pretty. Comes in different shades of warm colors.

Both images - Bear Grass or Xerophyllum tenax...the first image was taken at Bird Creek Meadows on a recent hike, read about it here . The one below is a plant in my garden I purchased from Portland Nursery. In a year or so, hopefully, a big spike of white blooms will emerge. In the meantime, I like its strappy grassy foliage.

Tiarella trifoliata or Foamflower...this is the native version of Tiarella, purchased at Bosky Dell Natives in West Linn, Oregon. Woodland sparkler, profuse white blooms in spring. Nice for brightening up shady areas and semi-evergreen.

Sedum oreganum or Oregon stonecrop. This is an edging in much of my garden and is a good foundation for my two eco roofs. It has lovely yellow flowers in summer and is evergreen. Takes some shade and is not overly aggressive. A beautiful sedum that turns red in colder weather. 


Both images Asclepias speciosa - Butterfly weed or Milkweed, the plant the Monarch butterflies use as a host plant. There has been some effort to include this plant in Willamette Valley gardens as some Monarchs have been spotted. Top image is the seed pod, The bottom is just today after it burst open. The flowers are lovely, but it took a couple of years for the long tap root to settle in and actually yield some beautiful blooms which the bees LOVE. Super tough plant, lives in the hell strip and gets no attention.

Asarum caudatum or Wild Ginger. A lovely semi-evergreen groundcover for shade. It has taken a few years for it to spread but is well worth it, beautiful dark green foliage, interesting (but inconspicuous) flowers in spring. When it does naturalize, it's a lovely sight to behold. It will take dry shade once established.

Adiantum aleuticum - Western Maidenhair fern. A deciduous and delicate fern with black stems. Airy and so pretty. Shade to part sun.

Two for one! Sedum spathulifolium purpureum combined with native Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii, purchased at Wild Ginger Farms in Beavercreek, Oregon. Lovely low growing mat-forming evergreen tough perennial with HUGE (for its size) purple flowers. If you have a hot sunny site with well-drained soil, this is a cool plant. 

A woodland combination of Oxalis oregana and sword fern.

Sea Thrift or Armeria maritima - a lovely evergreen grassy clump that produces hot pink round spheres of pretty blooms...naturalizes and is tough, takes full sun, drought and is a great edging plant. A nice evergreen shot of foliage in the dead of winter.

Lastly Ceanothus 'Dark Star' - a new addition to the hell strip and so far doing really well. Takes full sun, no summer water and oddly it was blooming today! Hmm...not supposed to but...I like to think it's happy.

 I think I'll end here as I have some 110 native plants in my ongoing plant list spreadsheet, so perhaps this topic is best laid out over several posts. 

A few final thoughts before we leave the native plant tour: 1, Native plants are adapted to live in your specific climate and soil conditions; 2, That means less work for us gardeners; and, 3, no synthetic fertilizers are required. It does not mean, however, that natives are automatically drought-tolerant. Most are, but there are some ferns and woodland plants in my area that do need some shade just as they would in their natural habitat.

Until next time, thank you for reading and happy gardening!


  1. fifi la fontaine11:54 AM PDT

    Thanks for this informative post, T! I didn't even start to think about native vs. Non native until fairly recently. I'd love to check out the entire list of native plants some time.

    1. Of course, Fifi - I'd be happy to share my list and other resources with you and even give you some starts if you are interested! Native plants rock! (well, so do you)

  2. I have a lot of native PNW or western native plants, in fact, pretty much all the same ones in this post. I love them! My Ceanothus is making a half-hearted attempt at blooming right now too, just a couple of blooms on the tips, like yours. My bear grass has been in the ground for about 3 or 4 years, hasn't gotten any bigger and hasn't bloomed. I wonder if it needs to be moved, it may not get enough sun.

    1. Hi Alison, thanks for posting a comment! Yes, I love those natives too. Less work than others and many are just really cool looking, plus the bees, birds, butterflies and such love them. As far as your bear grass, I hope it blooms. It may take a few years, I have a feeling. In the wild they seem to be in pretty sunny locations, so we'll have to compare notes when they do eventually (hopefully!) bloom. Cheers and here's to native plants!


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