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Choose Native Plants for a Successful Garden

Select plants that are true to their home—and yours

Native plants grow according to climate zones
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Native plants don't know anything about state lines—they grow in distinct communities based on climate, as shown on this map of the continental U.S. However, within each zone there are numerous microclimates as well—for example, the central prairies and plains province includes shortgrass prairie in the drier west and tallgrass prairie in the moister east. So when making selections from this plant list, determine your zone, then select plants from your zone that are adapted to drier conditions for the hottest part of your garden and that need more water for the areas where the soil naturally stays moist.



1. North Pacific Coastal and Cascade Mountain Forests

Shrubs:
• Indian plum Oemleria cerasiformis: Very early bloomer. Fruit draws birds. Sun or shade. Slightly dry to moist. 15 feet.
• Tall Oregon grape Mahonia (Berberis) aquifolium: Holly-shape leaves. Edible blue fruit. Sun or shade. Little to moderate water. 10 feet.
• Red flowering currant Ribes sanguineum: Early pink flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun or shade. Dry soil. 12 feet.
• Red osier dogwood Cornus stolonifera (sericea): Prized for winter twig color. Berries draw birds. Sun. Dry to wet. 15 feet.
• Pacific Nine Bark Physocarpus capitatus: Interesting bark and seeds in winter. Sun to part shade. Moist to moderate soil. 12 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Western columbine Aquilegia formosa: Red and yellow flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun or partial shade. Dry to moist. 3 feet.
• Bleeding heart Dicentra formosa: Pink, heart-shape flowers. Shade to partial shade. Dry soil. 1½ feet.
• Piggyback plant Tolmiea menziesii : Grows new leaves on top of old. Shade. Moist. 1 foot.

Ferns:



• Deer fern Blechnum spicant: Unusual form, with erect fertile fronds and low sterile fronds. Dry shade or moist sun. 2½ feet.
• Western sword Fern Polystichum munitum: Lance-shape fronds. Sun or shade. Moist or dry. 4 feet.

Resource:
Washington Native Plant Society

Native plants don't know anything about state lines—they grow in distinct communities based on climate, as shown on this map of the continental U.S. However, within each zone there are numerous microclimates as well—for example, the central prairies and plains province includes shortgrass prairie in the drier west and tallgrass prairie in the moister east. So when making selections from this plant list, determine your zone, then select plants from your zone that are adapted to drier conditions for the hottest part of your garden and that need more water for the areas where the soil naturally stays moist.



1. North Pacific Coastal and Cascade Mountain Forests

Shrubs:
• Indian plum Oemleria cerasiformis: Very early bloomer. Fruit draws birds. Sun or shade. Slightly dry to moist. 15 feet.
• Tall Oregon grape Mahonia (Berberis) aquifolium: Holly-shape leaves. Edible blue fruit. Sun or shade. Little to moderate water. 10 feet.
• Red flowering currant Ribes sanguineum: Early pink flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun or shade. Dry soil. 12 feet.
• Red osier dogwood Cornus stolonifera (sericea): Prized for winter twig color. Berries draw birds. Sun. Dry to wet. 15 feet.
• Pacific Nine Bark Physocarpus capitatus: Interesting bark and seeds in winter. Sun to part shade. Moist to moderate soil. 12 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Western columbine Aquilegia formosa: Red and yellow flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun or partial shade. Dry to moist. 3 feet.
• Bleeding heart Dicentra formosa: Pink, heart-shape flowers. Shade to partial shade. Dry soil. 1½ feet.
• Piggyback plant Tolmiea menziesii : Grows new leaves on top of old. Shade. Moist. 1 foot.

Ferns:



• Deer fern Blechnum spicant: Unusual form, with erect fertile fronds and low sterile fronds. Dry shade or moist sun. 2½ feet.
• Western sword Fern Polystichum munitum: Lance-shape fronds. Sun or shade. Moist or dry. 4 feet.

Resource:
Washington Native Plant Society

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2. Palouse

 

2. Palouse

Native plants grow according to climate zones


Grasses:
• Bluebunch wheatgrass Agropyron spicatum: Blue-green leaves. Compact seed heads. Sun. Dry. 3 feet.
• Idaho fescue Festuca idahoensis: Deep green or blue-green. Feathery seed heads. Sun to partial shade. Medium moisture. 2 feet.

Shrubs:
• Serviceberry Amelanchier anifolia: Showy white flowers. Purple fruit draws birds. Sun to partial shade. Medium moisture. 20 feet



• Nootka rose Rosa nutkana: Pink flowers up to 2 inches wide. Sun. Dry or moist with good drainage. 9 feet.
• Black hawthorn Crataegus douglasii: Birds nest in tangled, thorny branches. Sun or shade. Moist. 15 feet

Wildflowers:
• Western yarrow Achillea millefolium: Aromatic. White flowers. Sun to partial shade. Moderate water. 3 feet.
• Blanketflower Gaillardia aristata: Red and yellow daisy-like flowers spring to fall. Sun. Moderate water. 2 feet.
• Little sunflower Helianthella uniflora: Sunflower-type yellow blossoms in June. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 2 feet.
• Lewis flax Linum lewisii: Delicate blue or purple flowers. Sun. Dry. 2 feet.
• Prairie smoke Geum triflorum: Rose flowers. Feathery pink seed heads. Sun. Dry to moderate water. 6 inches.

Resources:
Palouse Prairie Foundation
Idaho Native plant Society

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11. Coastal Plain Forests

 

11. Coastal Plain Forests

the Oakleaf hydrangea's white roses bloom in summer
Oakleaf hydrangea, shrub of the coastal plain forests
Grasses:
• River oats Chasmanthium latifolium: Arching stems hold dangling seed heads. Sun to partial shade. Moist soil. 5 feet.

Shrubs:
• Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria : Evergreen with long-lasting red berries. Shade. Moderate to moderately damp soil. 12 feet.
• Possumhaw Ilex decidua: A deciduous holly. Partial sun to shade. Moderate water. 33 feet.



• Oakleaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia: White to rose blossoms in summer. Fall color. Shade. Moderate to moderately wet soil. 12 feet.
• Southern wax myrtle Myrica cerifera: Gray-green to yellow-green foliage. Partial sun to shade. Low to moderate water. 10 feet.
• Sweet mountain azalea Rhododendron canescens : Pink or purple flowers. Partial sun to shade. Moderate to moderately wet soil. 15 feet.
• Coastal sweet pepperbush Clethra alnifolia: Blooms in summer. Very fragrant. Sun to shade. Moderately wet to wet soil. 12 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Eastern purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea: Pink or purple flowers all summer. Sun. Moderate water. 4 feet.
• Eastern bluestar Amsonia tabernaemontana: Blue star-shaped flowers in spring attract mourning cloak butterflies. Sun to partial shade. Moderately damp to wet. 3 feet.
• Appalachian blazing star Liatris squarrulosa: Forms tight heads of rose-purple flowers in fall. Sun. Moderately damp to dry soil. 2½ feet.

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12. Tropical

 

12. Tropical

The yellow beach sunflower attracts butterflies in sunny, dry climates
Photo by Elissa Malcohn
Beach sunflower, a tropical wildflower
Shrubs:
• Limber caper Capparis flexuosa: A viny shrub related to Italian capers. Produces fragrant, spidery flowers and beanlike seed pods. 12-25 ft. Full sun to full shade. Dry.

Wildflowers:



• Beach sunflower Helianthus debilis: Draws butterflies to yellow sunflowers up to 3 inches wide. Grows 3-4 ft. tall. Full sun. Dry.
Resource:
USDA Plants Database
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3. Great Basin Desert

 

3. Great Basin Desert

the fragrant evening primrose is ideal for sunny, dry climates
Fragrant evening primrose, a wildflower of the Great Basin desert


Grasses:
• Alkali sacaton grass Sporobolus airoides: Medium-green leaves. Forms clumps. Sun. Dry. 3 feet.
• Blue grama Bouteloua gracilis: Gray-green leaves. Forms clumps. Sun. Dry to medium moisture. 1 foot.
• Indian ricegrass Achnatherum hymenoides: Airy and open clumps. Sun. Dry. 3 feet

Shrubs:
• Oakleaf sumac Rhus trilobata: Showy fall foliage. Orange-red fruit draws birds. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 6 feet.
• Apache plume Fallugia paradoxa: White flowers resemble wild roses. Plume-like seed heads. Sun. Dry. 6 feet.
• Utah serviceberry Amelanchier utahensis White flowers. Edible blue fruit. Sun to partial shade. Dry to medium moisture. 15 feet.

Wildflowers:



• Fragrant evening primrose Oenothera caespitosa Night blooms scent the air. Sun. Dry. 6 inches.
• Sticky purple geranium Geranium viscosissimum: Sticky hairs on leaves. Pink to purple flowers. Sun to shade. Moderate moisture. 3 feet.
• Utah Penstemon Penstemon utahensis: Red or hot-pink trumpet-shaped flowers attract butterflies. Sun. Low to medium water. 27 inches.

Cacti and succulents:
• Dwarf Yucca Yucca harrimaniae: Lance-like foliage. Bell-shaped flowers. Sun. Well-drained soil. 2 feet.

Resources:
Utah's Choice
Idaho Native Plants Society
Las Pilitas

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4. Sierran Foothills and Alpine Vegetation

 

4. Sierran Foothills and Alpine Vegetation

the sagebush penstemon's blue flowers prefer sunny, dry climates.
Sagebush penstemon, a wildflower of the Sierran foothills and Alpine region
Grasses:
• Pine bluegrass Poa scabrella: Fine, dark-green leaves. Forms clumps. Sun to partial shade. Moderate moisture. 3 feet.

Shrubs:
• California redbud Cercis orbiculata: Magenta flowers. Heart-shape leaves. Sun. Dry once established. 20 feet.
• Desert peach Prunus andersonii: Pink flowers develop into brownish fruit. Sun. Dry. 6 feet.
• Big Basin sagebrush Artemisia tridentata:Bluish-gray foliage. Sun. Dry. 9 feet

Wildflowers:
• Mountain pride penstemon Penstemon newberryi: Red tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 1 foot.



• Sagebush penstemon Penstemon speciosus: Brilliant blue flowers. Sun. Dry. 30 inches.
• Douglas' dustymaiden Chaenactis douglasii: Clusters of white flowers attract butterflies. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 1½ feet
• Sulfur buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum: Forms a mound with long-lasting yellow flowers. Sun. Dry. 1 foot
• Western columbine Aquilegia formosa: Red and yellow flowers attract swallowtail butterflies. Sun. Moderate moisture. 3 feet.
• Rainbow iris Iris hartwegii Baker: Light-yellow flowers have golden or purple veins. Sun to shade. Moist. 1 foot.
• Pink alumroot Heuchera rubescens: Sprays of pink flowers. Shade to partial sun. Moist. 3 inches.

Resources:
Las Palitas
USDA Plants Database

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5. California Grasslands, Chaparral, and Woodland

 

5. California Grasslands, Chaparral, and Woodland

the bush anemone's scented white flowers bloom in late spring and summer
Photo by Cliff Hutson
Bush anemone, a shrub of California grasslands, chaparral, and woodlands
Grasses:
• Deergrass Muhlenbergia rigens: Similar to pampas grass but shorter. Plumes 2 feet long. Sun or partial shade. Dry. 4½ feet

Shrubs:



• Bush anemone Carpenteria californica: Clusters of scented white flowers in late spring and summer. Sun to shade. Low to moderate water. 6 feet.
• Hummingbird trumpet Epilobium canum: Orange-red flowers in fall attract hummingbirds migrating south for winter. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 2 feet.
• California lilac Ceanothus sp.: Lilac-type blossoms. Varieties range from groundcovers to tree size. Sun. No summer water. 21 feet.
• Western sweetshrub Calycanthus occidentalis: Fragrant flowers spring through summer. Woody fruit capsules. Sun to partial shade. Little to moderate water. 15 feet.
• Twinberry honeysuckle Lonicera involucrata: Pairs of yellow flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun or shade. Moist. 10 feet.
• Chaparral currant Ribes malvaceum: Showy pink flowers October to March. Leaves smell like peppermint. Sun to partial shade. No summer water. 5 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Matilija poppy Romneya coulteri: Large "crepe paper" flowers. Can be invasive. Sun. Dry. 8 feet.
• Scarlet monkeyflower Mimulus cardinalis: Blooms most of the year. Attracts hummingbirds. Sun or shade. Moderate water. 2½ feet.
• Yellow mariposa lily Calochortus luteus: Bowl-shape yellow flowers 2½ inches wide. Sun to partial shade. No summer water. 1½ feet.

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6. Mojave and Sonoran Deserts

 

6. Mojave and Sonoran Deserts

the Saguaro cactus grows about 1 inch per year
Saguaro, a cactus of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts
Shrubs:
• Quail bush Atriplex lentiformis: Stores salt in its leaves. Draws birds. Sun. Dry. 8 feet.
• Fairyduster Calliandra eriophylla: Exotic purple flowers look like bottle brushes. Sun. Dry. 3 feet
• Brittlebush Encelia farinosa: Yellow daisy flowers 2-3 inches wide. Sun. Dry. 1 foot.
• Ocotillo Fouquieria splendens: Looks dead until rain comes. Red flowers mass on stems in spring and summer. Sun. Dry. 10 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Desert marigold Baileya multiradiata: Yellow daisy flowers early spring to mid-summer. Sun. Dry. 2 feet.
• Blackfoot daisy Melampodium leucanthum: White daisy flowers March to December. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 12 inches
• Firecracker penstamon Penstemon eatonii: Bright red flowers draw hummingbirds. Sun to partial shade. Dry. 2½ feet.

Cacti and succulents:



• Saguaro Carnegiea gigantean: A Western symbol, with upward curving arms branching off from a tall, thick stem. Grows about 1 inch per year. Sun. Dry. To 25 feet or more.
• Hedgehog cactus Echinocereus engelmannii: Produces brilliant pink flowers February to May. Yellow fruit. Sun. Dry. 1 foot.
• Banana yucca Yucca baccata: Flower spike develops edible fruit shaped like a banana. Sun to partial shade. Dry, but some watering is OK. 6 feet.

Resource:
Desert Botanical Garden

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7. Rocky Mountain Forests and Alpine Vegetation

 

7. Rocky Mountain Forests and Alpine Vegetation

the Red elderberry's edible red fruit prefers sun to partial shade and climates with moderate moisture
Red elderberry, a shrub of the Rocky Mountain forests and Alpine regions
Grasses:
• Tufted hairgrass Deschampsia cespitosa: A clump grass. Sun. Moist to moderately dry. 3½ feet.

Shrubs:
• Golden Currant Ribes aureum: Flower show resembles forsythia. Edible berries. Sun or partial shade. Dry to moderately moist. 10 feet.
• Western mountain ash Sorbus scopulina: Bright orange fruit attracts birds, especially cedar waxwings. Sun to partial shade. Moderate moisture. 12 feet.



• Red elderberry Sambucus racemosa: Edible red fruit. Sun to partial shade. Moderate moisture. 18 feet.
• Western thimbleberry Rubacer parviflorus: Scattered edible berries. Sun. Moderate moisture. 4 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Colorado columbine Aquilegia caerulea: Blue and white flowers. Sun or shade. Moist. 2 feet.
• Rocky Mountain iris Iris missouriensis: Purple flowers about 3 inches across. Sun to partial shade. Moist. 1 foot.
• Harebell Campanula rotundifolia: Also known as bluebells. Partial sun. Moist. 1 foot.
• Nelson's larkspur Delphinium nelsonii: Blossoms are a brilliant blue-purple. Sun. Dry. 1 foot.
• Fringed sage Artemisia frigida: Fragrant, silver-gray leaves. Small yellow flowers. Sun or partial shade. Dry. 8 inches.
• Aspen daisy Erigeron speciosus: Blue daisy flowers. Partial sun. Dry to moist soil. 2 feet.

Resources:
National Wildlife Federation
Colorado State University Herbarium

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8. Central Prairies and Plains

 

8. Central Prairies and Plains

the Big bluestem blooms in summer and fall
Big bluestem, grass of the central prairies and plains
Grasses:



• Big bluestem Andropogon gerardii: Showy summer and fall. Sun. Dry. 3 feet.
• Buffalograss Bouteloua dactyloides: Good turf grass. Tolerates clay soil. Sun. Dry. 6 inches.
• Indian grass Sorghastrum nutans: Rust-colored seed heads. Sun. Moderate water. 4 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Meadow blazing star Liatris pycnostachya: Spikes of purple flowers in late summer. Sun. Moderate water. 4 feet.
• Downy phlox Phlox pilosa: Five-petal pink-lavender blossoms in early summer. Sun. Moderately moist to dry soil. 2 feet.
• Butterfly weed Asclepias tuberose: Orange-red flowers attract butterflies. Interesting seed pods. Sun. Dry. 2 feet.
• Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta: Yellow flowers form in second year. Partial sun. Dry to moist soil. 2½ feet.
• Large-flowered beardtongue Penstemon grandiflorus : Pink to purple flowers in early summer. Sun. Dry to moderately dry soil. 3 feet.
• Hoary puccoon Lithospermum canescens: The name refers to the white hairs on leaves. Yellow flowers. Sun. Dry to moderately damp soil. 1½ feet
• Aromatic Aster Aster oblongifolius: Sky blue flowers in September. Sun. Moderately dry to medium moisture. 3 feet.

Resource:
University of Minnesota Extension

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9. Eastern Deciduous Forests

 

9. Eastern Deciduous Forests

the aromatic witch hazel blooms in late winter
Witch hazel, a shrub of the eastern deciduous forests
Grasses:
• Bottlebrush grass Hystrix patula: Seed heads look like skimpy bottle brushes. Partial sun to light shade. Moist to slightly dry soil. 5 feet.

Shrubs:
• Eastern redbud Cercis canadensi: Pink flowers on bare stems, followed by heart-shape leaves. Shade. Little water. 25 feet.



• Witch hazel Hamamelis virginiana: Blooms in late winter. Aromatic. Sun or partial shade. Moderate moisture. 20 feet.
• Mountain laurel Kalmia latifolia: Blooms in early summer. Evergreen. Partial sun to shade. Wet to dry. 20 feet.
• Gray twigged dogwood Cornus racemosa: White flowers and white fruits that birds love. Sun or shade. Moderate moisture. 15 feet.
• Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens: A ground cover with edible red berries. Sun to shade. Dry to moderately wet. 6 inches.

Wildflowers:
• Spring beauty Claytonia virginica: For woodland gardens. Blooms early. Partial sun or shade. Moist. 12 inches.
• New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae: Purple fall flowers with yellow centers. Great for the back of a garden. Sun to partial shade. Moderate to moist soil. 5 feet.
• Wild blue phlox Phlox divaricata: Slightly fragrant spring bloomer. Partial sun to shade. Average to moist soil. 1 foot.
• Wild ginger Asarum canadense: Tidy groundcover with curious maroon flowers below leaves. Shade. Moderate moisture. 8 inches.
• Blue bead lily Clintonia borealis: Bell-shape flowers develop into shiny blue berries. Shade. Moderate moisture. 1 foot.

Resources:
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Connecticut Botanical Society
Ohio Farm Bureau

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10. Boreal Forests

 

10. Boreal Forests

The maidenhair fern has graceful black stems that are ideal for shade and partial sun.
Maidenhair fern, of boreal forests
Shrubs:
• Highbush cranberry Viburnum opulus var. americanum: Masses of white flowers, followed by edible red fruit. Sun to part shade. Moist. 12 feet.
• Highbush blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum: Berries enjoyed by people and birds. Sun. Moist. 6 feet.
• Canadian yew Taxus canadensis: Evergreen, provides good cover for birds. Shade to partial shade. Moist soil. 6 feet.
• Sweetgale Myrica gale : Dark green, aromatic leaves. Sun. Moist to dry. 4 feet.

Wildflowers:
• Marsh marigold Caltha palustris: Showy yellow flowers in early spring. Sun to part shade. Wet to moist soil. 12 inches.
• Solomon's seal Polygonatum pubescens: A lily with gracefully arching stems and bell-shaped flowers. Shade to partial shade. Moist. 12 inches.
• New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae: Deep purple flowers in fall. Sun to partial shade. Moist to dry. 24 inches.
• Bunchberry Cornus canadensis : Related to dogwood trees, but groundcover height. Shade to partial sun. Moist. 6 inches.

Ferns:



• Maidenhair fern Adiantum pedatum: Graceful black stems. Shade to partial sun. Moist. 18 inches.
• Marginal wood fern Dryopteris marginalis: Blue-green fronds. Shade to partial sun. Moist to dry. 24 inches.

Resource:
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

 
 

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