23 knock-out native plants

Incorporating plants native to your climate means less water, less maintenance, and more wildlife. Here are our top picks around the West

Lewisia

Thomas J. Story

Lewisia

(Lewisia cotyledon)

Native to: California and southern Oregon

To about 1 ft. high, 10 in. wide. Rosettes of narrow, fleshy, evergreen leaves bear 10-in. stems topped by large, extremely showy clusters of 1-in. white or pink flowers often striped with rose or red. Blooms from spring to early summer. Lewisia cotyledon howellii is similar but has wavy-edged leaves and somewhat larger flowers. Prune out side growth to maintain air circulation around root crown. Can be grown in pots of fast-draining sterilized soil or growing mixes.

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Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

Steven Gunther

Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

Native to: California

These deep blue beauties have purple throats.

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Common thrift

Kimberley Navabpour

Common thrift

(Armeria maritima)

Native to: California, Oregon, Washington, and B.C.

Tufted mounds spread to 1 ft.; leaves are 6 in. long. White to rose pink flowers in tight clusters atop 6–10-in. stalks. Bloom is profuse in spring (goes on almost all year in mildest climates). Sturdy, dependable plants for edging walks or borders and for tidy mounds in rock gardens or raised beds. Attractive in containers. Good drainage is essential and permits regular watering, but safest tactic is to water moderately in dry climates, sparingly in moister regions. Tolerate seaside conditions, infertile soil. Clumps spread slowly and need dividing only when bare centers show.

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Yarrow

E. Spencer Toy

Yarrow

(Achillea)

Makes a flat, spreading mat (about 1 1/2 ft. wide) of fernlike, hairy leaves. Golden flower heads in flat clusters top 6-10-in. stems. A good edging and a neat ground cover for small areas; useful in rock gardens. Shear off dead flowers to leave attractive gray-green mat.

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Apricot mallow

Steven Gunther

Apricot mallow

(Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Native to: California

Downy stems bear flowers in summer. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall.

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Pink checkerbloom

Marion Brenner

Pink checkerbloom

(Sidalcea malviflora

Native to: Oregon, California, and Baja California

Grown for clusters of five-petaled flowers like little hollyhocks May grow erect to 2 ft. high and wide; or may sprawl and spread more widely by rooting at the nodes. Pink or purplish pink, 2-in. flowers in early spring.

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Blue-eyed grass

Marion Brenner

Blue-eyed grass

(Sisyrinchium idahoense bellum)

Native to: Coastal California and Oregon

Grows 4 in. to 2 ft. high, 6 in. to 2 ft. wide. Green or bluish green leaves. Purple to bluish purple, 1/2-in. flowers appear in spring. Several named forms, many of them dwarf, are available.

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Pacific coast iris

John Clark

Pacific coast iris

(Iris hybrid)

Native to: Pacific Coast states

Eleven species constitute a homogeneous group within the genus Iris, from which breeders have developed hybrids in a broad range of colors and patterns; flowers may be white, blue shades, pink, copper, brown, maroon, violet—many with elaborate veining or patterning. Foliage is narrow; clumps are like coarse grass. Slender flower stems reach 8 to 24 in., depending on variety. Best conditions are sun to light shade, well-drained soil, moderate to scant water in summer. Intense heat coupled with water and poor drainage can be fatal; in clay soil, grow in raised beds in organically amended soil. Plant from containers any time, though spring and fall are best.

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Sticky monkey flower

Steven Gunther

Sticky monkey flower

(Mimulus aurantiacus)

Native to: California

Flowers in shades of red, yellow, and orange in spring and summer.

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Wild lilac

Steven Gunther

Wild lilac

(Ceanothus)

Native to: California

Many kinds ― groundcovers to tall shrubs. All bear flowers of blue or white in spring. 'Concha' grows 6 to 7 feet tall.

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Rocky Mountain columbine

D.A. Horchner / Design Workshop

Rocky Mountain columbine

(Aquilegia caerulea)

Native to: Rockies

Lacy foliage and beautifully poised flowers in exquisite pastels, deeper shades, and white give columbines a fairylike, woodland-glen quality. Grows to 1 1/2–3 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Blue and white flowers are erect, 2 in. or more across, with straight or spreading spurs to 2 in. long. Plants are not fussy about soil as long as it is well drained.

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Desert beard tongue

Steven Gunther

Desert beard tongue

(Penstemon pseudospectabilis)

Native to: California

Upright shrub (to 2 to 4 feet tall) that bears pink to purplish flowers spring into summer.

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Beach aster

Steven Gunther

Beach aster

(Erigeron glaucus 'Cape Sebastian')

Native to: California

Clumping perennial to 1 foot tall with daisy flowers in summer. Native to the coast, it burns in hot sun.

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Common snowberry

Steven Gunther

Common snowberry

(Symphoricarpos albus)

Native to: California

Deciduous shrub that bears pink flowers followed by white berries from late summer to winter. Grows 2 to 6 feet tall.

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Salvia 'Celestial Blue'

Steven Gunther

Salvia 'Celestial Blue'

Native to: California

Three lesser goldfinches pause at a birdbath with Salvia 'Celestial Blue' growing in the foreground. Evergreen shrub with lavender-blue flowers in early summer and gray-green leaves.

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California poppy

Courtesy of Facebook fan Jayne Locas

California poppy

Native to: California and Oregon

Free branching from base, with slender, 8–24 in.-long stems and blue-green, finely divided leaves. Single, satiny-petaled flowers about 2 in. wide; color varies from pale yellow to deep orange. Flowers close at night and on overcast days. In mild climates, it blooms from spring to summer and reseeds freely. Naturalized not just in California but also in parts of Hawaii. In cold-winter areas, generally used as a summer annual.

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Deer grass

Joshua McCullough

Deer grass

(Muhlenbergia rigens)

Native to: California to Texas and south into Mexico

Bright green leaves form a dense, tight clump to 4 ft. high and wide. Slender yellow or purplish flower spikes in autumn are erect at first, then leaning; rise 2 ft. above the leaves.

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Redtwig dogwood

 

Redtwig dogwood

(Cornus stolonifera)

Native to: Northern California to Alaska and eastward

Grown for brilliant red fall foliage and winter twigs. Thrives not only in the coldest mountain areas of West but also throughout California—even in intermediate valleys of Southern California if given frequent water. Grows rapidly to form a multi-stemmed shrub 7—9 ft. high; spreads to 12 ft. or wider by creeping underground stems and rooting branches. Oval, 1 1/2—2 1/2-in.-long, fresh deep green leaves. Small, creamy white flowers in 2-in. clusters appear among leaves throughout summer; white or bluish fruits follow.

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Vine maple

yaquina on Flickr Creative Commons

Vine maple

(Acer circinatum)

Native to: Northwest

In the forest shade, plant is crooked, sprawling, and vine-like, with many stems from the base. In the open, it becomes a nearly symmetrical small tree 5–35 ft. high, with one or several trunks. Leaves nearly circular, to 6 in. across, with 5–11 lobes; red tinted when new, light green as they mature, then orange, scarlet, or yellow in fall. Tiny reddish purple spring flowers are followed by winged red seeds. Let it go untrimmed to make natural bowers, ideal setting for ferns and woodland flowers. Use under a canopy of tall conifers where its blazing fall color offers brilliant contrast. Can be espaliered against shady side of a wall. Its contorted leafless branches to make an intricate pattern in winter.

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Western sword fern

Thomas J. Story

Western sword fern

(Polystichum munitum)

Native to: California to Alaska and Montana, Idaho, and South Dakota.

Most common fern of Western forests. To 2–4 ft. high and wide. Leathery, lustrous dark green fronds are erect, then spreading. Each leaflet is dagger shaped, with toothed edges and a base that looks rather like a sword hilt. Old plants may have 75–100 fronds. Long lasting when cut for arrangements. Established plants get by with reduced moisture.

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Baja fairy duster

Steven A. Gunther

Baja fairy duster

(Calliandra californica)

Native to: Baja California

It’s a favorite with Southwest gardeners and reaches 5 ft. tall. The shrub attracts hummingbirds with its brilliant red stamens that resemble powder puffs. Use it as an accent in front of a living ocotillo fence or as a backdrop for small blue agaves.

Bird’s eyes

Marion Brenner

Bird’s eyes

(Gilia tricolor)

Native to: California

Slender plants with finely cut leaves and colorful flowers from late spring to early fall. Useful in wild garden or borders. In fall or early spring, sow seeds in well-drained soil where plants are to grow. Thin seedlings to avoid crowding. Grows to 4–18 in. high, about 9 in. wide. Subtly beautiful flowers, carried singly or in clusters, are 1/2 in. wide or wider, with pale to deep violet with yellow throat spotted purple; blue pollen.

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Ocotillo

Steven Gunther

Ocotillo

(Fouquieria splendens)

Native to: Southwest

A decomposed granite path passes through a fence and gate made from ocotillo. The winding walkway invites exploration of more of this casual low-water landscape.

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