Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida

Underused native Spiraea from the western United States and native in Oregon including the immediate Portland area.  Low mounding deciduous shrub to 2′ x 3′. This is the locally native form. Often the straight species is for sale- its from Asia and is 4 times the size of ours. Pink buds open to foamy white flat clusters of flowers appear in late spring. In autumn it turns amazingly vivid colors of red/orange/gold and it holds its color for weeks. One of the most drought tolerant of the genus requiring light summer water to very little. Full sun and rich soil. Spreads to form patches. Locally native and plentiful near the Columbia Gorge and throughout the mountains whose diminutive habit means that pruning is seldom necessary. Blooms on wood from the previous season. Long lived and an excellent landscape shrub. Birch Leaf Spiraea or glossy leaved Spiraea. Native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure:
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn4a -25º to -30ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Spiraea splendens (densiflora)

Subalpine Rose Spiraea is native to the higher elevations of the the Cascades. Above 4500′ in sunny, moist glens it makes carpets of deep rose pink umbels from low rounded shrubs. To 30″ tall by 4′ wide in garden conditions, Rich soil with regular irrigation. Moderately fast growing to this dimension. The emerging soft green leaves take on hints of blue as they mature. Bloom at low elevation is May-July but in its highest native haunts bloom can be delayed to late summer. Deciduous shrub with wonderful orange/ red fall color if brief. Easy to grow native garden plant with regular irrigation. Established plants can take deep watering every two weeks. Remember that this as with all Spiraeas have little tolerance for drought and they don’t necessarily wilt going straight to crispy (a look not as fixable as wilting). Mulch heavily for the first few seasons. Avoid blasting, reflected heat and and hot dry situations. Wonderful combined with Rhododendrons and Azaleas for similar cultural conditions. In its native haunt it can be found with Pacific Rhododendron, Helenium, Delphiniums and Veratrum. I’ve never seen it afflicted by disease. Watch for aphids, hose those off if they appear. Beautiful in bloom. Very cold hardy. Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: ,
Biome: , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn4b -20º to -25ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Spiraea x pyramidata

This is our local form of the Pyramid Spiraea an attractive naturally occurring hybrid between two local species. Spiraea douglasii (dark pink flowered) and Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida (white flowered).  Its a larger plant and much more controlled than  its parent S. douglasii and it inherits some of the drought adaptation of Birch leaf Spiraea. To 5′ tall and 4′ wide this upright growing shrub produces pyramid shaped inflorescences of the softest pink- intermediate between the two species. This form was found just east of Portland. Full sun and occasional deep soaks in dry summers. Tolerates part shade at the expense of a tidy, upright habit. Blooms on wood from the previous season, prune if needed after flowering. Adaptable to wild areas. Deciduous shrub that turns to tones of yellow and flaming orange in mid autumn. This twiggy shrub would make a great hedgerow plant. Blooms late May to early July. Flowers turn to tan seed heads that persist on the plant. Cold hardy and not difficult to grow. Not bothered by pests or disease. Not fussy about soils adaptable from sand to clay. Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: ,
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn5a -15º to -20ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Stachys coccinea ‘Coral’

For flowers in this genus this is THE plant. Upright growing plant from a clump that rises to 2′ and produces multiple spikes of bright coral colored flowers. They are arranged in symmetrical whorls up the stem. Loved by hummingbirds who constantly seek nectar from the flowers that appear from late spring to late summer. When flower spikes are spent simply cut them away and water and more will arrive. Very easy to grow long blooming perennial for full sun to part shade in rich, well drained soil with light but consistent summer water. Very drought adapted when established. Works well in borders and even seasonal containers. The leaves have a very familiar lemon lime aroma. Dies to a low clump of foliage in winter.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: ,
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn7a 5º to 0ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Stipa gigantea

This is the giant straight species that is so popular for its soaring silver stems and golden drooping awns. To 12′ tall in bloom from a tight but large basal clump of fine deep green leaves. Perfectly evergreen with a great winter appearance. Very easy to grow grass that provides spectacular garden effects. Incredibly drought tolerant in any well drained soil- including clay if it is not allowed to become bone dry concrete. Flowers make a great see through “scrim” in gardens. Fun to grow. Moderate deer resistance.

My Favorites

Plant type: ,  |  Sun exposure:
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn5a -15º to -20ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Stipa gigantea ‘Little Giant’

As if a wonderful grass couldn’t get any better this smaller version thrills us with so many more applications. A low clump of arching dense dark green evergreen foliage has a nice presence year round. In spring and continuing all throughout summer into autumn 3′-4′ spikes terminate in clouds of metallic golden awns. They sparkle in full sun and sway in the breeze- but are determinedly upright. The basal clump of leaves spreads slowly to 2′ wide in 5 years. Full sun and well drained soil- bud adaptable to anything but a bog. Evergreen. Cut back spent flowers in winter- or let them stay and wave around beckoning birds and wildlife. Moderate deer resistance. Little to no summer water when established.

My Favorites

Plant type: ,  |  Sun exposure:
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn6a -5º to -10ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Sycopsis sinensis

Rare and somewhat obscure evergreen tree that belongs in the Hamamelis family. Graceful medium green tapered leaves fold neatly over each other in a pendant habit. The branching structure itself is graceful as well. To 18′ tall  with a columnar habit at first and then spreading a bit with time. In winter curious flowers look like little red brushes and occur profusely.  Nice looking cold hardy, shade tolerant and extremely drought adapted small tree. WE love this tree and have been incredibly impressed with how tough but beautiful it is. Accepts regular water in summer as well. Ideal sized tree for small gardens, or the space in-between the new close together construction. Not an oppressive evergreen but rather light. Moderately fast growing.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: , ,
Biome: , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn7a 5º to 0ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Symphoricarpos albus

Common snowberry is very widespread in our state and is found in a host of biomes This small, deciduous, suckering shrub begins spring with leaves of the freshest green, so fresh they flutter on the late spring early summer breeze. After several weeks of foliage the small white tinted pink flowers are shaped like small bowls and line the stem at every leaf axil. These morph into plush, plump pure white berries that are quite a bit larger than the relatively insignificant flowers. The berries (drupes) are perched in groups on the stems. Their pure white hue is easy to spot for humans and especially birds.They relish the berries while they are toxic for humans.  To 32″ tall forming a dome shaped suckering shrub twice as wide. Water to establish the first season then none in subsequent years. Mulch heavily.  The berries last well into winter before becoming animal snacks. The gray thin arching stems create a haze on the forest floor that becomes acid green as leaves appear. Spreads by stolons underground to expand its territory. Its adaptable to both upland quite dry situations as well as vernally wet spots in floodplains and fields. In the Willamette Valley its common associates are with Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir)  Quercus garryana  ( Oregon White Oak) and Fraxinus latifolia ( Oregon Ash) as an understory component. Its tolerant of dense shade as long as its deciduous to full hot sun, Very well adapted to the driest summers. In summer the acid green leaves change to a dark blue green and are often afflicted by a strain of powdery mildew- my whole life I’ve known this shrub and I’ve never seen powdery mildew cause any permanent damage- mostly its just a poor aesthetic look for late summer to autumn. Fall color is soft yellow and brief. Branches may be carefully cut in berry and will hold them in arrangements for quite a few days. An excellent forage and cover plant for native fauna.  A great native shrub for beginners. This is the taller form of the two species that we grow. Native to the Portland city limits. Moderate deer resistance. One of our best shrubs for seasonally dry shade.  Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: , ,
Biome: , , , , , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn5a -15º to -20ºF
Foliage color: ,  |  Foliage season:


Symphoricarpos mollis

Creeping snowberry is widespread in western Oregon and indeed throughout the state. Its a low suckering deciduous shrub that can occupy large areas. To 30″ tall spread is indefinite in rich to average soil with regular water for the first year to establish. Mulch is extremely beneficial and will suppress weeds for the first few years which can arrive in the middle of a patch of this spreading plant. Leaves are fresh green in spring turning blue green with the heat of summer. Small pinkish flowers occur in late spring and morph over the summer into plush white squishy berries. They line the bare stems and are showy until birds make off with them or they remain and rot. The berries are toxic for humans. Fall color is light yellow to very little. Common on undisturbed slopes on the edges of the valley and in the eastern foothills of the Coast Range and western Cascades. Snow berry is often afflicted with powdery mildew in the driest parts of summer. No harm will come to the plant. A wonderful habitat plant. Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: , ,
Biome: , , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn4b -20º to -25ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season:


Pacific Aster is a Xera favorite late blooming native perennial. Masses of thick soft periwinkle flowers with a yellow center on an upright growing plant to 30″ tall forming an expanding clump. Blooms which are loved by native pollinators – they instantly appear, you don’t even have to be patient- are a soft color and open on the plant first on top and then down the sides eventually filling in. Its a cloud of periwinkle. Sometime afflicted with harmless powdery mildew. This is more of a problem near winter and afflicted material can be cut away and disposed then. Otherwise leave it standing and dead to thrill bush tits or some creatures like that. Rich soil with deep infrequent irrigation during summer. Once established it can perform reliably on rainfall alone (it will happily accept regular irrigation as well). Excellent mid-border late perennial that is fantastic with the green flowered late blooming Kniphofia pumila, and  Golden rod Solidago canadensis elongate. Long lived. It may be divided after several years. This plant is common around the Pacific Rim in temperate to colder regions. Its natural range is enormous- notice the specific epithet refers to its Chilean origin,, it is just as native and prolific on the Oregon coast. Often found at the edge of woods or scrublands in the transition to grassland/ dune lands. Its common associates in habitat are Fragaria chilense (another Pacific Rim resident)- we grow the variety ‘Aulon’, as well as Pacific reed grass ( Calamagrostis nutkaenasis). Long blooming. ( AKA Chilean Aster- but that is confusing as it is native in Oregon as well. Great performance at its native Oregon coast on sand to clay soils.  Oregon native plant.

My Favorites

Plant type:  |  Sun exposure: ,
Biome: , , ,  |  USDA Hardiness zone: Zn6a -5º to -10ºF
Foliage color:  |  Foliage season: