Ceanothus sanguineus

The most widespread native Ceanothus in our region. Its known by two common names, red stem Ceanothus which is fairly self explanartory and Oregon tea. A large growing shrub to small tree with conspicuous sanguine stems clad in large mid green leaves, this completely deciduous shrub is not known for fall color making due with yellow and off green before abandoning it. Fast growing to 12′ tall in May-July depending on elevation frothy white, fragrant flowers loosely decorate this sparse plant. In full sun and with regular irrigation it achieves tree-like status quickly. In the shade it makes rounded twiggy plant that is much less graceful. A wonderful native for pollinators and birds. Pollinators relish the flowers and birds make off with the black and brown seeds. Very graceful when well grown and that means average soil and water to establish then none in subsequent years. Excellent bordering woods and thickets. Naturally occurring with Frangula (Rhamnus) purshiana and Rosa nutkatensis var. nutkatensis. Tolerates more summer water than most Ceanothus but none is necessary. Not deer resistant.  Native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus integerrimus

Deerbrush is a widespread species in Oregon favoring areas with extensive summer drought. Its found primarily in the southern 1/3 of southwest Oregon  and the north central part of the state into southern Washington. A small population exists on Skinners Butte in Eugene.  Wide spreading semi-deciduous to deciduous shrub with young stems that remain green. Locally it is most common from about Dog mountain in the Gorge to the east and is extensive throughout Hood River and Wasco counties. This is an ideal shrub for revegetation areas, it naturally responds to fire, in fact the seeds must be exposed to boiling water to germinate. This species comes in a very wide range of colors. from clear white to deep blue and occasional shades of lilac pink. It may only be raised from seed so flower color is naturally variable. The plumes of flowers are large and airy displaying the color of the flower vividly. The most common flower color in Oregon is light blue. In late May and June a wonderful wildflower drive is up the Hood River Valley. These frothy blue, to pink to white flowers literally foam out from under native oaks and conifers. Its very conspicuous at that time too on the Rowena plateau. A word of warning not only does this shrub encourage deer browse it is also the unfortunate home of many deer ticks. Photograph carefully. Here it is found with such associates as Holodiscus, Toxicodendron, Symphoricarpos and Arctostaphylos.  This brushy plant derives its name from the familiar sight of black tail deer breast height chomping away in extensive groves. Not a long lived shrub 7-10 years but it fixes nitrogen efficiently and improves the soil for successors. Full sun to very light shade, best on a dry slope. Water to establish then only what falls from the sky in subsequent years. Very hardy to cold enduring subzero temperatures. Beautiful pollinator heaven in bloom. To 3-7′ tall and as wide in several years. Oregon native plant.

Photo Credit: Dii Mazuz, Bruce Hegna

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Carex tumulicola ‘Willamette Gold’

Wow, when nature smiles on you then you need to take advantage. We found this stable variant of our locally native foothill sedge that is pure gold. As for the species a clumper that forms trailing 12″ foliage. The tight clumps keep to themselves and do not seed or run. Brilliant color all season long in average to enriched soil in full sun to light shade. Water consistently through summer for the best, consistent color. Attending flowers are on wiry straight stems with buff flowers in late spring to early summer. Mass for a much more drought adapted and vivid effect as Hakenochloa- Japanese forest grass. Easy to grow climate adapted native sedge. This is from a seedling batch of Willamette Valley native seed. Tough and good looking all the time. Evergreen- ever gold. To 6″ tall and 1′ wide. Plant on 1′ centers for a massed effect. Excellent in concert with other drought adapted natives, Manzanita etc. A great robust plant.  Oregon native plant.

Xera Plants Introduction

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Viburnum ellipticum

Oregon Viburnum or Western Way Faring tree is a moderate to large native deciduous shrub. It stretches a little bit into W. Washington where it is rare but its primary populations are in western Oregon and south into N. California. Its found in moist to dry woods often on the margin where its can get at least half a day sun. It also thrives only much larger and lankier in outline in the shade. It easily tolerates winter inundation but is found on well developed soils in upland situations as well. Its common associates in the wild are Oregon white oak/Quercus garryana, Oregon Ash/Fraxinus latifolius, Cornus stolonifera. Leaves are round, glossy and scalloped and are very handsome on a well proportioned fountain shaped shrub. Shorter in full sun, taller in shade. This plant needs just a modicum of light watering for its first year and once it is thoroughly established you can set it free. In late spring off white cymes of flowers have the fragrance to me of raw potatoes. We had a large specimen of this shrub in our back 40 where I grew up near Eugene. In certain years it can produce quite a fall show with orange/red tinted leaves and translucent blue fruits. Blooms on wood from the previous year. Prune if needed AFTER blooming has ended. June. To 5′ tall in the sun to much taller in shade. Protect young plants from deer. Oregon native plant.

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Oemleria cerasiformis

Oso berry is a classic west coast shrub. Its one of the earliest shrubs to burst into leaf and flower long before anyone else- often as early as early February.  Exceptionally fresh green leaves emerge vertically and for a time appear as rabbit ears lining the stems. On female plants fragrant chains of white flowers are showy in a very spring like way. Following pollination chains of charming fruit (the berries or plums)first turn yellow then red/orange and arrive at deep purple. They are reputed to be good. And even though I’ve known this plant my entire life i’ve never tasted a ripe berry. Seems like they disappear to wildlife very fast. There was a thicket of this early spring shrub near the bottom of our long driveway and it would leaf out and bloom in February and March. When I spotted those acid green leaves I knew that winter was over. To 8′ x 8′ quickly from a massively suckering central shrub. Branches soar up and arch out. All the better to observe the colorful fruit. Native, often under Oregon white oaks and in dry woods with Holodiscus discolor/ Ocean spray, Corylus cornuta californica /Western Hazel. By late spring this shrub has all but faded into the background. Often it will lose many or all leaves in a very dry summer, but its drought tolerance is phenomenal.  Fall color is soft yellow and shows up nicely on the dark forest floor. Its natural range is from the N. Bay area in CA north to extreme SW British Columbia. Always on the west side of the mountains. Stems force well when brought inside in December- January. Deer resistant and possibly rabbit resistant. This is a very wild looking shrub, goes well with other plants of that mein. Stirs early pollinators and even Anna’s Hummers. These are unsexed seedlings. Best in part shade to shade though it will tolerate full sun with a less refined overall look. Water lightly but consistently for the first summer then none in subsequent years. Virtually any soil type including heavy clay. Simultaneous bloom with flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum). A great garden pairing.  Oregon native plant.

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Lonicera hispidula

Hairy Honeysuckle or wild pink honeysuckle is a common vine in the western part of our state. Ranging rom S. British Columbia to California. This sprawling and twining plant is most associated with the cover under white oak woodlands. This vine can crawl to impressive heights into trees. As a child near Eugene this grew extensively on our property. It would climb pole sized trees and I would strip the winding canes off the trees and use them as a trellis for annual vines. The strong wood lasted 10 years or more. It derives its name from the conspicuous hairs on the leaves. At terminal ends of the branches soft pink curly flowers appear in cymes from June to September. These are followed by brilliant red berries that are food for birds. It has no fragrance. Excellent plant for stabilizing banks and hillsides where its incredible tenacity and drought tolerance is an advantage. Never a tidy plant this vine can be sent up a trellis or large tree. Water to establish then set it free. This honeysuckle can be afflicted with aphids early in the season but I’ve never seen it actually inhibit the plant. Just make sure not to look to closely at the plant in May-June. Evergreen to semi-evergreen with round leaves that surrounding the stem nearest the ends just before the flowers appear. Best in wild areas.- for some it can lack the sophistication of our other native honeysuckle Lonicera ciliosa. and is not as immediately beautiful. In habitat it consorts with Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversifolia) and Creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Often found clambering up steep rocky slopes in dry woods. Oregon native plant.

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Polystichum minutum

Western sword fern is one of the most ubiquitous plants on the west side of the Cascades. In many forests in the Coast Range and Cascade foothills it is the sole understory plant. Western sword  fern is a large species with long arching fronds. Adaptable to a host of situations. Often self sown spore will show up in the oddest places. I’ve seen it as an epiphyte and even self sown into hot concrete steps. In rich, acidic soil this evergreen fern soar- provided soils rich in humus, organic matter and protected from direct sun with consistent access to water. Very well adapted to our winter wet/ summer dry climate- it will cruise through dry summers unscathed. In the garden it does useful duty in the toughest, dry, shadiest sites. Along with Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) and Ophiopogon (Lily turf) it is one of the best dry shade inhabitants. As an understory component it is often accompanied by Cascades Mahonia (Mahonia nervosa), Inside-out-flower, (Vancouveria hexandra), and Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinus). To 4′ x 4′ in ideal situations. Though it is evergreen western sword fern does go through a transitional period before new croziers unfurl in spring. The 3′ long fronds begin to lie flat on the ground by winter. This is the time to remove tired, old leaves. and make way for fresh, new, unfurling foliage. Though very tough western sword fern does look its best with consistent light water.  Supremely deer and rabbit resistant. Long lived and not a slow grower.  Oregon native plant.

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Hebe ‘Pink Paradise’

Excellent symmetrical evergreen foliage on a dense dome shaped shrub. The sea green/blue cupped foliage surrounds deep mahogany stems. To 2′ tall by 3′ wide forming a moderately fast spreading plant. In spring and often again in late summer a parade of sparkling pink flowers. They look wonderful agains the foliage. Easy to grow lovely shrub with a year round handsome interest. Excellent performance at the Oregon coast.  Good cold hardiness into the lower teens or lower for brief periods. Light consistent summer water in full sun to very light shade. Protect from subfreezing wind which won’t kill it but can make this Hebe unhappy. Good long term performance in gardens and a welcome flower color in a genus replete with purple, blue, and white. Nice looking shrub at all times. Best in enriched soil. Remove the first round of flowers to better view the second late summer display.

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Clinopodium (Satureja) douglasii

Yerba buena is a fine trailing herb native to southeast Alaska south into northern California. Its a common scrambling component of  woods and forest margins. The round slightly scalloped leaves emit a sweet herb/mint fragrance that reminds me of childhood and they line trailing stems. This 4″ tall by 2′ wide perennial is commonly found among shrubs and clumping grasses as well as perennials. It can be found in the wild with such plants as Vancouveria hexandra (Inside out flower) and Whipplea modesta (Whipple Vine). In late spring to early summer barely conspicuous tiny white snapdragon flowers appear in the leaf axils. Evergreen. Often the  leaves turn maroon red in cold weather. The sturdy semi-woody stems root where they attach to the ground and it may be used as a deer resistant small scale ground cover for stabilizing smaller scale slopes. This member of the mint family can be used to flavor iced tea or any cold drink. Shade to part shade in average to slightly enriched soil. Combines well with clumping grasses and smaller scale shrubs such as Symphoricarpos (Snow Berry). Good in containers as well. Yerba buena (the good herb). Excellent native pollinator perennial in the mint family.  Oregon native plant.

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Aquilegia chaplinii

Native to the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico and extreme west Texas this adorable columbine enchants us with its whimsical soft yellow flowers and fine blue foliage. To 18″ tall in bloom the petite flowers have long fantastic tails. They appear from April-June, and occasionally again if you remove spent flowers and prevent seed set. This smaller plant has wonderful finely divided blue green foliage that forms a fountain before and after bloom. Often self sows in open sites. The original plants live about 5 years but the distinctive leaves will give away the seedlings. They seem to favor cracks in pavement, stones. Full sun to very light shade in rich to average soil with regular summer water. Mix with our native Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) for a color echo on the yellow perianth of both. Very popular with pollinators including native pollinators. Winter deciduous.  Moderate deer resistance. Charming and easy to grow wild flower.

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