5 No-Brainer Native Plants For The West

5 No-Brainer Native Plants For The West

Western Region

Native plants are a gardener’s favorite as they have naturally adapted to the climate and even the soil conditions of a specific area. This allows them to be easier to care for!

In our previous ‘Regional Series’ blog post, we highlighted natives that perform well in the Southern growing zones. Well, hello to the West! It is your time to shine as we lay out our top 5 native plant picks for the western growing zones.

Not sure where you fall in our regional series? The map shown below gives you an idea of where the various growing zones are across North America. For those of you who live in the pink area, these native plants are the top choices for you!

Western Region

Oregon Grape Holly

Oregon Grape Holly | Mahonia aquifolium

Starting the pack off strong, the Oregon Grape Holly is in fact native to the western region of North America! It’s even the state flower of Oregon itself too.

Along with adding edible and ornamental charm to the landscape, this native shrub supports the local wildlife. Birds can’t get enough of the delicious dark blue berries that sprout from the spring flowers. And pollinators always enjoy a good nectar source!

Not only will an Oregon Grape Holly stand out in a garden, it will stand out in the kitchen! Harvest the tart tasting berries for jellies, wines, jams and lots more. That is, if you can beat the birds to the fruit.

Quick Care Tips:

  • Maintain a slightly acidic soil area while keeping the plant in a partially shaded area.
  • With regular water and a low soil pH, this holly will tolerate the hot, dry climates.

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Little Bluestem Grass

Little Bluestem Grass | Schizachyrium scoparium

Many gardens overlook the useful impact that Little Bluestem Grass and prairie grass in general have on a landscape. The Little Bluestem Grass is a well known native that adds both beauty and use to gardens.

Its silvery blue complexion sets it apart from other grasses. Not only are landscaper’s attracted to it, but so are several forms of wildlife! Local nesting birds and small mammals will thank you for providing a quick shelter source and pollinators will exclaim praise for the seeds grown.

With this grass being exceptionally hardy, it has the ability to survive the wild wild west. Harsh, dry weather or even totally infertile soil, the native survives it all.

Most will be found as a textured additive to garden beds surrounding porch space. However, the Little Bluestem Grass looks great when potted and even as a border.

Quick Care Tips:

  • Pruning may be necessary with this tall, thin grass. Wait until the early spring to trim the plant!
  • When first establishing, water moderately. Once it has adjusted and situated, decrease water to once a week or less.
  • Plant it anywhere that receives full sun and keep the soil well-draining. However, it will still grow in clay, dirt, dry, fertile, and even infertile soil.

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Soft Caress Mahonia

Soft Caress Mahonia | Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

The super power of the Soft Caress Mahonia is its ability to perform well in the shadiest areas of any western landscape whether than be within a container or established in the ground. This native shrub takes pride in showing off graceful green foliage all year round too!

During the late fall and early winter months, you’ll start to notice lemon yellow flowers stemming from the Mahonia. It turns into the winter interest of the century!

As those flowers begin to fade, deep shaded berries will emerge. Simply put, varieties of native birds will be paying a visit often to snatch a snack. Make a game out of it and see how many the Mahonia can acquire.

Quick Care Tips:

  • Avoid areas that experience full sun as the Soft Caress Mahonia prefers to relax in partial shaded spots.
  • Keep the soil performing at a well-moderately drained rate.
  • This small shrub is pest and disease resistant!

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Emerald Carpet Manzanita

Emerald Carpet Manzanita | Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'

Calling all western states that are prone to droughts! The Emerald Carpet Manzanita ground cover just can’t get enough of the heat and is very water-wise.

Not to mention, its evergreen leaves will stay a lush green year round, giving your water restrained landscape some vibrant color.

When first established, water it well but from there on out, grow it completely dry in well-draining soil. Some opt for using the Emerald Carpet Manzanita as a replacement for grass lawns, others add it to foundation plantings or sidewalk strips!

Quick Care Tips:

  • Grow it in an area that receives either full sun or partial shade.
  • This groundcover likes to be grown in well-drained soil. However, it will still tolerate clay soil too. If it starts to develop a yellowish tint, the soil is infertile!

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Quaking Aspen Tree

Quaking Aspen Tree | Populus tremuloides

You’ve probably seen these trees scattered across a few National Forests within the mountains. A Quaking Aspen Tree likes to be where the climate is a tad cooler and the elevation is increased.

Aspens grow in a lovely tall pyramidal shape and slowly round themselves out over time making reliable shade gardens. Be sure to plant the deciduous tree somewhere you can enjoy the incredible yellow fall color atop white bark before the leaves fade to the ground!

As a known fast growing native plant, the Quaking Aspen is excellent for wildlife habitats. Everything from elk and deer to caterpillars and butterflies feed on the leaves. Even hang a nice bird feeder or two from the branches to attract a variety of our feathered friends.

Your yard will never be bored!

Quick Care Tips:

  • Because of its adaptability, this tree likes rich soil that is at a consistent moisture level and it even likes rocky and dry soil found in the mountains.
  • Plant it in an area that receives full sun as it is a pioneering species, one of the first trees to occupy wide open spaces!

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Use these 5 natives however your gardening heart desires! But, it's a true no-brainer that they are the best of the west.

Not in the Western or Southern regions? Keep an eye out for blogs covering the North and East.

Happy gardening!

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