Native Plant Guide: Spring & Summer

Take advantage of the stay-at-home order and consider adding some of these native species to your garden – ranging from trees to shrubs to flowers.   


Incense Cedar 

Calocedrus decurrens  

Incense Cedar trees are known for their dense foliage and aromatic wood. These trees attract birds, provide wildlife with food and coverage, and are resistant to deer. Found in mixed hardwood-conifer forest or woodlands, Incense Cedars are more commonly found at higher elevations (2000 to 8000 feet) and do well in sunny and partly cloudy weather. They tolerate many different soil types and prefer moist, well-drained soils. For these reasons, Incense Cedars should be planted in late spring to early summer.   

Western Red Cedar 

 Thuja plicata  

Western Red Cedar trees are characterized by cinnamon-red or brownish bark; short and sometimes slightly drooping branches; and flattened leaves with bright green tops and dark green bottoms. Commonly living in riparian forests, bottomland forests, shrub swamps, and wet prairies, these trees are known to attract bees, butterflies, and birds. Western Red Cedars thrive in moist to poorly-drained soil in partly cloudy weather, and can be planted anywhere from spring to fall. While commonly utilized for timber production, they are also considered to be ornamental.  


Willamette Ponderosa Pine 

Pinus ponderosa  

 Willamette Ponderosa Pine trees, also called yellow pines, are known for their vanilla scent in warm weather and their jigsaw puzzle-shaped bark. These trees can survive in adverse environments, adapted to Oregon’s wet winters and dry summers. They are usually planted from summer to fall, thriving in sunny weather and wet to dry soils. Their habitats have a wide range, including oak woodlands, upland prairies and savannas, riparian forests, and bottomland forests. These trees are often grown for timber production, but while they’re standing, they provide wildlife with cover and food, and protect deer when they’re young.   




Frangula purshiana  

Cascara trees are characterized by their silvery bark which can be used for medicinal purposes; their black berries which attract birds; and their wide adaptability. They can grow in oak woodlands, upland prairies and savannas, riparian forests, and bottomland forests – in wet and cloudy or dry and sunny conditions. They thrive in moist, well-drained soils. Though they are susceptible to aphids and Phytophthora, they are known to be mostly problem-free, and can prosper in small gardens.   


Vine Maple 

Acer circinatum  

Vine Maples are an incredible staple to any native garden in the Pacific Northwest. Its ability to grow in the sun and shade, lack of pests, and resistance to disease make it relatively easy to care for. Not only do its beautiful green leaves turn vibrant red and orange in the autumn, they also attract pollinators, such as honey bees, mason bees, and bumble bees. These broadleaf trees prefer moist soils and will thrive in almost all weather, making them a simple, alluring addition to any garden.   



Black Hawthorn 

Crataegus douglasii  

Black Hawthorns are known for their white flowers that bloom in the spring, and their black-purple fruit that sprout in the fall. These trees thrive in sunny to partly cloudy conditions with moist to well-drained soil, and are best planted in spring or fall. Though they can be used for erosion control, timber, and feed for wildlife, they are also considered to be ornamental and can prosper in gardens, if taken care of correctly. It is recommended that gardeners give these trees full sunlight and sufficient moisture levels, taking care to prune them in the winter or early spring.   



Black Twinberry 

Lonicera involucrata  

Black Twinberry shrubs are best planted in summer and fall, and they are characterized by pretty yellow flowers that bloom from April through August and eventually develop into dark berries that ripen in September. Black Twinberry shrubs are great for gardens, as they attract insects, butterflies, and hummingbirds. To care properly for these shrubs, their soil must be kept moist, and they can be kept in sunny, partly shady, or shady conditions. The berries themselves can be mildly poisonous, specifically to small children, and are not to be ingested.   



Mock Orange 

Philadelphus lewisii  

Mock Orange is great for gardens, not only because of their smooth leaves and wide white flowers, but also because of their citrusy scent in the spring. Though they are most attractive in the springtime, these shrubs can serve as a privacy hedge around your home year-round if well-maintained. Mock Orange shrubs thrive in full to partial sunlight, but will bloom best in full sunlight. Their soil needs to be kept moist, however they are mostly drought-tolerant once they are established in your garden. Take care to not let the soil dry out completely, but also avoid soaking the plant. Don’t worry about Mock Orange in the winter, as they can survive even below freezing temperatures. In order for your Mock Orange to blossom each year, take care to prune after the blooming period.   

Oregon Viburnum  

Viburnum ellipticum  

The Oregon Viburnum is known to add texture to any garden, with its dark green leaves, white flowers that bloom in May and June, and black berries that ripen in fall. These plants prefer dry, sunny conditions, with full sun to partial shadiness, as well as moist soil. Oregon Viburnum shrubs are relatively easy to care for, and when well-maintained, attract insects, bees, butterflies, and birds.   





Evergreen Huckleberry 

Vaccinium ovatum  

Though Evergreen Huckleberry shrubs are extremely versatile, they are actually underused in the PNW. This adaptable plant can grow in full sun or shade, and prefers well-drained or sandy soil. Evergreen Huckleberry’s leaves turn copper and bronze, while small white flowers bloom underneath them in the spring. In late summer, blue-black berries ripen and can be used to make jam or jelly. After they’re established, these shrubs can be drought-tolerant – however, if you want them to continue flowering and fruiting, it’s best to water them occasionally in dryer weather.   


Red Flowering Currant 

 Ribes sanguineum  

Red Flowering Currant shrubs are beautiful ornamental plants that can become a staple to your garden. Characterized by pink and red flowers, blue-black berries, small maple leaves, and their ability to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Red Flowering Currants are relatively easy to care of, with a beautiful payoff. Dappled light or full sun is ideal for this shrub, and it prefers soil that can drain properly, though it is incredibly tolerant of dry soil.   





Rubus parviflorus  

This deciduous fragrant shrub is best planted in the springtime if potted. Not only are the small white flowers beautiful in any garden, but the fruit – which resembles a raspberry – is edible and a favorite to many. To grow this shrub, choose a well-drained area where the plant can receive full sunlight, and remember to keep its soil moist, especially after establishing new plants and following years of fruiting.   






Clarkia amoena var. Lindleyi  

These beautiful annual plants bring pink, cup-shaped flowers to gardens, blooming in the late spring and early summer, and turning rose-purple in midsummer. These flowers need little attention – just keep them in full to partial sunlight with sandy to clay soils that dry in the summer, and they will blossom beautifully, attracting pollinators to your garden.   




Oregon Iris 

Iris tenax  

The Oregon Iris flower is a perennial known as one of our most beautiful native plants, with its narrow leaves and purple flowers. To maintain this flower and experience its late spring/early summer blooming, keep it in full sunlight and dry soil. When established, the plant will attract insects, bees, and butterflies to your garden.   





Tiger Lily 

Lilium columbianum  

The Tiger Lily flower is another perennial characterized by narrow lance-shaped leaves and downward-hanging bright orange flowers that bloom in May to August. In order to maintain this flower and attract insects, bees, and butterflies to your garden, keep the flower in full sunlight, partial shade, or full shade, with moist and well-drained soil.   

Photos courtesy of the Benton Soil & Water Conservation District website.  

By Cara Nixon