Pacific Northwest Native Plants | Benefits & Landscaping Guide

From Portland to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest region features a unique climate that is reflected in the rich green vegetation and abundant moisture floating in from the nearby ocean.

It is home to many indigenous plants, trees, and flowers which can make excellent additions to your garden.

Using these native plants in your landscape can not only improve the overall natural environment of your area, but pacific northwest native plants also have plenty of practical benefits for you as a gardener.

Growing Conditions in the Pacific Northwest

A contemporary home on a mild summer day in the Pacific Northwest // ©Jamie Hooper

In the USA, the Pacific Northwest begins in Northern California and stretches up through Oregon and Washington state. The region lies in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9 and AHS Heat Zones 1-6. Similar growing conditions are also found in southwestern Canada.

This area is categorized as having a temperate oceanic climate. The summers are mildly warm and quite short, especially as you travel further north. Overall temperatures are on the cooler side, although it can climb to the 80s in the dog days of summer. Clouds usually hang in the sky but rain isn’t as frequent as many might think. Annual precipitation actually averages around 8 inches with most of the rain falling in the winter months.

Related article: 10 Southern California Landscaping Ideas

3 Reasons to Plant Native Species in Your Garden

There are several benefits to planting natives in your garden. Here are just a few reasons why we recommend that you incorporate natives into your landscape.

Native plants are drought tolerant and don’t mind moist soil

Petunia flowers // ©nieriss

Since they require little to no watering, your native plants will easily survive long bouts of dryness. In the Pacific Northwest region, this is especially helpful in the summer months when the drizzly weather takes a short break and the sun comes out more often. Native plant varieties can also tolerate moist soil if their planter offers good drainage.

Native plants don’t need fertilizers or pesticides

©encierro / Shutterstock

You’ll end up saving lots of money on food and protection for your garden because native plants are already acclimated to the soil of the area. For the best results, buy plants propagated from local gardens, forests, and nurseries to ensure that the plant will transplant well.

Indigenous plants support the local ecosystem

©jenna lee / Unsplash

The lack of harmful pesticides on your native plants means that native birds, butterflies, small mammals, and other wildlife can benefit from the food and shelter that your garden provides. While some might consider this a nuisance, the presence of a natural ecosystem is essential for an overall healthy environment.

Related article: 6 Carnivorous Plants that Eat Bugs in your Home

What plants are native to the Pacific Northwest?

The most popular type of native plants that you’ll find in the Pacific Northwest are evergreens, semi-evergreen, and other deciduous trees, shrubs, and ferns. Since the region is temperate, there is a broad range of species that thrive in deep shade, partial sun, or full sun as well as in drier conditions.

Vine maple

Vine maple leaves at peak fall color on the Santiam pass in the Willamette National forest in Oregon // ©Bob Pool

This Pacific Northwest plant grows well in the seasonal wetness that is typical of the region. While it tolerates occasional sun, trees that are used to shady conditions will grow to prefer partial shade.

The vine maple produces trumpet-shaped pink and white flowers in early spring as the leaves return, and come autumn, the leaves will be a lovely hue of reddish-yellow. When kept outdoors, birds will flock to its branches to nest. It’s also a host plant for butterfly larvae, so expect to see a few caterpillars on the leaves in late spring and early summer.

Red flowering currant

Branches with flowers of Ribes sanguineum or red-flowering currant, in the garden // ©Gabriela Beres

With more than 120 species, these native plants are a staple in many parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some are made for the garden and some are native to the natural environment, so this small shrubby tree will make a perfect addition to your landscape.

This tree prefers sunny, dry conditions and thrives best in well-drained soil. Its berries are safe for humans to eat, although they don’t have much flavor in their most natural state. However, it will attract plenty of birds and other mammals like squirrels and deer, while its tubular flowers will attract lots of butterflies – so many benefits!

One important thing to note is that these plants are alternate hosts of white pine blister rust, a plant disease caused by fungus. You may notice yellow spots on the leaves in the spring, and the leaves may fall earlier than usual if your currant tree has the disease. However, it probably won’t kill your tree. On the other hand, this type of fungus is very dangerous for some other species such as White pine and care should be taken to not grow these species in the same areas.

Evergreen huckleberry

Flowering Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) // ©Peter K. Ziminski

Another attractor of birds, bees, and butterflies, this slow-growing, drought-tolerant evergreen perennial can grow up to 15 feet tall when planted in full shade. In sunny areas, it won’t grow to its full height and will remain shorter and more compact.

In the springtime, its dark reddish-brown hue will add a moody pop of color to your garden. This native plant also features berries that are an important food source for wildlife in the late summer and early fall.

Ocean Spray

Creamy white delicate Ocean // ©Steve JM Hamilton

These small trees feature clusters of white flowers which, if you’re familiar with the Pacific Northwest region, you may have noticed growing along roadsides or in disturbed sites.

As its name suggests, this native species is a perfect addition to gardens located near the Pacific coast because of its high tolerance for salty air. In these ideal conditions, this shrubby tree is a fast grower and will reach heights of up to 20 feet.

Pacific red elderberry

Sambucus racemosa subsp // ©meunierd

The fruit-bearing elderberry species is very popular in gardens and landscapes due to its sweetly fragrant flowers. Its berries also taste lovely as a component in jams, pies, and homemade wines. However, elderberries, especially their seeds, are toxic to humans when eaten raw, so it is important to cook them before consuming them.

Even if you don’t plan to eat the fruit, native birds and other small mammals will! This native species can grow up to 10 feet tall and features a broad width, so give it ample space when choosing a spot for it in your garden and its branches and leaves will provide refuge for wildlife throughout the seasons.

Why use planters with your native plants?

Planters aren’t just for your flowers. Even the native trees and shrubs that grow several feet tall in the Pacific Northwest will benefit from living in a container. Whether you’re gardening on a small patio or designing a professional landscape, planters can:

Create a protective environment for native plants

Tomato plants planted in wooden containers
©Dariusz Banaszuk / Alamy Stock Photo

Since native plants are more likely to attract indigenous insects and animals, containers encourage these creatures to use your garden as a temporary refuge rather than a permanent habitat. Sure, it’s one thing for raccoons to stop by and snack on the tasty fruit that your native plants produce, but it’s a whole other problem when these same animals stick around and make themselves at home!

Containers also keep other common pesky garden situations at bay, such as weeds and inadequate drainage. It’s much easier to adjust the drainage qualities of a container than in-ground soil, so native plants that prefer well-drained soils can thrive better in their favorite conditions without the back-breaking work of adding rocks and other materials to the ground of your garden.

Help display native plants cleanly and effectively

Three white plant pots
Three white plant pots // ©Alan / Shutterstock

With the wide range of sizes available, even the tallest trees and shrubs can find a perfect home in a large planter.

At the same time, plants with a wide spread will be discouraged from growing too big and taking over your garden. This way you can save some time and energy on unnecessary pruning.

Related article: Choosing the Right Planter for Your Favorite Plant

Increase the overall value of your property or business
©davidbondst // christinaccollins

While all containers have something to add to your landscape with their eye-catching colors and styles, fiberglass planters in particular are a wise investment for your private or commercial property.

Since they are UV and weather-resistant, they will retain their color and finish for years to come, even as the seasons in the Pacific Northwest change from sunny and dry to rainy and cold.

Final thoughts

©Jay Scotts // Reveal Design

The Pacific Northwest is a beautifully unique area with many different native perennials and species to add life to your landscape.

By planting natives in your garden, you can save time and money on things like watering and fertilizer and you can also take pride in knowing that your plants are home to thousands of creatures, big and small, that help to make up a healthy diverse ecosystem.

When planted in containers, these creatures pose less of a threat to the overall aesthetic of your garden, and you can rest assured knowing that your plants are protected from the potential dangers of the surrounding environment in a well-drained medium that’s healthy for your plant.

Fiberglass planters are the perfect containers for native plants and other species that are less drought tolerant. Our planters are available in a wide range of colors and sizes, so whether you’re looking to put a flower bed or a large tree in your garden, we have a planter that suits you.

If you have a tree that is outgrowing its pot or looking for bespoke services for larger landscaping projects, contact us today to inquire about custom sizes for your Pacific northwest plants. Or simply browse our planter store!

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