Arrow-right Camera


Native plants take pressure off of watering

Oceanspray is a drought-tolerant shrub that blooms prolifically in the summer. Special to  (SUSAN MULVIHILL Special to / The Spokesman-Review)
Oceanspray is a drought-tolerant shrub that blooms prolifically in the summer. Special to (SUSAN MULVIHILL Special to / The Spokesman-Review)

It only takes a few hot summer days to make us look critically at the amount of water our yards require. To conserve this precious resource, consider incorporating native plants in your landscape.

Many plants that occur naturally within our region are drought-tolerant, don’t need fertilizer or pesticides, provide natural habitat for wildlife and have unique features that add interest to a landscape.

If you select drought-tolerant natives, it is still important to water them regularly until they become established. At that point, wean them off by watering them deeply but less often.

Here is a quick look at some of the native plants that work well in Inland Northwest gardens:

•Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) – Growing as tall as 25 feet, chokecherries have white flower clusters in May that develop into berries during the summer. Despite its name, the berries are tasty once they have turned black and are often used to make jams and jellies.

•Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens) – This low-growing, drought-tolerant shrub has shiny evergreen leaves and yellow flowers in late spring that develop into purple berries. It will spread if watered regularly.

•Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) – Another drought-tolerant shrub, this one is extremely hardy. It leafs out in early spring and has tubular, yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds. The edible golden berries attract birds.

•Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) – This wonderful groundcover has small red flowers in the spring, red berries in the fall and winter and is evergreen, meaning it has leaves year-round. While it will grow in full sun to part shade, it will thrive in a sunny spot.

•Mallow Ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus) – This unusual name comes from its peeling bark. The shrub can grow from 3 to 6 feet and has white flower clusters from May through July. The leaves provide nice fall colors in the landscape.

•Oakleaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata) – Extremely drought-tolerant, this Sumac is non-invasive and its three-lobed leaves provide nice fall color. It is grown as a fire-resistant plant and is deer-resistant.

•Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) – This drought-tolerant shrub reaches a height of 8 feet and gets its name from the plumes of creamy flowers that bloom in summer. It has an upright growth habit and prefers partial shade. Birds enjoy eating the seeds during the winter.

•Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) – One of the earliest-blooming native shrubs, it is drought tolerant once it becomes established. The shrub has berries in the summer and the leaves provide fall color.

•Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) – This drought-tolerant shrub gets leggy if overwatered. It has pink flowers in the spring and white berries in the fall. Birds are attracted to the berries during the colder months. Shrubs grow to about 3 feet square.

•Snowbrush Ceanothus (Ceanothus velutinus) – Another evergreen shrub, this one reaches a height of 6 feet. The leaves are shiny green and are notable for their three large veins. The shrub will grow in most soil types and has white flower clusters.

•Western Clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia) – Even though this vine prefers moist soil, it can become drought-tolerant once it is established. It has white flowers that bloom from spring into summer and provides good cover for birds since it retains its leaves into winter. This vine is a vigorous grower.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at

Click here to comment on this story »