Native Flowers are Ideal for
Pacific Coast, Wildlife Gardens

Flowers of the Pacific Coast vary as much as the landscape.

Extending from the seashore to the foothills and deserts of the coast range, the Pacific coast encompasses a wide variety of plant communities.

Windswept bluffs and exposed sandy beaches, sand dunes and grasslands, make way for dense forests.

The moderate year round climate is influenced by the nearly constant temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, while northwesterly winds bring cool air to the coast in the summer months and southwesterly winds bring warm air in the winter.

The resulting summers and mild winters make for a long flowering season.

The coastal climate varies from north to south, as temperate conditions gradually shift to a more Mediterranean climate, on down to warmer arid conditions.

In the north dense forests and undergrowth predominate British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, giving way to more California plant species as one reaches the southern Oregon coast.

Mild summer temperatures and fog retain moisture further north, summer on the southern coast is warmer and drier. Here, riparian areas provide the only habitats for plants requiring more moisture.

Campanula harebell

Conditions of soil and topography also vary along the coast and combine with changes in temperature to create different habitats. Plants found on the beach and among dunes will differ from those found in coastal forests, while grasslands will support a different community of plants from those found in wetlands.

A generally useful distinction includes beaches and dunes, grasslands, wetlands, forests and deserts

California Giants grow in the North and gradually give way to Mediterranean type weather.

Head further South and Temperatures can be more tropical without the rain and humidity.

Both saltwater and freshwater wetlands support important coastal habitats.

Swales, lakes and marshes, dunes and rugged cliffs dot the entire coastline. Where exposure carves sand away to below the water table, deflation plains support unique plant communities and migrating waterfowl.

Many of your natives plants can be found in a variety of habitats. For example, Tiger Lily (Lilium columbianum) grows on hillsides with shrubs and blackberry, on exposed headlands and in partial shade. Salal forms thick hedges along coastal bluffs and thrives in the understory of a coastal forest.

Every coastal gardener will have to assess the conditions of climate and soil at his or her own location.

Remember that conditions can vary even within one garden. I hope that the following list will prove useful in choosing plants which will thrive in your garden.

Some of the finest Growers and garden canters in North America are found along the West coast. Your job is to find native flowers and plants for your wildlife gardens.

I'm not able to list every native flower here and because your habitats differ so, but I will list a few flowers for you and what they may attract.


Canyon sunflower (Venegasia carpesioides)

Venegasia carpesioides (Canyon sunflower)

Canyon sunflower is native to California

Zone hardy: 8 - 10

Height: 3 to 5 feet tall

Width: 3 to 5 feet

Water Moderate to heavy in well drained soil.

Native habitat: Chaparral, Coastal sage scrub and Southern oak woodlands.

Canyon Sunflower is a rather large perennial with two inch yellow sunflowers. Canyon Sunflower looks like yellow dahlias on bushes. It seems to always be in flower.

The foliage is succulent and tender but the plants are fairly drought tolerant and need little or no care.

This plant enjoys a high full shade in any hot interior climate.

Along the coast you may plant along the edge of oaks mixed with Salvia spathacea and Grindellia.

Canyon sunflower enjoys a neutral to slightly acid soil.

An attractive cut flower.

Flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. Seeds offer food for birds and small mammals.

Aster ascendens, Western Aster, (Long-Leaved Aster)

Aster ascendens (Long-Leaved Aster)

Common name: Western aster

Flowering Time: All Summer

Life Cycle: Perennial

Height: 8--25 inches

Habitat: Meadow and foothills

Native: Yes

Water: Light to moderate in well drained soils.

Zone hardy: 4 - 9

Slender, sprawling to upright. Stems with some short stiff hairs on upper part. Basal leaves 2–6 in. long, lance-shaped, with petioles, withering as plant blooms; stem leaves linear to elliptical, very short, sessile.

Slender, sprawling to upright. Stems with some short stiff hairs on upper part. Basal leaves 2–6 in. long, lance-shaped, with petioles, withering as plant blooms; stem leaves linear to elliptical, very short, sessile.

No small leafy shoots in leaf axils. Inflorescence consists of numerous branches with small flower heads. Flowers violet. Grows in meadows, open areas, at low to mid elevations.

There are many species of aster, but as the common name implies, "Western aster" is Found throughout British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.

Several open face blooms attract butterflies, and other pollinators. Leave the seed heads to attract Pine siskins, Goldfinches and other song birds.

There are several species of asters, but you will discover that Western aster is a fine addition to your wildlife and meadow gardens.

In southern California be sure to have several penstemons growing in your wildlife gardens.

A common flower of the desert southwest and mountain regions, penstemons add beauty and color.

They also are hummingbird magnets.

Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker Penstemon )

Hardy zone: 9-10

Frost Tolerance: Hardy to 18°F (-7°C)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Origin: The desert southwest to 4000 feet elevation (1200 m)

Growth Habits: Perennial to 3 feet tall (90 cm), 2 feet in spread (60 cm)

Watering Needs: Little water, requires good drainage.

Several species of penstemons are native of the southwest.

Firecracker penstemon is but one of many.

Attracts hummingbirds and moths.

For Oregon, Washington and British Columbia you have your penstemons as well.

Nothochelone nemorosa (Woodland penstemon or Turtlehead)

Nothochelone nemorosa (Woodland penstemon or Turtlehead)

Range: South British Columbia, Washington, Oregon to northwest California.

Habitat: Woods; moist, rocky, shaded slopes.

Hardiness: To zone 4

Flowering Time: Mid Summer

Life Cycle: Perennial

Height: 12--40 inches

Habitat: West-Side Forest, East-Side Forest

Sun: Partial to mostly shade.

Water: Moderate to heavy

Erect but sometimes bending over. Stems clustered. Leaves opposite, on short petioles, blades to 5 in. long, lance-shaped to widely oval, with rounded base, saw-toothed, with pointed tips. Flowers several on long stalks along upper stem.

Flowers distinctly 2-lipped with lower lip longer, pinkish purple, often lighter on underside and inside, glandular-hairy on outside, anthers woolly.

Grows in moist woods, on rocky places in mixed forests, at mid to high elevations. Separated from but similar to Penstemon.

An ideal native flower for your woodland gardens or shaded area.

Attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators. Small birds enjoy the seeds.

Another attractive native flower for you to consider are Monkey flowers.

Monkey flowers (Mimulus cardinalis )

Mimulus cardinalis (Scarlet monkey flower)

Geographic Origin: Native to the Western U.S.

Plant Group: Perennial.

Hardiness: Zones: 6-9.

Mature size: Height: 3 feet (90 cm). Width: 2 feet (60 cm).

Bloom period: July to October.

Flowering attributes: Tubular, scarlet flowers with yellow markings in the throat.

Leaf attributes: Sharply toothed and sticky, light green leaves.

Growth habit: Creeping.

Sun: Partial shade.

Soil: Fertile, very moist, humus rich soil. Keep moist in winter.

A northwest native, Mimulus cardinalis inhabits shady, wet places from streamsides to seepages. The plant spreads by rhizomes and in wet areas where it thrives, it forms good size colonies.

Bees pollinate most mimulus, but M. cardinalis’ pollination is the task of the hummingbird. This hummingbird magnet is quite noticeable while in bloom with its bright scarlet color.

A must in your woodland gardens along the Pacific coast.

Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Aquilegia formosa (western columbine)

Geographic Origin: Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Yukon Territory.

Plant Group: Perennial.

Hardiness: zones 4 - 8.

Mature size: Height: 2-3 feet
(60-90 cm). Width: 18 inches (45 cm).

Bloom period: Spring to early summer.

Blooms: Stout, straight, red spurs, red sepals and yellow petals.

Foliage: Leaves are green on top and glaucous underneath; twice divided in threes.

Growth habit: Clumping.

Light: Full sun or filtered shade.

Soil: Fertile, moist, well-drained soil.

Pruning Methods: Dead head spent blooms to prolong bloom. When plants are finished blooming cut down to the ground to rejuvenate plant with new growth. If you want to save seed, let a few seed heads develop.

Pests and Diseases: In spring, leaf miners tunnel through the surface of the leaves, leaving unsightly foliage. To remedy this, cut the stems down to the ground when plants finish flowering. The leaf miner larvae does not tunnel in the new leaves; they are gone by the time the second new growth begins.

A short-lived perennial, Aquilegia formosa is a good nectar source for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Other birds such as finches and sparrows eat the seeds.

Allow to self seed and you will have a nice patch within a few years.

Columbine is Ideal for most wildlife gardens, be sure you have some in yours.

Blue Lupines (Lupinus polyphyllus)

Lupinus polyphyllus (Blue lupine)

Native Range: British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.

Perennial: growing to 5 feet (1.5m.)

Zone: Hardy to Z3 - 10

Flowers: From July to August,

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil.

The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil.

It cannot grow in the shade.

It requires moist soil and can tolerate drought.

The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Plants can be naturalized in the wild garden, especially on stream banks and for flowering above rough grass, where they may be short-lived but will self-seed

Plants dislike root disturbance.

Bees and other pollinators enjoy Lupines.

Birds enjoy the round seeds in late summer to early fall.

Dicentra formosa (Bleeding Heart)

Dicentra formosa (Bleeding Heart)

Category: Perennials

Height: 12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

Hardiness: Zones 4 - 10

Sun Exposure: Light Shade Partial to Full Shade

Water: Water regularly, do not over water.

Danger: Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color: Pink

Bloom Time: Mid Spring, Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details: This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.

With all these beautiful native bloomers, it is no wonder The Pacific coast and desert regions have so many species of hummingbirds.

When planting your wildlife gardens, plant in clumps to really make an attractive display, plus it attracts more wildlife.

Other attractive perennials can be Trillium, violets, wild onion and scores of others to choose from

Be careful if you have little kids or pets that like to chew. Several native species are very toxic like Sneezeweed, Monkshood and Campanula.

All serve a purpose in nature, just be careful.

No matter where you live and garden, you can be sure of an abundance of native plant life.

Trees, shrubs, perennials, annual bloomers, ferns and grasses are all part of the natural landscape. Do it right and nature will bring wonderful rewards to you.

Be sure to look at other regions as well, desert and mountain Perennials cross regions and add color and life to your Pacific coast gardens.

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