Plant Native Shrubs in Your Landscape!

By Sarah Uebel | January 26, 2016

Why should you plant native shrub species in your landscape?

  1. First, as you layout a design you will want vertical structure to add interest and divide the “outdoor rooms” of your yard. This vertical aspect will help highlight the showier small flowering plants. They anchor your landscape design to the site, provide texture to the design and interest in the winter time. They also provide shade to protect those small flowering plants through the lengthy drought in our Willamette Valley summers.
  2. Secondly, shrubs provide habitat for insects, birds and mammals. They provide cover from predators, nesting sites for ground nesting birds (like towhees, sparrows, and juncos) as well as overwintering locations for insect eggs and larvae.
  3. A third reason is providing a food source for pollinators. Many native shrubs have prolific flowers with nutritious nectar and a variety of bloom times. If you are planting a butterfly garden, consider that the foliage of many shrub species are important to the larval stage of the life cycle of butterfly species. Here are this year’s large shrub options to consider:

Early bloomers

Indian plum has beautiful chartreuse foliage that emerges very early in the spring right after it begins flowering, it is one of our first species to emerge and a lovely harbinger of spring. It has nice fall color as well. The early emerging pollinators like bumblebees appreciate these delicate white flowers. The beautiful and compact red flowering currant is a must-have for every yard. Its drooping clusters of deep pink to red blossoms are frequently visited by hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Its burnt umber bark contrasts pleasingly with its bright green foliage.

Mid season

Oceanspray has prolific clusters of flowers which are popular with native solitary bee species as well as honey bees in my yard. Mock orange flowers are very fragrant, consider planting it near an entrance to your house so you can enjoy it every time you enter your home. It is a favorite nectaring spot for the swallowtail butterflies in my yard. Blue elderberry and Pacific serviceberry both have edible blue berries enjoyed by birds and showy white flowers used by many pollinator species. Elderberry requires a site with more moisture. The blue cast of Pacific serviceberry leaves add interest to the landscape during the growing season.

Later season

Pacific ninebark has pretty clusters of white flowers and interesting maple shaped leaves. It requires a site with better soil and more moisture over the summer. Narrow-leaved buckbrush has copious flowers and is enjoyed by solitary bees as well as bumble bees and honey bees. Coyote bush is the last to flower, this is an important thing to take into consideration as you plan your landscape for wildlife and pollinators. They need food sources as they are preparing for winter. Both buckbrush and coyote bush need a site with better drainage and do well in poor soil. Both are evergreen, which is helpful if you want to screen anything in your yard.

One final note, don’t forget to plant small shrubs in front of your large shrubs. They contribute to the interest and structure of your landscape design as well as the diversity of habitat you are providing in your yard!



About the Author

Sarah Uebel

Sarah Uebel is a botanist, mycologist and environmental educator. She has a Bachelor's in Botany from Oregon State University in Botany. She is passionate about restoration and conservation of native habitats in Oregon.

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