Choosing Native Plants – Selecting native plants

To increase plant survival rate in your yard, do some research before you buy any plants. Some native plants like dry rocky soils and others like moist, humus-rich soils (like the duff in a forest). It’s important to know what the cultural requirements are for each plant. Things to consider include soil type, water requirements, sun/shade requirements, and potential for contact with salt spray. Placing the wrong plant in the wrong place—whether native or not—may result in plants that are unhealthy, scraggly and unattractive due to stress and inability to thrive vigorously.

Native plants blend in well with other ornamental plants. The trick to selecting and incorporating native plants, is to determine how much area (height and width) is available for the plants to inhabit. Some plants tend to spread, so avoid those if you want your plant to stay contained in a small space. Be sure to note the mature size and shape of the plant, since they can be vastly different sizes from what you purchase. You can always use good pruning techniques to manage their size to some extent, but you still want to select the right-sized plant from the start. There are many excellent resources available to learn about specific growing needs for each plant—both in books and on the internet.

When choosing native plants, shrubs and trees for shoreline locations, be sure to select salt-tolerant species. Some suggested species that should thrive on the shoreline include:

  • Trees:
    • Big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
    • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
    • Grand fir (Abies grandis)
    • Pacific madrone (Arbutus mensiesii)
    • Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia)
    • Red alder (Alnus rubra)
    • Shore pine (Pinus contorta)
    • Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)
    • Vine maple (acer circinatum)
    • Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
    • Western red cedar (Thuja plicata)
    • Western white pine (Pinus monticola)
  • Shrubs and Small Trees:
    • Elderberry (Sambucus species)
    • Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
    • Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor)
    • Salal (Gautheria shallon)
    • Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
    • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
    • Tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
    • Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica)
  • Herbaceous Plants:
    • Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilimum)
    • Coastal lupine (Lupinus littoralis)
    • Coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis).
    • Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)
    • Honeysuckle (Lonicera species)
    • Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

There are also many ornamental grasses that do well along the shoreline. Look for grasses that clump instead of spread, and be sure they are not listed as being either invasive or too aggressive.