Native Pacific Northwest Plants

The Pacific Northwest is a land of climatic and geographical diversity. Cool, wet rainforests west of the Cascade Mountains, the dry hot interior valleys to their east, and the Northern California, Oregon, and Washington State seacoasts all have different soils and climates. Each has its own native plants species. Using those adapted to your region is an ecologically friendly way to enrich your Pacific Northwest landscape, according to the Washington Native Plant Society.

Western Columbine

Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), a buttercup family perennial, grows wild in the Pacific Northwest's moist woods and on banks at altitudes between 4000 and 9000 feet. Plants have bushy clumps of airy, lobed greenish-blue foliage. From May to August, there delicate stems have single, spurred red and yellow blooms. Larger specimens, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, can produce hundreds of blossoms. Western columbine is a hummingbird favorite. Plant it in sun to partial shade. While it tolerates dry, infertile locations, it performs best where soils are rocky and moist.


Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is a tall, showy evening-primrose family perennial. The erect, 3 to 5 foot high plants thrive where forests have burned out. Their stems have dense, long reddish-green leaves. From June to August, firewood blooms with spikes of pinkish purple, four-petaled, 1-inch flowers. In the right conditions, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, fireweed will spread rapidly. Plant this perennial where it will have room to spread in full sun. Give it dry to moist, well-drained pH-neutral (6.8 to 7.2) soil. Plants do not perform in shade. Fireweed is a good choice for butterfly gardens.

Small Camass

Small camas (Camassia quamash) is a lily family bulb plant native to moist areas throughout Washington, Oregon and northern California. It produces basal clumps of narrow, vivid green leaves. Between April and June, small camas has 1 to 3 foot high stems with clusters of pale to deep-blue, star-like flowers. A single plant may yield dozens of blooms. Where these plants colonize they create dramatic masses of spring color, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Plant this easy-to-grow bulb in full sun and consistently moist soil. It goes dormant after blooming and needs less moisture, but should never dry out completely.

Coastal Tidytips

An aster native to Northern California's coastal flats, coastal tidytips (Layia platyglossa) is a low-growing annual reaching up to 12 inches long. Its thick, succulent branches have downy, pale green leaves. Between March and June, coastal tidytips has daisy-like flowers with white-tipped, yellow-centered rays (petals). Birds feast on the seeds. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends planting this reliable performer in full sun and infertile, dry sandy loam. Plants in rich soil will become straggly and flower less.

Keywords: Pacific Northwest wildflowers, Pacifc Northwest gardening, native plant gardening, western columbine, fireweed

About this Author

A freelance writer, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961 and draws on her travel experiences to provide articles for such websites as Chincoteague Island Vacations and Berlin Dude. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona.