Easy to Grow Native Plants

Every region has their own unique indigenous plants. There are a select group of native plants that do well throughout the United States. The exception might be very high elevations, true desert regions, and extremely cold pockets. These natives may still survive in extreme weather, but may be dwarfed or have an irregular appearance. Some of the most popular natives are those that produce heart-healthy berries. These are also good choices for the wildlife garden.

Maple Trees

Maple trees are native to many parts of North America. They make good shade trees, and are grown for their colorful fall foliage. There are two popular large native maples. On the East Coast is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Besides being used for maple syrup, it develops some of the most brilliant foliage of all maples. On the largest West Coast maple is the big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). The leaves are large and attractive, but turn a pale yellow in fall. The West Coast maple with the most colorful fall foliage is the vine maple (Acer circinatum). This is a small multi-stemmed tree with leaves reminiscent of Japanese maples. A good mid-sized native maple is the red maple (Acer rubrum). This tree develops vivid scarlet fall foliage.


Huckleberries have the reputation of being difficult to grow. This may be true for large-scale production, but the right micro-climate is all that is needed in the home garden. Most huckleberries grow in moist, acidic woodland soils that are rich in humus. There are patches of huckleberries throughout North America. The key is finding the right species for your region. The whortleberry, or dwarf huckleberry (Vaccinium caespitosum) is the most widespread. It develops a small blue berry. The mountain huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), also known as bilberry, is common in Montana and Idaho. It can also be found in the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest and in Canada. On the West Coast, there are two common native huckleberries. The evergreen huckleberry (vaccinium ovatum) develops edible blue-black berries, but is also prized as an attractive landscape shrub. The red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) has tart but tasty red berries.


There are several elderberries (Sambucus) native to North America. Elderberry are small vase-shaped understory trees. They develop umbels of white or pink flowers, followed by large clusters of small berries. They require regular moisture during dry periods, but otherwise are easy to grow. There are two species on the West Coast. The blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) has edible blue berries. The red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) reaches 8 to 20 feet tall, and produces vibrant red berries. The red berries are rarely eaten because they are known to cause stomach discomfort. The red elder is very attractive as a landscape plant. The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) can be found in the central and eastern portions of the United States. It develops edible blue-black berries. Many of the colorful landscape elderberries are developed from this species. Plant elderberries at the edge of taller trees.


A popular wildlife tree is the Saskatoon, or servicberry (Amelianchier). There are two native species widespread in North America. They are small, multi-stemmed trees with small, round leaves. They will develop red to purple round berries, and are loved by birds. The foliage turns bright orange, red and yellow in the fall. The western serviceberry (Amelianchier alnifolia) can be found throughout the West, as well as some Midwestern states and Canada. The Common serviceberry (Amelianchier arborea) is more prevalent throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States. There are other native species found in small pockets throughout the United States.

Keywords: colorful fall foliage, native plants, edible native berries, good shade trees

About this Author

Marci Degman has been a Landscape Designer and Horticulture writer for since 1997. She has an Associate of Applied Science in landscape technology and landscape design from Portland Community College. She writes a newspaper column for the Hillsboro Argus and radio tips for KUIK. Her teaching experience for Portland Community College has set the pace for her to write for GardenGuides.com.