The reasons for choosing native plants for home landscaping are numerous. With regard to the Pacific Northwest, native trees and shrubs are already adapted to the region's wet winters and dry summers. According the the Washington Native Plant Society, native plants require less water, better resist pests and diseases, and need fewer amounts of additional fertilizers. The Native Plant Society of Oregon says landscaping with plants that originate close to home "can provide a habitat for native plants and the great array of animals and other organisms that depend on them."
Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)
A small, multi-trunked tree, gardeners prize the vine maple for it's showy fall display and and colorful bark. The deciduous tree grows up to 25 feet tall and prefers shady, wet environments. Young trees show off smooth, green bark that fades to brown, offering winter interest. 2 to 5-inch leaves with up to 9 lobes emerge in spring, followed late season by purple or red flower clusters. The sepals enclose tiny white petals.
Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)
Deep green oval leaves up to 8 inches long and dark pink flower clusters make the native rhododendron a favorite evergreen shrub. The Pacific rhododendron performs in varying degrees of sunlight and soil moisture, and is able to reach 25 feet. Sunnier environments keep it tight and bushy, while leggy branches dominate in shade. Clusters of dark pink flowers of up to five-lobed petals open in late spring and hold until mid-summer.
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Rarely seen outside of the Northwest, kinnikinnick is a mounding shrub grown in Pacific landscapes as a showy groundcover. Ideal for erosion control in sunny locations, it tolerates heat and drought conditions. Leaves are shiny green and leathery, up to an inch long. Clusters of pink, urn-shaped flowers bloom in early spring. Groups of two to five red berries begin to ripen in fall and remain into winter.
Red-twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
The red-twig dogwood is a deciduous, spreading shrub that provides year-round interest. It expands by rooting branches and underground stems, and grows up to12 feet high and wide. This shrub will thrive in sunny, wet spaces with poorly-drained soil. 4-inch oval leaves accent clusters of tiny yellowish-white flowers throughout the spring. Leaves turn reddish-brown in fall, while groups of blue-green berries ripen until autumn leaf-drop exposes a spread of deep red twigs.
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aleuticum)
Thin, black stems and bright green leaves combine to form soft, fan-shaped fronds up to a foot in width on this native plant. Plant the maidenhair fern in shady, damp locations. It is mostly evergreen, but fading fronds should be removed regularly. Older plants can eventually reach heights of up to 3 feet.