12 Best Native Plants for Seattle

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Close-up of red flowering currant blooms

Seattle residents love the natural world that surrounds their city, so why not add a little more of Seattle’s native plant species to your home landscaping? Native plants have lived in the area for thousands of years and provide a plethora of benefits.

Advantages of Seattle native plants:

  • Low-maintenance
  • Support local wildlife and pollinators
  • Adapted to local soil types and weather conditions

How do you choose some native gems for your Emerald City yard?

If you have a green thumb, you might enjoy choosing and installing plants yourself. Seattle is in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zone 8b, so choose plants that withstand winter temperatures down to 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

There are many resources available on the internet to help you identify plants that work well in your soil and sun/shade conditions. We’ve listed a few at the end of this article. 

If you prefer to let someone else do the legwork, hire a Seattle lawn care professional to have your lawn transformed into a native paradise.

Flowering plants

1. Pacific bleeding heart (dicentra formosa ssp. formosa)

close-up of light purple pacific bleeding heart flowers
Upupa4me | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Also known as Dutchman’s britches, Pacific bleeding heart is prized for its delicate, heart-shaped pink flowers that bloom in late spring and may continue blooming through early fall. If you’re also looking to increase wildlife habitat in your lawn, this flowering perennial attracts birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. 

Pacific bleeding heart grows naturally in the woods where it enjoys shade and stays consistently moist. It has no significant pest problems.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 4-8
  • Sun: In cooler areas, prefers more sun. In warmer areas, prefers partial to full shade.
  • Water needs: Average/Moist
  • Soil: Well-drained rocky or loam
  • Duration: Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature height: 6-18 inches

2. Red columbine (aquilegia formosa var. formosa)

single red flower with a yellow center from a red columbine
Peter Stevens | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you are looking to add red to your garden, red columbine puts out regal red and yellow flowers from May through August. It grows naturally in forested areas and prefers some shade and soils that are well-drained and rich in organic matter. 

Several animals enjoy this flowering plant, including bees, butterflies, and birds. Red columbine is deer-resistant.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate moisture in summer
  • Soil: Well-drained with organic matter
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1.5-3 feet tall

3. Common camas (camassia quamash)

light blue-ish purple common camas flowers
NRCS Oregon | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever taken a hike alongside the Cascade mountains, you may have seen this flower. Common camas can be found on both sides of the Cascades in the low to mid-elevations and along the Washington coast. 

Also called prairie camas, this flowering plant thrives in open meadows with limited shade and puts out white, lavender, or bluish flowers from April to June. In meadows and prairies, common camas is an important plant for pollinators and would make a worthy addition to your pollinator garden.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Sun: Full sun, very little shade
  • Water needs: Natively found in moist, spring meadows that dry by late spring
  • Soil: High organic matter with good drainage; tolerates seasonally moist soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 30 inches

4. Tall mountain shooting star (dodecatheon jeffreyi)

vibrant purple petals of tall mountain shooting star flowers
Walter Siegmund | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Tall mountain shooting star is a flowering plant that can be found natively in moist meadows or along stream banks. It displays purple, pink, or white flowers from June to August, depending on your elevation. 

The flowers on this plant resemble shooting stars or rockets with flames shooting out at the end. Tall mountain shooting star is a good flower for bees.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Average; likes to be moist in spring and dry out a little in summer
  • Soil: High organic matter, well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6-24 inches

Shrubs

5. Red-osier dogwood (cornus sericea)

cluster of tiny white flowers in the middle of green leaves from a Red-osier dogwood
Jason Hollinger | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Looking for nearly four-season color? Also known as red twig dogwood, this shrub is perhaps most prized for its stunning red stems that show off during the cold winter months. In late spring, the red-osier dogwood puts on white clusters of flowers that change into white berries in late summer, although it may bloom in late fall as well. Finally, in the fall, its leaves turn a deep red or yellow color.

The berries are favorites of local birds, and butterflies sometimes drink the flower nectar. This native shrub is often planted next to stream banks and is a helpful tool in preventing erosion in these areas.

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 2-9
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Moist to wet
  • Soil: Tolerates many soil types; prefers fertile, loamy soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6-10 feet tall; spread is equal to or greater than height

6. Red flowering currant (ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum)

Looking for a pungent spring smell in your landscape? Red flowering currant will add a spicy, resinous scent to your lawn when its red flowers appear in late winter or early spring. Butterflies and hummingbirds also find the blooms desirable. 

After its flowers die off, dark blue fruits appear and mature in the fall. These small berries are a favorite treat for local birds. You can even use the tart berries to make jams, pies, and syrup. Its fall leaves may turn a light yellow, providing your lawn with more seasonal color.

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Water through its first two summers 
  • Soil: Tolerates poor soil but prefers well-drained, rocky soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8-10 feet 

7. Evergreen huckleberry (vaccinium ovatum)

small dark berries hanging among small green leaves of a evergreen huckleberry shrub
Willamette Biology | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Like red flowering currant, evergreen huckleberry provides a sweet treat for butterflies and hummingbirds in the spring, while its fall berries are prized by local songbirds. Its spring flowers are white and pink, while the berries turn from red in the summer to deep purple in the fall. The new spring leaf growth is a reddish color, which gives great spring interest. Its mature leaves are a glossy green. Overall, it’s a very versatile plant and makes an attractive hedge in your landscape.

  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 7-9
  • Sun: Sun or shade; prefers partial or full shade
  • Water needs: Prefers moist soil
  • Soil: Tolerates clay, sand, and soils with low organic content; needs acidic soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-10 feet tall; grows taller in shade

8. Salal (gaultheria shallon)

Salal is often found in the forest understory as a shrub beneath Douglas fir trees. Like many of the shrubs on this list, its pink and white spring flowers give way to dark-colored berries in the summer and fall. 

Salal can become dense and hard to remove once established, but its wide, deep root system helps it to rebound after wildfires. If you enjoy creating flower arrangements, salal’s leaves and branches are often used for that purpose.

  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 6-8
  • Sun: Partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Tolerates seasonally moist soils
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-6 feet; grows taller in shade

9. Oregon grape (mahonia aquifolium)

small blue-ish berries among leaves on an Oregon grape shrub
Meggar at English Wikipedia | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Oregon grape is another shrub that displays color throughout the year. Its evergreen leaves turn to varying shades of red throughout the winter. In early spring, it produces fragrant yellow flowers that are followed by blue and purple berries (that resemble grapes) in the summer and fall. Its leaves look very similar to a holly leaf with prickly points around the leaf.

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who love Oregon grape’s early yellow blooms. Pollinators also love this early spring treat, and birds and other local wildlife appreciate the summer and fall berries.

  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade; prefers partial shade
  • Water needs: Minimal once established; drought-resistant in summer
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 7-10 feet tall; up to 5 feet wide

10. Indian plum (oemleria cerasiformis)

clusters of various colored Indian plums hanging from a branch
Upupa4me | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Like the Oregon grape and red flowering currant, Indian plum displays its white flowers early in the season — late winter or early spring in this case. Pollinators love the early feast that these flowers provide, while local avians enjoy the summer fruit. Note: You must have male and female plants for the female plant to set lots of fruit.

Indian plum works well in western Washington and is found in nature along streams and in woodlands at low elevations.

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 6-10
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Water needs: Likes to stay moist
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils but prefers fertile humus; must have good drainage
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6-30 feet tall; up to 12 feet wide

Trees

11. Vine maple (acer circinatum)

The vine maple is an excellent choice if you need a smaller tree to include in your lawn. It is prized for its varied bark coloration and vibrant red and gold fall leaf color. This native tree works well as an understory tree in the forest or in an open lawn in home landscapes. The young bark will be green, but as it ages, it turns a beautiful red-brown color. Vine maple produces red and whitish-green flowers followed by its characteristic samaras (aka helicopter seeds) in spring.

Homeowners may want to remove extra branches near the base when it is young. This will help it to grow more like a tree. If you want it to grow as a shrub, leave the lower branches in place.

  • Plant type: Large shrub or small deciduous tree
  • Hardiness zones: 6-9
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Once established, no irrigation
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils; must be well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 15-30 feet tall; 3-6 feet wide

Ground cover

12. Wild ginger (asarum caudatum)

Wild ginger growing out of leaf-covered earth
brewbooks | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

If you need a nice ground cover for shady areas underneath your trees, wild ginger is a popular choice. Often planted alongside ferns, wild ginger has heart-shaped leaves and produces a copper-reddish flower from April through July. This evergreen ground cover is unrelated to the ginger you’ll find at the grocery store, but its leaves and roots do release a ginger-like odor when crushed.

  • Plant type: Evergreen ground cover
  • Hardiness zones: 4-8
  • Sun: Full or partial shade, no direct sunlight
  • Water needs: Must stay moist
  • Soil: Fertile, organic matter
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6-10 inches

Do you want to find out more?

If you want to find out more about native plants of the Pacific Northwest, here are a few resources to get you started.

If you find yourself too busy hiking around the Cascade mountains or sailing on Puget Sound, let one of our Portland lawn care professionals take your landscape off your to-do list. 

Main Photo Credit: Peter Stevens | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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