5 Low Water Use Plants For Portland

by Ben Bowen

Some plants are like a BMW. They look amazing. Sure, they are a little expensive but you can handle it. But stop. And think. Can you afford the long term costs? Do you have any idea how much a tuneup or even oil change will cost for your beautiful car?

That amazing plant also has long term costs. How much maintenance will it require? How much water will it use? Before you head to the nursery this spring spend a couple minutes thinking about the true cost of a plant. This is key step in sustainable landscaping for Portland.

Portland Landscaping That Is Water Wise...

Starts with great plant choices. Before you can install a quality irrigation system you need plants to water! Here are 5 great choices to get you started:

1. Chinese Pistache

This is a great tree. Drought tolerant, does not get too large, roots are not destructive, and amazing fall foliage. Pistache is really a beautiful tree. And even though it's on Portland's approved street tree list (you can plant it in your parking strip) you do not see too many of them around. Want a water wise tree that will get your neighbors talking? Look no further!

Look at that fall color!   Contact us   to get one planted!

2. Red Flowering Currant

Currants native to the Pacific Northwest have become increasingly popular. It's easy to see why. Beautiful flowers that are easy to grow- who doesn't want that?

Currant is a versatile plant, equally at home in a wooly and wild flower garden or serene woodland landscape. They do appreciate a little shade in the afternoon and will burn in full sun.

While they would love to get out of control, it is easy to keep them reigned in with some judicious hand pruning.

Love those flowers. Not comfortable hand pruning? We are!

3. California Lilac

Don't hold the "California" against it. This is a truly striking plant when in bloom. It boast a deep blue flower that will be the highlight of your garden for a month each year.

I like California Lilac best when we have space to work with. It is a good size shrub, though it can be controlled with pruning. Plant it in the background and surround it with mass plantings of grasses or perennials. You won't regret this low water wonder.


4. Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac

I love that Sumac doesn't look drought tolerant. It is so distinctive, almost tropical in appearance. You would think it's a specimen plant that has to be carefully tended to. The Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac is a great choice for a large bush or small tree.

One caution: it can run. The sumac sends out roots that can put up new plants. They can easily be removed, but you need to catch them early. If the Sumac is in a contained bed you don't have to worry about it.


5. Blue Oat Grass

Here at Ross NW Watergardens we use a lot of ornamental grasses. Blue Oat Grass is one of our "go-to" varieties. It's grey/blue foliage brings colors into the garden that are very hard to find.

It is very low maintenance and fits almost any landscape style. We like to use it in mass plantings. As the clumps spread you get a mound of blue in your garden.

Don't confuse Blue Oat Grass with Blue Fescue. Blue Fescue is also drought tolerant and is not a bad plant. It does need completely cut back every few years or it gets "ratty".


Drought Tolerant Landscaping In Portland

Want to go beyond just these 5? Here is a more comprehensive list of drought tolerant plants that are perfect for Portland.