Top Portland Area Plants For 2018

by Ben Bowen

What To Plant in Portland in 2018

"Best plants" is subjective. But this list is full of plants that fit THE prevailing landscape design trend: sustainable and low maintenance (or vice-versa). Here are 10 great plants that are sure to fit your yard in 2018, and beyond:

Top 10 Plant Choices:

  • Oregon Green Austrian Pine. Medium sized pine, founded in Oregon. It's a great drought tolerant tree and has an open, naturally layered habit. Looking for a pine that feels Japanese influenced without careful pruning? This is your pine. View on PlantLust.
  • Serviceberry. Native shrub or small tree with delicate blooms and edible berries. A great specimen tree for the small garden, especially if you want to think beyond the Japanese Maple. View on Plant Oregon. More edible natives here.
  • Dwarf Fountain Grass. Hardy little grass with soft blooms. Plant it and forget it. Read more (and purchase) at Garden World.
  • Soft Caress Mahonia. You know it as that "stickery plant I hate and will never ever plant." Or maybe you know it as Oregon Grape. Either way, it is an extremely low maintenance (possibly native) choice, and this variety is pretty too.
  • Ferns. At the base of existing trees, or anywhere you have dense shade. Once established they can go years without care or extra water. But, they do look nicer if you remove dead fronds yearly. Some great suggestions here.
  • Wild Strawberry. A native groundcover that will please your neighborhood birds, squirrels, and water provider. Need more suggestions for native ground cover? Good post here.
  • Witchazel. Shrub or small tree with fantastic winter blooms. I was struck by the use of these at The Highline in NYC, and I am sure you will love them in your garden too.
  • Dwarf Strawberry Tree. Another shrub or small tree (great choices for small yards) that will fill multiple rolls in your landscape. They provide food for wildlife, year round interest for you, and are very drought tolerant once established. The bark will gt better with age too!
  • Ceanothus. This is a huge family of plants, but California Lilac is the one you have been seeing more and more (including in my yard). For good reason too. It's a beautiful evergreen with soft purple blooms. They are very hardy and fit into many garden styles.
  • Manzanita. Another large family, full of great choices for the Pacific NW. These may be the most drought tolerant choices around. In fact, most will suffer or die if you give them summer water! Here in Portland the best place to choose some is at Cistus.

What NOT To Plant In 2018?

Stay away from invasives and plants that will outgrow the space you have for them- these have always been no-no's. You should also add most azaleas and rhododendrons to your "avoid" list as well. Why?

Azalea lace bugs are now common in Portland. They slowly, but surely, damage and kill azaleas and rhodies. (More on them here.) These varieties have long been staples of the PNW garden- mainly because they are beautiful and extremely easy to care for. That is no longer true!. Save yourself the trouble and plant something else.

Update: Not everyone agrees with that advice on Azalea Lace Bugs.

Where To Buy Your Plants?

Portland is home to tons of nurseries, both retail and commercial. My list of top Portland nurseries is a good place to start your search.