The Q&A Archives: Planting in western esposure

Question: My house faces the west, and I desperately need some ideas for plants that I can put in the front that will survive the heat of the day. Could you give me a variety of options or ideas about dressing up the front of the house with plants?

Answer: In the site you describe I think you'll have the most success with native plants. Natives can tolerate the local soil and weather conditions without trouble and most are attractive to birds, providing a bonus to your yard. Here's a short list of suitable native plants:

Amelanchier alnifolia (Serviceberry) -- This native shrub grows up to 15 feet tall. It has white flowers in spring and produces edible, blue fruits in summer. Plant in full to partial sun, this shrub is moderately drought tolerant.

Atriplex canescens (Fourwing saltbush) -- This 4-6 foot tall shrub has grayish-white deciduous leaves and non-showy flowers. It is grown primarily for wildlife, for its drought tolerance, and as a firewise species.

Berberis repens (Creeping Oregon grape) -- A low-growing, evergreen subshrub or ground cover with holly-like leaves. Drought and shade tolerant, it is native to the forest understory. Grows 1 foot tall and flowers are a bright yellow in April and May.

Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Gray rabbitbrush) -- This 3-6 foot tall, yellow flowering shrub is extremely drought tolerant. It flowers in late summer/early fall, and performs best if pruned each spring prior to regrowth.

Cornus sericea (Red-osier dogwood) -- Showy, bright red stems make this a favorite shrub for landscaping. It grows to about 8 feet and spreads by layering. Produces white berries in fall. Deciduous, large leaves w/prominent venation.

Crataegus douglasii (Douglas hawthorne) -- This thorn-bearing shrub can grow to 15 feet tall. It is moderately drought tolerant and produces a purple-black fruit in summer that is favored by birds.

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) -- This deciduous shrub typically grows 8-15 feet tall and spreads vegetatively. It produces clusters of white flowers on pendulant spikes in the spring. Fruits ripen to a deep purple to black color in summer. Tolerant of a variety of soil conditions.

Rhus trilobata (Oakleaf sumac) -- A drought tolerant shrub that obtains a height up to 6 feet and 8 feet across. It has attractive foliage that is particularly showy in the fall. Also known as lemonade bush due to the lemon flavor of the fruits. However, fruits are best eaten by wildlife rather than humans.

Ribes aureum (Golden currant) -- This 4-6 foot tall deciduous shrub produces bright yellow flowers in late March and early April. It is tolerant of a variety of site conditions, though grows best with regular irrigation and in partial sun. An excellent species for birds due to the small orange-red fruits it produces in summer.

Ribes cereum (Wax currant) -- Native at mid-elevations in Idaho, this 4-5 foot tall deciduous shrub produces a white to pink-tinged tubular flower, followed by a dull to bright red unpalatable berry. Requires regular irrigation.

Rubus parviflora (Thimbleberry) -- Native to the understory in many Idaho forests, thimbleberry grows best in partial shade and requires regular irrigation. It spreads vegetatively similar to raspberries, but much more slowly.

Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry) -- This opposite branching shrub produces pink to white flowers in May or June, followed by a white, berry-like fruit in late summer and winter. It grows to about 5' tall and spreads vegetatively. Tolerant of partial shade, it requires regular irrigation.

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly everlasting) -- This white-flowered perennial blooms prolifically from June to September. It grows to 18" tall, is tolerant of poor soils, needs moderate amounts of water, spreads by rhizomes, but is not aggressive. Common in forested habitats of Idaho.

Antennaria microphylla (Rosy pussytoes) -- A low-growing perennial that is somewhat mat-forming. Leaves are a silvery gray color. Prefers well-drained soils and low to moderate amounts of water. Flowers cream colored to pink tinged.

Balsamorhiza sagittata (Arrowleaf balsamroot) -- A long-lived, drought tolerant native perennial that emerges in April and flowers in May around Boise. Plants do not flower until 4-5 years old. Flowers are sunflower-like. Goes dormant in summer until the following spring.

Eriogonum heracleoides (Wyeth buckwheat) -- Woody, long-lived buckwheat that reaches a maximum height of 18". Unusual garden plant with creamy white flowers in the summer. Best if grown in partial to full sun. Moderately drought tolerant.

Eriogonum umbellatum (Sulfur buckwheat) -- This long-lived, creeping perennial requires good drainage and full sun. Its deep yellow flowers appear in early summer and can be dried for flower arrangements. It has attractive, evergreen, round leaves. Drought tolerant.

Geranium viscossissimum (Sticky geranium) -- Grows from 18-30" tall at low to moderate elevations in the mountains. Pink to lavender colored flowers bloom in the summer. Requires moderate amounts of water.

Geum triflorum (Prairie smoke) -- This mountain meadow native requires full to partial sun and moderate amounts of water. It produces interesting reddish flowers from early to mid-summer. Low-growing, evergreen foliage. Flower stalks are 10-18" tall.

Lupinus polyphyllus (Bigleaf lupine) -- Plants grow up to 30" tall and are generally associated with moist areas in the mountains. Summer flowers vary from lavender to blue to pink.

Mimulus lewisii (Lewis monkeyflower) -- This moisture-loving plant grows along mountain streams and springs. It grows to about 18" tall in full to partial sun. First discovered by Meriwether Lewis, this stunning plant has large, purplish-red tubular flowers.

Penstemon deustus (Hotrock penstemon) -- Perennial white-flowered forb. Widespread in the western US. Grows in rocky sites in full sun. Flowers in May and June. Base may become somewhat woody. Avoid overwatering this drought tolerant species.

Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker penstemon) -- Perennial forb of the Great Basin (UT, NV; not native to Idaho). Easily grown in full sun, produces many red, tubular flowers from May to June. An excellent hummingbird attractant. Drought tolerant. Avoid overwatering. Relatively long-lived.

Penstemon fruticosus (Shrubby penstemon) -- A low-growing (to 18" tall), semi-evergreen subshrub with large, blue to lavender tubular flowers in June and July. Requires well-drained soils and is longer lived than many other Penstemons.

Penstemon venustus (Lovely penstemon) -- This 36" tall plant (w/flower stalks) produces lavender to purple flowers from May to June. The native habitat includes open rock outcrops and gravelly slopes. Grows best in full sun with moderate amounts of water.

Sidalcea oregana (Oregon checkermallow) -- Produces 3 foot tall pale lavender colored spikes of flowers. Grows best in full sun, but is not drought tolerant.

Sisynchrium idahoense (Blue-eyed grass) -- This 10-15" tall member of the Iris family produces blue to reddish-purple flowers in early spring. Native to sites that are moist in spring. Prefers full sun. Becomes dormant in summer.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (Gooseberryleaf globemallow) -- A drought tolerant orange-flowered native of low elevation sites in southern Idaho. Requires full sun and very little water once established. With flower stalks, can grow about 24" tall.

Sphaeralcea munroana (Munro globemallow) -- Perennial forb that produces a showy, salmon-colored, five-petaled flower. Grows to about 2 feet tall. Plant in full sun and avoid overwatering.

Hope this information is helpful.

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