Incorporating native plants into your garden is a great way to support local biodiversity. Insects, birds and all other critters rely on local plants that are well-suited to our climate to survive. Native and local plants are adapted to our climate and support the surrounding ecosystem. They require less water and maintenance as their needs are supported by the climate. There are extensive lists available, we are just highlighting some of our favourites. Add some native plants and watch your garden flourish!
Many of these plants have important Indigenous value, being used for centuries and having high cultural value.
- Sword Fern
Ferns are very common throughout the lower mainland, a fixture of a temperate rain forest. Ferns survive well in damp and shady areas, great for those difficult areas in the garden.
2. Deer Fern
Similar to a sword fern, but smaller. They do well in shade and can be easily burned with too much sun. They are fairly drought tolerant, so if you forget to water it, don’t worry. It will grow faster and taller with consistent moisture.
3. Douglas Aster
Ray-like flowers like daisies that have a long bloom time. A perennial wildflower that attracts many native pollinators like butterflies and bees. They are drought-tolerant but grow well in wet conditions. They like sun or partial shade. They grow when the days are long and flower when the days are short.
An annual flower that self-seeds. An umbellifer that is great for pollinators as it’s one of the first plants to bloom in spring. A great ground cover that likes full sun. Survives in moist to dry soil.
5. Black Lily or Nothern Rice Root or Rice Lily
A perennial plant identified by large nodding black flowers. They are slow-growing and long-living. It is very rare in the wild and should not be harvested. There’s a lot of work currently going towards re-establishing Black Lily in B.C.
False Lily of the Valley and Douglas Aster can indicate areas where Black Lily will grow well.
6. Kinnikinnik (Common Bearberry)
A ground trailing evergreen shrub that has thick, spoon-shaped leaves with red berries. It has many traditional uses
and cultural value for Indigenous people. It blooms in early May and produces berries that last throughout the winter. It likes sandier, well-draining soil.
7. Red Columbine
A great ground cover perennial that likes moist soil. Prefers partial to full shade.
Attracts pollinators and has beautiful red flowers. The flowers appear in late spring, early summer.
Photo: Sparrow Hawk Native Plants
8. Trumpet Honeysuckle
Also known as Orange or Northwest Honeysuckle is a sweet-smelling vine that grows in partial shade and moist soil. It does best with the roots in shade, and the leaves up a structure, like a fence or a trellis, in partial shade. Berries appear after the flowers die, they are a great food source for birds.
You can do light pruning after the flowers bloom. Do heavier pruning in late winter if your honeysuckle is overgrown.
9. Nodding Onion
An edible perennial herb with soft leaves and white or pink flowers that ‘nod’ downwards. All parts are edible, either raw or cooked and it has a faint onion scent. Prune only after it is done flowering. It likes full sun in moist soil.
Nodding Onion is an important cultural Indigenous food. The plants were harvested before flowering, the leaves were braided, and the bulbs were cooked in ovens.
Nodding Onions are threatened due to urban expansion.
A slow-growing, evergreen understory shrub that grows up to 6 feet in shade, and 3 feet in the sun. It survives in many conditions, from a backyard to the side of the highway. It has small, urn-shaped leaves the vary from light pink to white.
Salal is an essential plant for Indigenous people. The berries are edible, either being mashed into jams or dried into cakes. Before you eat any wild plant, please do your research and understand the risks.
11. False Lily of the Valley (Soloman’s Seal)
Big arrow to heart-shaped leaves that is a great ground cover for shadier areas. It likes wetter soils, commonly found as ground cover in dense forests. Clusters of small white flowers grow from the middle, and after the flowers die, red berries develop.
The berries are traditionally used medicinally for Indigenous people.
12. Pacific Bleeding Heart
They look great all year-round as they have fern-like leaves, and bloom with pink, white, or red heart-shaped flowers. They like shadier conditions and consistently damp soil.
A shade-tolerant plant with fluffy white flowers. They tolerate the Pacific Northwest rains well.
Great resources are available online.
- Gardening with Native Plants in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley
- From the South Coast Conservation Program
- Gardening with Native Plants
- From the Habitat Acquisition Trust based on Vancouver Island
- Not Native but useful
- Milk thistle