Category Archives: Small Shrubs

Mockorange

Mock orange (Philadephus lewisii)
Philadelphus lewisii

Mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii) is an elegant native shrub which grows 3-9 feet tall and has a rounded form. The long stems are red when new and fade to gray with age, the older bark shredding in small flakes. Leaves are usually oval, 1-2 inches long, and a medium green.

White flowers start appearing in clusters at the ends of stems after the plant is 3-4 years old. At the height of bloom, older plants are covered in masses of sweet-smelling flowers, which have a scent similar to orange blossoms with a hint of pineapple.

This plant is as popular with wildlife as it is with people. The indra and pale swallowtail butterflies visit it for nectar, as do hummingbirds and many other pollinators. Tiger swallowtails lay their eggs on it. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds and shelter in the foliage.

Mock-orange’s green leaves turn soft yellow in autumn, contrasting beautifully with the dark green of of evergreen huckleberry and red fall foliage of Western viburnum. Add an understory of sword fern for year-round beauty and wildlife value!


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 6-10ft
  • Mature Width:4-10ft

Pacific Ninebark

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
Physocarpus capitatus

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) is a dense deciduous shrub growing up to 12 feet tall. The name refers to the unusual bark, which naturally peels off in many colorful layers.

The shrub has maple-like lobed leaves and attractive clusters of small white flowers in May and June. The unique fruit is a glossy red pod which turns dry and brown, and then splits open to release seeds.

The twigs, berries, buds, and leaves are all browsed by wildlife. Pacific ninebark is very important for pollinators, especially solitary bees who lay their eggs and take shelter for the winter in the hollow stems. Pacific ninebark is also a food source for the young of spring azure butterflies, and many birds use it for nesting.

It is often found in wetlands, but also forms thickets along rivers and in moist forest habitats. It can also tolerate some drought. Create a dense deciduous screen by growing it in combination with oceanspray and Douglas spirea. Best in full sun to part shade.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 8-12ft
  • Mature Width:4-7ft

Red Flowering Currant

Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum

Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is an upright, multi-stemmed deciduous shrub that can get 6-10 feet tall, and is considered one of our prettiest native shrubs. Its bright pink, dangling flower clusters in late February and March are welcome signs of spring!

The bark is dark brownish-grey with pale brown lenticels. The palmate leaves have five lobes, and young leaves and flowers have a scent variously described as spicy or resinous. The fruits form as clusters of dark purple berries which contrast beautifully with the rosy gold fall foliage.

Keep a pair of binoculars handy if you plant this lovely shrub, because red flowering currant is a favorite of hummingbirds and other wildlife all year long. The flowers are important early spring nectar sources for rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds, spring azure and mourning cloak butterflies, and many native bees. Many birds eat the berries in the fall and winter, including towhees, thrushes, cedar waxwings, and sparrows. This charming plant also hosts the eggs of zephyr butterflies, and provides shelter for songbirds.

Red flowering currant can tolerate shade, but grows best (and blooms the most) in sunny locations with well drained soils.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-10ft
  • Mature Width:3-10ft
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