Which Plants Can I Grow in Portland?
The city of Portland is easily one of the Pacific Northwest’s shining jewels. Hospitable, welcoming, and with a mantra that states, “Keep Portland Weird!” it’s hard not to find oneself endeared by the bustling city. Even better, specifically for the aspiring gardener, is the mild and accommodating climate that makes growing relatively easy with a prolonged season! Ample rainfall and warm summers accompanied by manageable winters help plants thrive here. If you’re looking to grow in Portland, we’ve got you covered!
Which Plants Grow Well in Portland?
As stated, a warm climate and milder seasonal variances are welcoming to many plants. Fruit trees, herbs, and flowering plants all love this area, and with the proper care, will flourish and yield spectacular results. As always, it’s a good idea to form a strategy for what you have in mind, and visiting a local park or arboretum will give you plenty of inspiration along with a good idea of what plants you want to see in your garden or in your home. All they need is a little help! Here’s a few that, with minimal effort, can brighten up any setting:
Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera Deliciosa): The Swiss Cheese plant is another name for this leafy addition, which is a result of its notched leaves and photogenic appearance. Capable of spreading quickly over large areas, once it establishes its growth, it will easily lend a jungle vibe to whatever setting you place it in. Even with a preference for areas that are consistently 50 ºF, it can still thrive in shaded places! Bright to medium indirect light for 6 hours a day is the ticket when indoors for this one. Spritz occasionally to keep things on the humid side and watch it grow!
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis): Aloe Vera is one of the most popular succulents in the world, being amazingly hardy to different environments and having significant medicinal and health uses! Being a succulent, this plant loves bright indirect light and can grow wonderfully outside until it gets down to 30ºF at night, where you should bring it in to keep safe! It tolerates low water and humidity levels well and is easy to propagate. The leaves themselves are packed full of antioxidants and antibacterial properties and are most commonly used as skincare ingredients or to treat mild burns.
You can never go wrong consulting a Farmer’s Almanac or similar resource to help you strategize and coordinate your growing season, particularly for any cold or warm-season fruits and vegetables you’re looking to grow. Here are a few that will thrive when planted in the right conditions:
Cold Season Veggies:
- Bolt resistant lettuce varieties
- Field peas
- Hot peppers
Warm Season Veggies:
Best Landscaping Plants in Portland
From berries to citrus, your options are abundant when trying to grow landscaping plants in Portland! Fruit trees are a great way to bring some vibrance to your garden, and the local bees and birds will love you for it. Be sure to check whether the plants you intend to grow are conducive to your area, and if you’re still uncertain, you can never go wrong by planting something native. Having already proven they can survive and thrive in the area, you’ll also have plenty of insight from a simple glance at the same plants growing elsewhere in your region. Just do what they do!
Here are a few ideas for inspiration:
- Abacá banana
- Alma fig
- Anna apple
- Bronze banana
- Bryan apricot
- Clementine tangerine
- Darjeeling banana
- Gala apple
- Jujube varieties
- Kumquat and Limequat varieties
- Marsh grapefruit
- Meyer lemon
- Montmorency cherry
- Multiple varieties of peaches and plums
- Ruby grapefruit
- Washington orange
Are flowers and shrubs more to your liking? Just remember that they need to be capable of enduring light frosts as well as hotter, sunnier summers. But not to worry! There are plenty that can in the Portland area, and here are just a few:
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis): Rosemary can turn any space into a lush and aromatic sanctuary! With a love for being outdoors, they do well in full sun so long as the climate doesn’t fluctuate to extreme heat or cold. Cut them back by one-third if your plan is to overwinter or bring this plant indoors, and be sure to let their soil dry out completely before rewatering. Just be sure to keep watering consistent as they thrive best in humid conditions!
Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata): A striking native wildflower, the Globe Gilia has beautiful green foliage with two to three foot stalks topped with round clusters of blue to lavender flowers. Also called Queen Anne's Thimble due to its resemblance to a pincushion, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to these fun flowers too!
Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides): A lovely aroma is exuded by this plant. Star-like flowers with vibrant, white blooms grow off vines that can reach heights of 6 feet in season! Given it can climb rapidly in the proper settings, this plant is perfect for trellises, railings, or lattices to really demonstrate its rapid growth in bright, direct sunlight. Keep the heat manageable, and you’ll also find this plant can handle the Portland winters with ease.
Which Plants are Native to Portland?
Are you considering native plants for your indoor or outdoor space? You’re already helping the local ecosystem and will soon be a favorite of the local birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators who rely on such plants for reliable food sources! Not only that, but given their adaptations to the environment, they’re easy to grow and help prevent soil erosion, all while complementing the native ecosystem. Be sure to consider local plants that might be endangered as well by checking your region! Here’s a brief list of a few native plants in the Portland area:
Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium, Repens, and Nervosa): Named for its edible, albeit rather tart berries, you’ll see this plant coloring the Portland and Oregon landscape a coppery, reddish hue. Its leaves change seasonally, and it also bears yellow flowers that bloom in early spring, which are loved by both people and pollinators alike! Just be aware that the Nervosa variant is considered a noxious weed in some places beyond Oregon!
Western Serviceberry (Amelanchier): A member of the rose family, this plant earned its name for the timing of its bloom, which is typically around Easter. It can grow to staggering heights of 25 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide! It’s a good thing the broad coverage comes with beautiful, white blooms and edible berries along with leaves that can be dried for tea too!
Other Plants that Grow Best in Portland
Gardenia Veitchii (Gardenia Jasminoides ‘Veitchii’): Aromatic, large, white blooms can be seen in mid-spring from this plant and can quickly bring some beautiful color to any garden. It’s also known as Cape Jasmine and thrives best in full sun to partial shade. If you’re growing indoors, indirect light works best. Wherever you grow, be aware it can reach heights of up to four feet, and while it can handle a light freeze, long periods of cold will lead to damage.
Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa): Easy to grow in your Portland garden, this is a favorite of pollinators like hummingbirds! The pink, heart shaped flowers are what gives this plant its name, growing up to 18 inches tall. This plant can survive in many circumstances, but prefers the cold and loves growing beneath trees such as the native conifers that grow across the region.
Wisteria (Fabaceae): A staple in most weddings and easy to see why the lovely waterfalls of flowers are always striking. Wisteria plants climb and grow extremely fast as well, and the Texas Wisteria, in particular, is known for its lavender-shaded flowers. A beautiful addition to any outdoor space, just be aware of its rapid growth and ensure it doesn’t choke out other plants next to it!
Portland Gardening Tips
As stated previously, it’s never a bad idea to consult your local Farmer’s Almanac or similar resource to plan your growing season, especially for any variables that might arise, such as fluctuating temperatures or sudden frosts. Even though in a forgiving climate, it’s good to plan ahead in the event mulching, raised beds, or cold frames are needed to endure or extend a growing season.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Portland?
Portland’s planting season is very approachable, with a final freeze date usually falling around March 15th and an initial freeze date around November 15th. Again, be sure to check your specific area for more accurate dates as variances occur from region to region. For vegetables, start them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost!
It’s also worth considering that winter gardens are a great option in Portland more than other areas across the U.S. Able to benefit from the milder climate, you can start with crops that prefer cooler temperatures like spinach or broccoli while the soil is still warm such as October, then grow into the colder months!
Planting in USDA Zone 8b and 9b
Zones 8 and 9 are actually split into two subzones. Zone 9a is distinguished by its temperature range of 20°F to 25 °F, and Zone 8b 15°F to 20 °F, respectively. Regardless of subzone, Zone 8 is actually the most common warm Zone in the U.S. Just keep in mind the potential for unusual but potential periods of prolonged heat or cold when planning ahead, and enjoy the use of various techniques that you can apply to yield even better results in the forgiving climate!