Low Shrubs & Ground Covers

Common Name Species Local, Regional,  Western, Midwestern  Native, or Introduced Size Flower color Flower time Fruit Evergreen Xeric Comment
Kinnickinnik Arctostaphylos uva-ursi L low shrub/ ground cover pink spring yes yes very Easy to find in commerce.  Excellent groundcover for slopes or under pine trees.  Important plant to Native Americans.
Northern Buckwheat Eriogonum compositum L low shrub/ ground cover Cream to yellow to pink Early summer no extremely Wild buckwheats are very important to pollinators.   This one is one of our locals, a lover of very rocky sites.
Douglas' buckwheat Eriogonum douglasii W 6 - 8 inches butter yellow Summer   yes extremely Native throughout the west, Douglas’ buckwheat grows regionally in the western part of the Columbia Basin.  Small, narrow leaves.      
Wyeth buckwheat, Parsnip flower buckwheat Eriogonum heracleoides L 6 - 8 inches cream to yellow Early summer semi-evergreen extremely Native to the western US.  Large clusters of creamy white flowers grace low shubs with narrow, frosty-green leaves.  8- 14” tall, 1-3’ wide.  Fully hardy in this area.  Grows in sagebrush steppe, dry open Ponderosa pine forest, and on dry, rocky soils.
Snow buckwheat Eriogonum niveum R 1 ft. White Summer   semi-evergreen extremely Snow buckwheat is native to the Pacific Northwest.  A great plant for restoration and for xeriscapes.  Like all buckwheats, important for native pollinators: utilized by the rare Mormon metalmark butterfly.
Oval-leaf Wild Buckwheat Eriogonum ovalifolium W 1 inch creamy white Summer   semi-evergreen yes This wonderful little mat former or bun – shaped plant grows throughout the West in high elevations.  The flowers range in color from cream to pink to red to purple.  This variety has creamy white flowers.
Blue Mountain buckwheat Eriogonum strictum W 4-12 inches butter yellow Summer semi-evergreen extremely This buckwheat is common in NE Oregon.  Pale sea green leaves have white-wooly undersides.  Variable over its western range:  generally low-growing with light yellow flower clusters.
Sulfur Buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum var. hypoleium R low shrub/ ground cover yellow Summer yes yes There are MANY varieties and subspecies of Sulphur Flower Buckwheat.  This one occurs primarily in the Wenatchee Mountains.  It is a mat former with yellow flowers.  A new one for us - not sure how large it will grow.
Sulphur Flower Buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum var. majus R low shrub/ ground cover Cream to pink spring yes yes One of many varieties and subspecies of Sulphur Flower Buckwheat.  This one, from the mountains in Ferry County, WA,  is an outstanding ground cover for an occasionally watered area.  
Lavender Lavandula sp.(Hardy English) Introduced 2 ft lavender Summer   semi-evergreen yes Hardy English lavender does well in dry gardens.  Fragrant flowers have many uses, and are loved by bees.  Goldfinches eat the seeds.
Barrett's Penstemon Penstemon barrettiae R low shrub/ ground cover Purple spring yes very Officially rare in the wild, but easy to cultivate.  Native only to the area in and around the Columbia River Gorge.  Outstanding landscape plant.  Evergreen shrub about 6 - 12 inches tall by 3 - 4  ft. wide.  Long lived.
Shrubby Penstemon Penstemon fruticosus L 1 - 2 ft,  Purple, occasionally pink or white Spring yes very One of the very best of the locals.  Showy year-round.  Likes rocky sites.  May spread up to 3 ft.  Long lived in the landscape.
Pineleaf Penstemon Penstemon pinifolius W < 1 ft. red, occasionally orange or yellow Early to mid summer yes yes Have not tested how dry it will go.  VERY showy in bloom, and nice out of bloom. Needle-like foliage.  Cultivars available.
Cliff Penstemon, Rock Penstemon Penstemon rupicola R low shrub/ ground cover pink to purple spring yes yes Outstanding ground cover or rock garden plant.  Frequently pink flowered, with bluish foliage Very beautiful year-round.  Not common in commerce.  Long lived in the landscape.
Purple Sage Salvia dorrii L 1 - 2 ft, occasionally 3+ Purple Summer semi-evergreen extremely Very showy early summer bloomer.  Good for pollinators.  Some traditional medicinal uses.  Important to Native Americans.
Birchleaf Spiraea Spiraea betulifolia L to 2 ft. White Early summer no somewhat Forest shrub:  not a desert plant - likes occasional watering.  Very showy and attractive to different pollinators.
Hens & Chicks, Live-Forever, House Leek Sempervivum sp. Introduced Ground cover yellow, pink, white spring, summer yes yes Thousands of species exist, native to Europe.  Great plants for dry, rocky areas or green roofs.
Creeping Thyme Thymus sp. L Ground cover White, pink or purple Summer yes yes Great groundcover for dry areas, although it is not a native plant.  Lawn substitute for areas with light foot traffic.