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Easy-to-Grow Garden Plants for Columbia Basin of Washington State

Updated on October 18, 2017
Nancy Owens profile image

Nancy grew up on a farm and has been growing fruit, vegetables, and ornamental landscape plants for many years.

Purple Bearded Iris is a Garden Staple in the Columbia Basin

These purple bearded irises are loved for their beauty and indestructible nature. They are tolerant of drought as well as cold.
These purple bearded irises are loved for their beauty and indestructible nature. They are tolerant of drought as well as cold. | Source

Garden Staples in the Columbia Basin

There are many perennial plants that do well in this area. Gardeners sometimes refer to these plants as staples of the garden. These hardy plants are able to withstand the hot summers and cold winters to come back year after year.

If you are new to the area, or are new to gardening, the plants featured in this article will get you off to a good start with your landscaping and garden project.

Plants That Grow Well in the Columbia Basin

(click column header to sort results)
Common Plant Name  
Plant Characteristics  
Behavior and Growing / Growing Preferences  
Calendula
Annual in cold climates, Prolific Reseeder, tolerates cold and blooms late into the fall.
Thrives in Sun or Part Sun, Contains Herbal Healing Properties. Daisy-like blooms in yellow and orange colors. Leafy foliage in vibrant spring green. Calendulas bloom from spring to fall.
Gladiolas
Bulb. Annual in cold winters, However, bulbs can be grown as a perennial under the right circumstances. Bold, beautiful flower spikes in a variety of colors. semi-cold tolerant.
In the Columbia Basin, plant gladiola bulbs six to eight inches deep for mid-summer blooms. In the winter, cover the bed with bags full of mulch to avoid having to dig them up in the fall. These bulbs do well along fence lines and function as a tall, colorful border.
Iris
Perennial Propagates by making new roots / tubers. Easy to grow, Vivid color and large blooms
Iris plants add dramatic impact to early and mid-spring gardens. To start new plants, just break off, or separate the tuber-like roots and plant in a new location. Somewhat drought tolerant.
Lambs' Ear
Perennial, Reseeds naturally. Very soft to the touch, Dries well for lasting floral decor.
Part Shade, Filtered Shade, or Full Sun. This hardy plant can tolerate heat and sun but does best with a little shade.
Bachelors' Buttons
Perennial. Both root and Seed Propagation. Bachelors' Buttons can be perennial or annual. They come up early in the spring and will keep blooming and growing all summer provided they get enough water.
Full to Part Sun. Bright, vivid blue blooms. Often they will lay down after hard wind, but continue to grow and bloom. This can create a very dramatic display.
Fall Aster
Perennial Clumping habit. Tall, Around 3 ft, in height at maturity.
Full to Part Sun. Blooms in fall. Vivid lavender color blooms last until frost. To make more plants, divide large root bundles early in spring.

Weather in the Heart of Farming Country

A late spring storm passes over cropland.leaving a double rainbow in its wake near Othello, Washington
A late spring storm passes over cropland.leaving a double rainbow in its wake near Othello, Washington | Source

Growing Conditions in the Columbia Basin

The Columbia Basin of Washington State is a place of lush gardens, indigenous vegetation, and crops grown to feed our country and other countries as well. The climate in this area is generally considered high desert, but the ground is fertile and with the help of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, miles and miles of desert plains were converted to irrigated cropland, and thus, it became a significant contributor to the American Food Industry.

  • Climate: The climate in this area is one of four seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Temperatures can range from the occasional 20-degree-below mark in the winter, to temperatures upwards of 100 degrees in the summer. In addition, wind speed plays a factor in gardening as well. While the wind is fairly mild during the summer months, high winds in late spring, and fall can pose complications in successful growth of garden and landscape plants.
  • Soil: Typically, the soil is quite fertile, however, depending on where you are in Grant County, the soil could be sandy, rocky, or contain a clay-like element.
  • Growing Season: The growing season is long, but winter conditions are not conducive to gardening. Generally speaking, the growing season begins in late February for plants like lettuce, onions, garlic, and other cold-loving plants. At times, there may still be snow on the ground in early March. The growing season typically ends with the first heavy frost, which can come in mid to late October to mid to late November, depending on weather conditions.

Areas of Rocky Soil In the Basin

Landscaping with natural river bed rock. Plants shown are: Iris, Marigold, Petunia, Lobelia, and Geranium. This natural riverbed rock was taken from the ground on the property. The Moses Lake area was once under the Columbia river.
Landscaping with natural river bed rock. Plants shown are: Iris, Marigold, Petunia, Lobelia, and Geranium. This natural riverbed rock was taken from the ground on the property. The Moses Lake area was once under the Columbia river. | Source

Bulbs, Tubers, and Rhyzomes that Grow Well in the Columbia Basin

  • Daffodils: Tall daffodils grow to a height of around 2 feet. Dwarf varieties grow to around eight to ten inches and have smaller blooms. Both come in a variety of colors.
  • Snow Crocus: Blooms in early spring. Around, four inches high, these bright blooms open as the snow melts. Tiny bulbs can be planted in an established lawn for a unique and colorful texture element.
  • Iris: Bearded irises are a true garden staple in Grant County and the rest of the basin. They are prolific in nature, meaning they will grow more of themselves quickly. The iris is a rhizome as opposed to a tuber (like a potato) or a bulb (like a daffodil, tulip, or gladiola). See more information in the table above.
  • Gladiolas: Striking sun-loving bloom spikes for mid-summer color. They come in a variety of colors, but may need bags of mulch in the winter to keep them from getting too cold. Check the table above for planting and growing information.
  • Lilys: There is a wide variety of lily strains that will do well in the hot summers in and around Grant County and the rest of the basin. They can be planted in the spring or early fall. Larger varieties of the lily, when they plant is mature, can grow to a height of three feet and to a width of around four feet. Plant the tuber-like roots two to three inches deep in early spring. Keep soil damp.
  • Star Flowers: Small purple to blue flowers with a light, bright, star-like center Blooms early to mid spring. Early spring planting. Remember to plant tiny bulbs only an inch or so down into the ground. Follow package instructions if you purchase them from a store.
  • Grecian Wind Flowers: Delicate blooms on finely leaved branches. Blooms in mid spring. Very small bulbs, so don't plant them too deep. Great for naturalizing.

Gladiola

Gladiolas provide striking color pops.
Gladiolas provide striking color pops.

A Wide Variety of Garden Plants Grow Well in the Basin

Common cooking sage with purple blooms forms a lush and dramatic backdrop for Tuscan inspired fountain. Landscape Design by Nancy Owens,
Common cooking sage with purple blooms forms a lush and dramatic backdrop for Tuscan inspired fountain. Landscape Design by Nancy Owens, | Source

Garden Texture and Color

Gardening in The Columbia Basin. Calendulas light up a garden on a rainy day. The yellow blooms give bright pops of color against the lavender background of sage blooms.
Gardening in The Columbia Basin. Calendulas light up a garden on a rainy day. The yellow blooms give bright pops of color against the lavender background of sage blooms. | Source

Where do you fit in?

Have you heard of the Columbia Basin of Washington State?

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Fall Aster

Fall asters stand tall as they bloom brightly against the wall of an old wooden garden shed. I painted trees on the wall to make the shed seem like it was part of the landscape.
Fall asters stand tall as they bloom brightly against the wall of an old wooden garden shed. I painted trees on the wall to make the shed seem like it was part of the landscape. | Source

© 2017 Nancy Owens

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  • Nancy Owens profile image
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    Nancy Owens 5 weeks ago from USA

    It depends on where you are in the Basin. Where I live, there was a large influx of Ukrainian kids and we found we needed a translator. We ended up hiring a teacher's aid whose main job was to translate. I used to work in the public school system as a para pro, but have been out of it for years. Sorry you didn't get the job, but maybe there was a grander plan for your life, Lol!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    Very cool! When I first became a teacher, my goal was to teach in that part of the state. I couldn't get hired because I wasn't bilingual, but I have always loved that side of the mountains.

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 5 weeks ago from USA

    Hi Linda. It is nice to know these plants all grow up where you are. They are pretty tough plants. We get some pretty extreme weather here in terms of wind, drought, heat, and even cold. I tried French lilacs here, but the starts had a real hard time as soon as it got sunny and warm. Maybe they need to be in the shade?

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You've described some of my favourite flowers in this article. I appreciate the information that you've shared. I love the photo of the double rainbow. The combination of dark and light is beautiful.