Jack out in Oklahoma read about my native evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum, and wondered whether it might grow in his area:
“Will this actually grow in Oklahoma City area? Or is it a borderline plant for our state?
Jack, a little poking around online at the USDA website shows that the evergreen huckleberry native to my area is not native to Oklahoma – not even close. Its range seems to be California and the Pacific Northwest, and it tends to grow in forested regions.
While I love evergreen huckleberry and consider it a staple plant in landscaping for the Pacific Northwest – it’s tough, needs little supplemental water, feeds local birds and provides habitat, is evergreen, and provides edible fruit for either humans or birds to eat – most of those qualities are due to the fact that it grows native here.
In Oklahoma, I would wager a guess that it would need supplemental water, you’d need to jolly it along and baby it, and the local birds wouldn’t be used to using it as a food or habitat plant, so the only birds you’ll attract with it will be generalist species like robins, which aren’t hard to attract to your garden in other ways.
Plus, while I do like that I can eat the berries, if I were considering planting a non-native plant specifically to eat the berries, evergreen huckleberry would not be my first choice. The berries are small and hard to pick, plus are kind of sour and are only good with hefty quantities of sugar.
So while evergreen huckleberry is cold-hardy in Oklahoma City (it’s hardy to Zones 6-8 and Oklahoma City is in zone 7), I would not personally plant it there.
Instead, call up your local agricultural extension agent (should be in the county section of the phone book), a local nursery, or your local native plant society, and ask them for suggestions for native shrubs that will grow well in your area. Tell them about the specific attributes that attracted you to evergreen huckleberry, and ask them about berrying plants for your region.
That way, you can get a shrub that’s well-adapted to your region, will attract your local birds, and will perform well without undue coddling and care.
Here are some resources for gardening with Oklahoma natives:
Gardening is an intensely regional activity, and while national plant campaigns for things like daylilies might have you believe otherwise, the best information about which plants to pick is always going to come from people in your own region, and as close to your own home as possible.