If you are familiar with this plant you either live in the northwest United States or know it from the floral trade. A member of the heather family salal is native to the coniferous forests of western North American, growing as far north as Baranof Island, Alaska. It is extensively cultivated for its leaves which are use in flower arrangements. It is a tough evergreen shrub that can be used as a ground cover if pruned but can grow to 5’ tall. It spreads by suckers and in its natural habitat forms dense stands and can become invasive. The medium-sized leaves are rich green with a leathery texture. Small flowers are produced in clusters during the spring and early summer and are followed by blue-black berries that can be made into jelly or jam, that is, if the birds don’t get them first. The berries are also an effective appetite suppressant.

Type: Evergreen shrub

Bloom: Small white to pink bell-shaped pendant flowers are produced clusters in spring and early summer.

Foliage: Bright green evergreen leaves, 2-4” long x 1-3” wide, are tough and leathery.

Size: 3-6’ H x 3-6’ W

Light: Shade to sun

Soil: Average, moist to dry, acidic to neutral; drought tolerant once established

Hardiness: Zones 6-8

Care: Apply a mulch of compost or peat moss in spring to help preserve moisture; control unwanted growth

Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to black mildew, powdery mildew, leaf gall and fungal spots.

Propagation: Semi-ripe cuttings in summer; rooted suckers in spring

Companion plants: Sword fern (Polystichum munitum), dull Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa), inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra), small-flowered alumroot (Heudnera micrantha), false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa).

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By Karen