Salal PlantGaultheria shallon
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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Salal is a mounding, evergreen, native shrub that stays low in the sun and can reach 10 feet tall and wide in shady places. The attractive rounded leaves are glossy and rich green, and in late spring sprays of white to pink flowers decorate it. These become red or blue berries by late summer, which are edible. Grow it as a groundcover in shade or woodland gardens with azaleas, rhododendrons or ferns, in coastal gardens, or on banks and slopes. It can also be used in planter boxes.
Salal will grow in almost all light conditions, from full sun to full shade, and everything in between. It grows in all kinds of acid soils, from sandy dunes to peat soils. It is very resistant to all pests, diseases and to deer and salt-spray too. It can be trimmed as needed to control its size, but it cannot be transplanted easily once established.
Where you see the name ‘Salal’ you might at first draw a blank, but if you see the leaves then you will go, “Ah, yes.” Branches with the beautiful rounded leaves of this bush are common in flower arrangements, and a staple of florists, who call them, ‘lemon leaves’. If that is all you know, then this could be the best native plant you have never heard of. You know those dark spots beneath conifer and evergreens, that are almost impossible to fill? Salal has that trick down pat, and thrives in the deeper shade beneath trees like that, giving height, beautiful evergreen foliage, fascinating pink and white flowers, and even edible berries. All you need to provide is some acidic soil that isn’t too dry, such as in the areas you might be growing rhododendrons or azaleas in already. When planting wooded areas with shade plants, there are always those ‘deeper shade’ places – well, Salal is the answer. Taller than most ground covers, with the potential of passing 6 feet in good conditions, this plant spreads into a dense, evergreen cover that always looks great, and takes care of itself. Salal – no more empty spots in shade.
Salal is a bushy evergreen shrub, growing only a couple of feet tall in sun and dry soil, but reaching over 6 feet and even up to 10 feet tall in ideal conditions. It thickens naturally from the base, covering an area about equal to its height. The bark on the branches is shredding, and a red-brown color. The leaves are glossy and smooth, with a leathery texture, and they are a dark green color. They are up to 4 inches long, and broadly oval, even egg-shaped, with a finely serrated, almost bristly border. The very attractive foliage is used in flower arrangements as ‘lemon leaves’. New leaves are lighter green and the foliage stays green and attractive all through the winter months.
In late spring clusters of flowers appear at the ends of the branches. These are urn-shaped and hanging, a little less than ½ inch across and white to pale pink, in clusters of 5 to 15. By late summer these have developed into round berries, between ¼ and ½ inch in diameter, that are dark red to blue when ripe, with a rough, faintly bristly outer skin. These are edible, with a sweet flavor, and can be eaten fresh, dried, or turned into preserves. Birds and wildlife also enjoy the berries.
Provided you have acidic soil, Salal is a very useful shrub in many locations in your garden. It is perfect for evergreen ground cover, particularly where height is needed, in all light levels. Grow it in the year-round shade of conifer trees, where few other plants will grow. It is an obvious choice for woodland and shade gardens, but also for covering slopes and banks, in city, cottage or seaside gardens, in rocky areas and even in planter boxes for evergreen background and privacy.
Salal is hardy in zones 6, 7 and 8, growing well in areas with damp summers.
You can literally grow Salal in all light conditions, from full sun to full moderate shade. Growth will generally be taller in shadier places, but this is a plant that can easily be trimmed to control its size. The soil should be acidic, but otherwise it will grow in all types of well-drained soils, from moist to dry.
You can trim after flowering to control the size, or at any time between spring and early fall. Salal spreads slowly by sending up shoots from the roots, but it is difficult to transplant once established, so choose your spot carefully. It has excellent resistance to pests, diseases and deer, and it is considered fire-resistant too, in that it will resprout from the roots even if burned to the ground. It is also resistant to salt-spray and can be grown in coastal areas.
Salal, Gaultheria shallon, is a plant native to North America. It grows wild throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to Oregon and along the California coastal strip. It is found in swamps, forests on peatlands and beneath the trees in conifer forests. It was discovered in 1825 by the plant explorer David Douglas, a Scotsman who travelled through the northwest, although it had been mentioned earlier by Lewis and Clarke. The name ‘Salal’ is from the local Chinook tribes name for it, salal or shallon.
Growing native plants has become a way to garden, and with Salal you won’t have to give up beauty to do it. We love having special plants like this to offer, and we know how well they will contribute to your garden. But order now, as this plant is always in short supply at nurseries, and it will soon be sold out.