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Since this year we are finding big sunny warm days being somewhat elusive here in the Willamette Valley, it seemed like a good time to feature a cheery native perennial whose common name is Oregon sunshine! Eriophyllum lanatum is an easy-going native perennial, bothered by almost nothing except too much water. Want something for that sunny spot beyond the reach of your irrigation? This might be just what you need.
A highly variable plant, depending largely on growing conditions, it can range from four to twenty-four inches in height, in a garden setting typically reaching somewhere in the middle. Delicately and deeply lobed leaves are a grayish green, all the more 'wooly' in appearance due to their covering by soft white hairs. This grayish hue is the perfect foil for the dazzlingly bright yellow of the daisy like flowers – in the same way that an overcast day highlights the colors in the garden – which freely cover the plant in a long bloom time, generally May into July. These bright and cheery flowers attract numerous species of beneficial insects and butterflies.
This is one plant that Willamette Valley gardeners could easily kill with kindness. It's at home in dry, rocky conditions; drought tolerant in a big way once established, it is best to think of this plant in a rock garden, trough, or in that almost-nothing-will-grow-there parking strip. Too much water and/or too little drainage will prove its demise. It won't even tolerate much in the way of summer water unless the drainage is excellent.
Alternately, it might be one of those plants best kept in a container and pulled under the protection of house eaves or porch overhang during our wetter months. (Think Lewisia, Penstemon, etc.)Full sun to light shade suit Eriophyllum best. A great addition to help attract butterflies and numerous beneficial insects to your garden, and make you feel just a little bit sunnier, regardless of the weather!
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Common Name: Oregon sunshine, wooly sunflower
Origin: semi-desert and other rocky, arid places at low and mid-altitude locations throughout western North America
Characteristics: Clumps of green, deeply lobed leaves are covered with fine white hairs, giving the foliage a soft, grayed appearance that sets off the bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that appear in spring and continue well into summer. Plants grow 4-24" tall, depending on conditions. Attractive to several species of butterflies.
Culture: This plant thrives in full sun to light shade, and very well-drained rocky/sandy/dry soil. Drought-tolerant, will accept some summer water only if drainage is excellent. Can be propagated easily from seed gathered in the fall.
Pests/Diseases: Eriophyllum is considered disease-resistant. Its leaves sometimes experience damage from insects, but not very common.