Fernbush is the plant we need right now: it is drought tolerant, deer resistant and attracts pollinators. Don't be fooled by the delicate, fern-like leaves - this plant is a hardy and beautiful shrub. It is perfect for foundation plantings, perennial beds and hedgerows. Due to it's unique foliage and sweet, white flowers, Fernbush is suitable as both an accent plant or as a background plant to brighter colors.
This western native's historical range spans from "east of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains from Deschutes Co., Oregon, to southern California and eastward across southern Oregon and Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and northern Arizona and New Mexico ." (1) It will grow well in any arid and dry climate with well-draining soil. It is not recommended for humid areas or soils high in organic matter. Fernbush is hardy to Zone 4 and is semi-evergreen. Don't be too concerned if your Fernbush loses all its leaves in winter! It is commonly deciduous in cold locales.
In mid summer, profuse white flowers erupt from the soft foliage contrasting the cinnamon-colored bark of the stems. Butterflies and bees flock to the persistent blooms which are a great source of nectar during the end of summer. Blooms can last for over a month, providing color and interest to any garden or landscape even while many other natives are moving towards dormancy.
In the wild, it grows with native grasses and cactus but in the garden it grows well with many other species. In my home garden, it is growing with a mix of desert plants including Indian Rice Grass (Achnatherum hymenoides), Munro's Globemallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) and Large Flowered Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus) and also a mix of woodland and prairie plants such as Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani).
Care and Maintenance: Fernbush is easy to care for!
It has no known pests or diseases.
It does not need to be pruned, but can tolerate pruning if you need to cut it back. For best results, prune in early winter after deciduous trees have lost their leaves (2). Keep in mind, flowers grow from mature foliage so you will want to retain as much of the plant as possible!
Focus on deep and infrequent watering, even during establishment. Once established, it needs very little water.
Ensure it is planted in well-drained soil.
Soil: Low nutrient, well-draining, gravelly
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
*many references listed full sun to partial shade but we recommend planting in an area where your Fernbush will receive at least 6 hours of sun*
Bloom time: June to late August/early September
Bloom color: White
Height: 3-6ft *height and width are dependent on how much water your plant receives*
"Chamaebatiaria millefolium." Oregon State University https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/chamaebatiaria-millefolium
Bone, Mike. "Fernbush: Fantastic!" Plant Select https://plantselect.org/plantstories/fernbush-fantastic-fernbush/
McGrath, Laurie. "Fernbush." Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners https://www.sfemg.org/2020-blog/fernbush-chamaebatiaria-millefolium