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Close-up of the showy blue and white flowers of Elegant Calicoflower (Downingia elegans). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Elegant Calicoflower

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Downingia elegans

This elegant annual wildflower, also known as Common Downingia or California Lobelia, is a low plant that branches extensively and sports countless blue and white “calico” flowers in late spring and early summer. The flowers are not only striking to humans, but adored by pollinators of all kinds - including being a food source for the endangered Willamette Valley endemic Fender's Blue Butterfly. It is naturally found in bogs and wetlands, making it a wonderful candidate for filling in between plants in your sunny raingardens and bioswales. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: Annual, herbaceous plant
  • Size at maturity: up to 12” tall and equally wide 
  • Light requirements: full sun
  • Moisture requirements: moist to wet soil 
  • Bloom time: April - July
  • Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: Supports and attracts native pollinators, food source for the endangered Willamette Valley endemic Fender's Blue Butterfly.
  • Native habitat/range: Locally common in Vernal pools, bogs, wetlands, margins of lakes and ponds, wet meadows, ditches from British Columbia, to select counties in WA, south into CA from 50 - 1600 meters. The bulk of Oregon populations occur in the Willamette Valley. Portland Plant List - yes.

Gardening with Elegant Calicoflower: This is a gorgeous wildflower for sunny, seasonally wet areas, such as rain gardens or bioswales, in rich soil that can retain the moisture it needs. Each plant is small but it's erect branches can hold its own in the garden and will resist competition from other plants. Occasional water during dry spells in late spring and early summer will extend its beautiful blooms. This plant is an annual, so once the flower is finished, stop watering but leave plants in place to senesce naturally. Then, cross your fingers that this beauty plentifully reseeds itself for next year. Also works exceptionally well as a container plant.

Seed Packets Contain: approx 650 seeds

Seed Sowing instructions: Great in BIOSWALES & RAINGARDENS! Naturally occurs in vernal pools, bogs, and wetlands. Blooms as water recedes. Can be fall or spring sown. Seeds are considered non-dormant but cool temps may enhance germination. Spring sow as early as possible.

Stratification: none

Planting depth: surface to very shallow

Seeding rate:

  • Broadcasting: approx 60 seeds/sq ft.
  • Small pots: very small “pinch”
  • Spots in situ: very small “pinch”


Photo Credit: Heritage Seedlings and Liners