Fantastic Design Plant: Coast Silktassel

Among the coastal shrubs and wild chaparral that predict the mountainous coast of California and Oregon house, the pendulous catkins of shore silktassel (Garrya elliptica) really are a decoration. When most plants sleep through the winter, shore silktassel comes to life with a cascade of floral tassels.

Found by noted botanist David Douglas, shore silktassel has been popular at the California garden because the mid-19th century. And while it’s a California native that thrives along the Pacific Coast, its aesthetic worth prevails in gardens across the Atlantic — Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society even lurks its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) on the tree.

Debra Prinzing

Botanical name:Garrya elliptica
Common names: Coast silktassel, silk tassel bush, quinine bush, wavyleaf silktassel
Origin: Native to coastal ranges of California and southern Oregon
USDA zone: 8; hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (find your zone)
Water requirement:moderate to light
Light requirement:Full sun to light shade in warmer climates
Mature dimensions:10 to 20 feet tall and wide
Benefits and tolerances: Fairly drought tolerant; rabbits and deer usually ignore it; the fruit attracts birds; the flowers attract bees; tolerates coastal and urban states
Seasonal interest: Evergreen; blossoms in winter
When to plant: Plant seedlings in late spring or early summer, after the last frost. Does not endure root disturbance.

Peter L Edwards

Distinguishing attributes. Coast silktassel’s leathery green foliage recedes to garden backgrounds for the majority of the year.

Its gaudy winter catkins are what give this plant its name and place it apart from its own garden neighbors — particularly when most of them are dormant.


From ancient winter through early spring, pendulous male catkins suspend up to 12 inches under silktassel’s branches. These blossoms draw bees into the garden. Silktassel is dioecious, with male and female flowers occurring on different plants. If you’d like female berries for wildlife snacks, a man species has to be present. Male shrubs produce the gaudy winter inflorescence either way.

Silktassel is a dense, upright shrub, but its branches can also be trained as a tree. Popular cultivars include’James Roof’, with longer catkins, and the more compact’Evie’.

Janet Ulliott

How to use it. Coast silktassel is a brassy bloomer in winter but an inconspicuous native during the rest of the year. Its dense foliage makes it a fantastic windbreak, or it can even be grown to mask an unsightly wall. As a California native, it can be a characteristic in a coastal woodland garden.


Planting notes. In tune with all the coastal California climate, shore silktassel prefers mild temperatures, although it’s cold hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It tolerates fog, full coastal sun, rain and wind, and is relatively drought tolerant.

Be sure to water it well when it’s young to establish deep roots, as this is a long-lived plant. Provide moderate soil with good drainage — too rich and it won’t blossom. After it flowers you can prune the branch hints to keep a clean form.

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