The coyote bush is a fast-growing shrub or groundcover that is native to the west coast of the United States. These plants are very easy to grow and are great for greening up disturbed, bare areas.
Read on to learn how to grow and care for this plant.
What Is A Coyote Bush?
The coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) is also often known as coyote brush, chaparral broom, bush baccharis, and dwarf coyote brush. These plants are part of the Asteraceae (daisy) family and there are more than 400 species of Baccharis, all of them native to the Americas. (1)
Coyote bush is a native evergreen shrub that varies in growth form according to subspecies, cultivar, and location. This plant tends to grow in a more upright form at inland locations. Near the coast where plants are exposed to salt spray and strong winds, these plants take on a low spreading shape.
The coyote brush plants are pretty variable in size, with some subspecies growing as tall as 12ft (3.6m), and others barely reaching 10 inches (0.25m). Upright forms will not grow wide, whereas prostrate cultivars will spread as wide as 12ft (3.6m) near the coast.
The chaparral broom is native to the west coast of the United States and Mexico from Oregon to Baja California where it grows at altitudes up to about 2000ft (610m). Here these plants can be found growing in a variety of habitats including oak woodlands and coastal bluffs.
The foliage of this plant consists of smooth and resinous (sticky), simple alternately arranged leaves, on shiny, dark brown stems. Plants grow from a strong taproot. (1)
Subspecies and Varieties
B. pilularis consanguinea is an erect subspecies that grows as tall as 12ft (3.6m), but usually to about half that. This inland form grows as an upright shrub and is ideal for use as a hedge.
B. pilularis pilularis is the coastal form that grows less than a foot tall but spreads as much as 12ft (3.6m) as a ground cover. The leaves of this subspecies are smaller than that of B. p. consanguinea.
‘Santa Ana’ is a dwarf cultivar of B. p. pilularis that has silvery foliage and spreads to about 6ft (1.8m). These plants produce white flowers and tend to grow in a mound shape.
‘Pigeon Point’ is another cultivar of B. p. pilularis that is popularly used as a ground cover in coastal areas. These plants spread to about 12ft (3.6m) and have dark green foliage.
Coyote Bush Flowers
Coyote bush shrubs produce flowers that are up to about ¼ inch (6mm) across on female plants and smaller on males. These blossoms are produced on disc-shaped flowerheads.
Male flowers are yellowish while female flowers whiteish, producing wind-dispersed seeds that can have new coyote bush seedlings popping up in your yard. For this reason, male plants are more desirable
The flowering period of this plant usually lasts from July to October and fruits ripen from September to December.
How To Grow A Coyote Bush
Coyote brush can be grown from seed. Collect fruits from female plants and dry them out in the sun or a warm, airy room. Once dry, you should remove the pappus (tuft of hairs surrounding the seed) of the fruits by rubbing them between your hands.
Plant these seeds in the spring or fall in a sandy substrate and they should germinate after about a week or two. (2)
Coyote bushes can be grown in a variety of soil types including sand, loam, and clay. These plants will also tolerate acid or alkaline soils with pH values ranging between 5 and 8.
Water sparingly, and once established, this plant can be left to naturalize. Giving your plants a light watering once a week will not do harm, however.
These plants do not tolerate shady conditions and are killed off when shaded over by larger shrubs and trees. You can get away with planting the coyote bush in partial shade but full sun is preferred.
These plants will thrive if planted in USDA hardiness Zones 7- 10. Especially if grown on the West coast where they are native.
Care and Maintenance
Coyote bush is very easy to grow, to the point where some consider this plant a weed. If you’ve grown only male plants, you should not need to uproot seedlings. As an ornamental shrub or groundcover, this plant grows moderately fast and is drought tolerant.
Be sure to water your plants weekly until they are established. After that, weekly watering will no longer be necessary, although keeping your plants hydrated will improve their fire-resisting abilities.
These plants withstand quite heavy pruning and low growing forms can even be mown and will grow back green and dense. They are naturally pest and disease resistant.
Coyote brush plants are pretty versatile. They aren’t quite showy and attractive enough for specimen planting but are a great option for getting new, bare gardens green and buzzing with life.
Grow these plants as a salt and drought-tolerant ground cover or a fast-growing hedge, depending on the subspecies. Coyote brush is also said to be valuable as a fire protection plant if watered. (2)
Records show that the coyote brush plant was used traditionally to relieve rash caused by poison oak. Branches from this plant were also used for the construction of arrow shafts and to remove spines from thorny fruits.
This plant attracts pollinators such as butterflies, wasps, and bees in the fall when very little else is flowering. Bush baccharis provides great cover for small mammals and birds and has the benefit of being deer resistant.
There are neater and more attractive plants than the Coyote bush. This plant really shines as a wildlife-attracting native species that requires little maintenance and grows fast to cover ground and green up an area.
(1) Smither-Kopperl, M. Plant Guide for coyotebrush (Baccharis pilularis). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation
(2) Karrfalt, R. P. & Olson, D. F. Jr. The Woody Plant Seed Manual. United States Department of Agriculture.
*image by Twoscorpions/depositphotos