coyote brush

Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis): How To Grow and Care

Sharing is caring!

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. It grows prostrate and mat-forming on dunes and coastal locations with onshore winds and salt spray, and erect and rounded at higher elevations inland.

In habitats such as coastal sage scrub and chaparral, coyote brush is recognized as a secondary pioneer plant. 

The coyote brush plants are pretty variable in size, with some subspecies growing as tall as 12ft (3.6m), and other species 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 bright green 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) 

coyote brush

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.

The male and female flowers of the Coyote Bush grow on separate plants. Male flowers are yellowish while female flowers whiteish, producing wind-dispersed seeds that can have new coyote bush seedlings popping up in your yard.

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. 

To eliminate seed production, select a male plant, albeit you will lose the spectacular white fruits.

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 ground cover, 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. If desired, the upright form can be pruned to resemble a tree.

They are naturally pest and disease resistant.


Horticultural uses

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. It is fire-resistant and is also utilized in restoration and erosion control projects.(2)

Human uses

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. 

Wildlife uses

Baccharis species provide nectar for native insects, wasps, and butterflies.

Therefore, this plant attracts pollinators in the fall when very little else is flowering. Bush baccharis provides great cover for birds, rabbits, and other small mammals has the benefit of being deer resistant.


Is coyote brush native to California?

Yes, Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis) is native to California, as well as other areas of the west coast from Southern Oregon to Northern Baja California and on the Channel Islands.

Is coyote bush deer resistant?

Yes, the coyote brush is not of great value to browsing animals, so you don’t have to worry about deer damaging these plants.

How do I identify a coyote bush?

Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis) can be identified by its small, oblong or lance-shaped leaves, which are often coated with fine hairs, giving them a silvery or grayish-green appearance. This native California shrub is typically low-growing and may form dense thickets, especially in coastal areas.

What is the meaning of coyote bush?

Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis) does not hold specific symbolic meanings in cultural or traditional contexts. Its name is derived from its ecological association with coyotes, which are known to seek shelter and forage around these bushes in their natural habitat.

Final thoughts

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.


Reference list

(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

Scroll to Top