We had a garden club meeting in my town (Redlands CA) and were lucky to have as our speaker Bart O’Brien from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) in Claremont. He presented a wonderful talk about California native plants. More importantly, he shared his favorites for our area. These feature good survival rates in our hot inland (we have hot summers and winters down in the 20s – so almost desert). They also offer color year-round, and will definitely reduce your water bill. See the Garden-Garden project in Santa Monica, which showed a 2/3 reduction in water usage when using native landscaping.
Audience members asked for a list — so here are the common and botanical names, along with a few attributes. Oh, and it’s a great time to plant natives.
For those in the area, RSABG’s annual plant sale is Saturday, Nov 3rd, along with music, food, beer and free admission to their amazing arboretum. O’Brien has authored or co-authored several very popular books on California natives.
For fall color
Aster chilensis ‘Pt. St. George’ – yes, a native aster. Lavender daisy-type flowers summer through fall
St. Catherine’s Lace buckwheat (Erigonium giganteum)– nice grey foliage, the large white flowers that turn to a rust are great in flower designs year-round. All buckwheats are major butterfly attractor.
California fuchsia (Zauschneria spp.) – many varieties available with orange to deep red colors of leaves and flowers, hummingbird attractor
Dancing Tassels Currant (Ribes malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’) – good on north slopes where roots are in the shade & tops in sun, long dangling white to pink flowers that bloom Oct-Mar
Roger’s Red wild grape (Vitis ‘Roger’s Red) – vine turns red in the fall, birds love the grapes
Agave ‘Blue Flame’ – friendly curved edges, yellow flowers fall-winter
Toyon or Christmas Holly (Herteromeles arbutfolia) –bright red berries feed many birds in December, can hedge, white flowers in summer (substitute for pittosporum)
For winter color
Manzanitas (Archostaphylos edmundsii) – a small version of the many red-barked varieties, white to pink flowers in Jan
Mahonia ‘Golden Abundance’ – a gorgeous yellow flowered variety (fall-winter), tolerates shade in winter, sun in summer, so good on north sides
Canyon Prince grass (Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’) – for nice grey color. Another low-growing grey choice is Salvia ‘Dara’s Choice’(sage)
For Spring Color
Linanthus ‘Stardust’ or ‘Confetti’ – low-lying filler plant for sunny areas, multi-colored flowers
California lilacs or Ceanothus – The Lakeside or San Diego (Ceanothus cyaneus) is hardy, fast- growing and large. Smaller ‘Concha’ and ‘Julia Phelps’ grow well, gorgeous blue blooms
California native roses – Rosa ‘Schoener’s Nutkana’ doesn’t spread rampantly like others, no thorns, 5-inch flowers
Coral bells (Heuchera ‘Genevieve’) – nice, low-growing cover for under trees, delicate pink blooms
Bush Anemone (Carpenteria California) – 2-3 inch white flowers, sun or shade
Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) – large gorgeous white flower (the ‘fried egg’ flower) but warning – will travel far and wide
Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’ – large showy version with deep blue flowers, but only lives several years
Bush lupine, grape soda lupine (Lupinus excubitus) – the ‘grape soda’ variety has purple flower, grey foliage, or lupinus payrei for large variety. Important butterfly plant.
Nolina parryi for a yucca look but with softer leaves. Other smaller versions of nolinas are available.
Dudleya ‘Frank Reinelt’ – silver leafed succulent, sun to part-shade. Don’t water in summer
For Summer Color
Native wildflowers such as Clarkia, Triteleia laxa ‘Queen Fabiola’
Cleveland Sage (Salvia Clevelandii)– Sages are important hummingbird and bee plants, with numerous varieties. Consider ‘Winifred Gilman’ for vibrant purple blooms.
Paseo Rancho lilac verbena (Verbena lilacina ‘Paseo Rancho’) – makes tidy mounds with purple fragrant flowers, blooms year-round if watered, butterflies love it
Morning Cloud Chitalpa (XChitalpa tashkentensis) – a desert tree with white showy flowers
Desert Willow, Regal (Chilopsis linearis ‘Regal’) – tri-colored, pink-purplish flowers that keep blooming if watered. Loses leaves November-April. Also consider ‘Burgundy Lace’ and ‘Warren Jones’ varieties.
Nurseries in the Inland Empire area that have good selections of native plants (or can order):
- Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s nursery operates Nov-June.
- Louie’s Nursery in Riverside
- Mockingbird Nursery (limited hours but plants are only $3/1 gallon container) in Riverside
- A little farther out, Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano
- In other areas, google native plant nursery and your town & see what comes up
- Please let me know other nurseries I’m not mentioning….