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Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping

California Natives

What are California Native Plants Anyway?

California Native plants are any plant that has evolved over time to grow in any particular area (without the aid of mankind). Groups of California native plants that grow together in that specific area are called a plant community. Every place on earth where plants grow naturally has a palette of plants that are specially designed to make the most of the regions weather, soil, pests, & diseases.  

Why California Native Plants?

The flora of California is unique & impressive. Many of these plants are rare or uncommon in the wild. Their use in our garden is a testament to their survival. Using natives also has other benefits:

·         Many beneficial animals & insects flock to California native plants.

·         Using California native plants lessens the impact your landscape has on the surrounding ecosystem.

·         California native plants give a sense of place.

·         California native plants are the best plants for our gardens being perfectly adapted to grow here with little assistance.

The Plants Native to California

California is a big state with many different, unique, & complex plant communities. This wealth of plants is brought to us by the varied topography & climate that is found in our area (only in CA can you ski in the mountain morning, hike in the desert, & surf the sea all in the same day).  When choosing a California native plant consider its home range, as this is key to understanding what the plant needs to flourish. Some broad generalizations of the plant communities of California are as follows:

1.      Mountains (includes alpine areas)

2.     Northern CA Coast

3.     Coastal Sage Scrub (both central & southern coast)

4.     Central Valley

5.     Grate Basin

6.     Mojave Desert

7.     Sonoran Desert

8.     Chaparral

9.     Woodlands (non mountainous forest)

10. Riparian (near fresh water)

11.   Grassland Savannah


  Orange county plant communities are as follows from west to east: coastal sage scrub, grassland savannah, oak woodland & chaparral, isolated mountain plant communities, & wherever there is fresh water near surface (rivers, lakes, springs, etc) we find riparian plant communities.

California Native Plants in the Orange County Garden

Most if not all gardens in the OC fall into the following climate zones.

1.      USDA zones 8 through 9 (based just on minimum temperature)

2.      Sunset zones 19 through 24 (includes all climatic factors).

3.     Rainfall ranges from near 10” at the coast to 30” annually in the Santa Ana Mountains.

4.     The rainfall in our area falls mainly in winter (classic Mediterranean climate)

Become familiar with the greater climate of your landscape & all the microclimates within it. Use these microclimates to your advantage by selecting a plant from a similar climate as the one your microclimate emulates. For example when choosing a plant for a hot spot consider a candidate that is adapted to or native to hot areas.

Mix native plants with other drought tolerant non native plants to create beautiful drought tolerant landscape. Conversely creating a landscape entirely of natives will create soft, serene, & natural look that is beautiful & low maintenance. Plants from the following areas of the world make great companions for CA natives:

·        The Mediterranean

·        Southern South America

·        Australia & New Zealand

·        South Africa

·        Mid East

A fun idea is to create a landscape with plants that are native to within 50 miles of your property.

Fertilizing California Natives

California native plants require little fertilization as they are superbly adapted to extract the most nutrients out of the soil. Instead of feeding your plants feed the soil. The more organic matter (compost) you add to your soil the less fertilizer you will need. Microorganisms in the soil digest the organic matter releasing nutrients that the plants the use.

·        If you are going to fertilize, do it lightly four times a year seasonally; fall, winter, spring, summer. This works well on plants that are heavy bloomers or are from areas with rich soil.

·        Organic all purpose fertilizers work best for plants in the ground, Gardner & Bloome is what we recommend.

·        All plants in containers need fertilizer more often to grow healthy.

·        For container grown plants use a liquid or water soluble all purpose fertilizer once a month. Liquid Gold Fertilizer is what we recommend.

Planting California Natives

Most California native plants are dormant during the normally dry summer & fall. In the winter wake & begin to grow through to spring as long as soil moisture is present. This means that the majority of California native plants should be transplanted during the fall & winter just prior to their active growth period. Plants (the minority) that grow during the warm dry part of the year should be planted in spring. Other planting tips include:

·        Avoid disturbing the roots of most California native plants (even if their root bound) in increases transplant shock & mortality.

·        Never plant a plant deeper than the root ball is tall.

·        Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball.

·        Back fill with native soil, using soil amendments only as mulch (unless there are drainage problems).

Watering California Native Plants

The standard watering regimen for most California native plants is a deep watering once or twice a month, spring through fall. In winter, water once a month only if rains fail.

·        New plants may need more water for 4 to 8 months till their established.

·        Plants in containers need more water than those in the ground.   

·        If you have heavy clay water less frequently but for a longer period of time. While with sandy soil water more frequently but for a less amount of time.

·        If water runs off surface too quickly try splitting the watering times into smaller chunks of time so that the water can percolate down.

Do not over water! It leads to the death of many native plants; their roots suffocate & die of rot or disease.

Understanding How Plants Deal With Drought

Plants have evolved many strategies to grow in harsh arid climates & evade or resist drought. There are two main strategies employed by plants to deal with drought.

1.      Drought Resistance - in this strategy plants live with drought. They resist drought by employing fascinating anatomical & physiological methods of moisture conservation.

  Special cells store water in the tissues of the leaf or stem (an example is succulents). 

  Many California native plants have developed protective coverings of hairs, & scales in order to insulate them against drying wind & sunlight.

  Some plants go deciduous in drought, continuing to grow & photosynthesize through their stems.

 “Carrot like” tap roots can reach into groundwater, while shallow “Net Like” roots absorb any significant rainfall.

 Some plants have decreased their surface area & lost their leaves permanently to reduce water loss (Example cacti).

2.     Drought Avoidance - in this strategy plants simply grow only when there is enough moisture & go dormant during drought.

 Many annuals live a short life (less than one growing season/year) existing as seed in the soil until rains come. Sometimes seeds can lie for many decades before sprouting.

  Some plants go dormant and stop growing during drought. These plants lose their foliage in dry weather, some even sacrifice branch limbs to conserve water.

  Specialized root structures store water & nutrients during dry periods (bulbs).

Pruning California Native Plants

Seasonally prune four times a year. This gives you a balance of work & rest. Some plants need a hard pruning once a year either in spring or fall depending on the season of their dormancy.

·        California native plants that grow in the warm weather should be pruned in the spring, before growth starts.

·        California native Plants that grow in cool weather should be pruned in the fall, before growth starts.

Remove dead flowers (deadhead) & corrective prune whenever necessary. Make accurate cuts with clean sharp tools. Remember some plants have special pruning needs, ask a nurseryman.

List of California Natives for Orange County Gardens

Achillea lanulosa * Yarrow
Achillea cerise queen
Achillea paprika
Achillea salmon beauty
Achillea the beacon
Antirrhinum multiflorum * Sticky Snapdragon
Aquilegia formosa * Crimson Columbine
Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn * Vine Hill Manzanita
Asclepias californica * California Milkweed
Asclepias cordifolia * Purple Milkweed
Asclepias fascicularis * Narrow Leafed Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed
Asclepias linaria * Butterfly Weed
Asclepias speciosa * Showy Milkweed
Armeria maritima * Thrift or Sea Pink
Beloperone californica * Chuparosa
Bloomeria crocea * Goldenstar
Caesalpinia gilliesii * Native Bird of Paradise
Calochortus albus * Fairy Lily
Calochortus catalinae * Catalina Mariposa Lily
Calochortus invenustus * Mariposa Lily
Calochortus leichtlinii * Mariposa Lily
Calochortus minima * Mariposa Lily
Calochortus monophyllus * Yellow Mariposa Lily
Calycanthus occidentalis * Spice Bush Campanula rotundifolia * Harebell
Carpenteria californica* California Anemone
Ceanothus * California Lilac List
Cercis occidentalis * Western Redbud
Chilopsis linearis * Desert Willow
Clarkia deflexa * Clarkia Bottae * Punch Bowl Godetia, Botta's Fairy Fan
Clarkia purpurea quadrivulnera * Four Spot
Clarkia purpurea purpurea * Farewell to Spring
Clarkia unguiculata * Woodland Clarkia
Clematis ligusticifolia * Creek Clematis
Collinsia heterophylla * Chinese Houses
Cornus nuttallii * Mountain Dogwood
Dichondra argentea * Silver Dichondra
Dodecatheon clevelandii * Padre's Shooting Star
Dendromecon rigida * Bush Poppy
Dicentra chrysantha * Golden Teardrops
Dicentra formosa * Bleeding Heart
Erigeron karvinskianus * Santa Barbara Daisy, Mexican Daisy
Erigeron 'wayne roderick' * Seaside Daisy
Eriogonum crocatum * Conejo Buckwheat, Saffron Buckwheat


Eriogonum grande rubescens* Red Buckwheat
Eriogonum incanum * Frosted Buckwheat
Eriogonum giganteum * St. Catherine's Lace
Eriophyllum confertiflorum * Golden Yarrow
Epipactis gigantea * Stream Orchid
Eschscholzia caespitosa * Tufted Eschscholzia
Eschscholzia californica  * California Poppy
Festuca californica * California Fescue
Fremontodendron californicum * Flannel Bush or Fremontea
Fritillaria biflora * Chocolate Lily
Galvezia speciosa * Island Snapdragon
Garrya eliptica 'James Roof' * Coast Tassel Bush
Heucherella 'Bridget Bloom'
Heuchera 'firefly' * Coral Bells
Heuchera 'Santa Ana Cardinal'
Heteromeles arbutifolia * Toyon
Iris pacific coast hybrids * Douglas' Iris Hybrids
Juglans californica * California Walnut
Justicia californica * Chuparosa
Keckiella cordifolia * Bush Penstemon
Lavatera assurgentifolia * Tree Mallow
Lavatera purisima * Island Mallow
Leptodactylon californicum * Prickley Phlox
Lupinus succulentus * Succulent Lupine
Lupinus microcarpus densiflorus * Chick Lupine
Mentzelia laevicaulis * Blazing Star
Mimulus aurantiacus * Sticky Monkey Flower
Mimulus cardinalis * Cardinal Monkey Flower
Mimulus 'midnight'
Mirabilis californica * Wishbone Bush
Myrica californica * Pacific Wax Myrtle
Pedicularis groenlandica * Elephant's Head
Paeonia californica * California Peony
Parkinsonia aculeata Desert Museum * Thornless Palo Verde
Phacelia grandiflora * Giant Flowered Phacelia
Platanus racemosa * Sycamore
Prunus ilicifolia* Holly Leafed Cherry
Prunella vulgaris * Heal All
Prunella vulgaris lanceolata * Heal All
Quercus kelloggii * Maple Leafed Oak
Rhamnus californicus 'Eve Case' * Coffee Berry
Rhus integrifolia * Lemonade Berry
Rhus ovata * Sugar Bush
Ribes speciosum * Fuchsia Flowered Currant
Romneya coulteri * Matilija Poppy

Salvia apiana* White Sage
Salvia clevelandii * Cleveland Sage, Fragrant Sage
Salvia columbariae * Chia
Salvia carduacea * Thistle Sage
Salvia dorrii dorrii
Salvia leucophylla 'point sal spreader'
Salvia mellifera * Black Sage
Salvia spathacea * Hummingbird Sage
Salvia tera seca * Dwarf Black Sage
Sambucus mexicana * Mexican Elderberry
Sisyrinchium bellum * Blue Eyed Grass
Smilacina racemosa * False Solomon's Seal
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Sphaeralcea fulva La Luna
Trichostema lanata * Wooly Blue Curls
Triphysaria eriantha * Yellow Owls Clover
Triteleia laxa * Ithuriel's Spear
Triteleia ixioides ssp. anilina * Pretty Face
Typha domingensis * Southern Cattail
Venegasia carpesioides * Canyon Sunflower
Yucca brevifolia * Joshua Tree
Yucca whipplei * Our Lord's Candle
Zauschneria californica (Epilobium) * California

















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