California Native Plants: What They Are and Why You should Plant Them

Written by Susan B.

Before we can talk about California native plants, we need to define the concept. Native plants are indigenous plants. They are plants whose origin is often impossible to trace, but they’ve likely been growing in the region for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Native plants are native because we don’t know how they got to the place where they’re growing. We do, however, know that humans didn’t plant them there.

Native plants have adapted to grow in specific areas. They are often beneficial for the ecosystem and wildlife and are drought-tolerant. They also create habitats that attract pollinator birds, butterflies, and bees.  Native plants can improve soil quality, prevent or slow the rate of soil erosion, and sometimes protect property because of their fire resistance

Native plants are less likely to develop diseases that spread to the soil, potentially remaining there for years. And native plants may offer greater insect and pest resistance. BeWaterWise.com lists our San Marcos nursery in San Diego County, our Canoga Park nursery in Los Angeles County, as places where you’ll find California Friendly® native plants.

We’re giving you some information about a few plants in different categories. We based our decision for including them on several factors, including low maintenance, manageable size, minimal water needs, and tolerance for varying growing conditions. 

Annuals 

Although the plants in this category are referred to as annuals, you may not have to replant them every year. Our climate is such that these flowering plants can readily reseed themselves. As long as you plant your annuals in the ground early enough to establish themselves and produce seeds after flowering, you will likely see these plants appear year after year.

Clarkia

Clarkia – or Clarkia-unguiculata,  is an annual flowering California native plant. This striking plant has green leaves and eye-catching bright pink flowers.

Different cultivars may come in creamy yellow, orange, purple, red, and salmon-colored flowers. It blooms throughout the spring and summer. 

Clarkia grows to between 1-and-4 feet tall, and it spreads 1-and-3 feet wide. Its growth rate and water requirements are moderate. It grows best in sandy or loamy soil. Loam consists of roughly 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. 

Clarkia is ideal for areas with full shade or partial sun. Use it along walkways, in rocky areas, or as a border plant in a perennial bed.

California Poppy

California Poppy is known botanically as Eschscholzia california is a small annual flowering plant that often acts like a perennial because of its potential to reseed itself. It is also the state flower of California. 

California poppies have small light blue-green colored leaves. Plants produce gold or yellowish-orange flowers that bloom during the spring and summer. Although California poppies only grow to a maximum height of 12-inches, these plants are fast growers. They can become aggressive spreaders, so plant it in a location where it can spread freely – without crowding your other perennial plants. 

California poppies aren’t particular about soil type. They can grow in clay, loam, rocky, or sandy soils. They will thrive in full or partial sun, and they require a moderate amount of water. Use California poppies in perennial borders, raised planters, parking lots, parking strips, roadsides, or rocky areas.  

Perennials 

Margarita Bop Foothill Penstemon

The botanical name for this hybrid Penstemon cultivar is Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita Bop.’ It is an easy plant to grow, and its versatility makes it an excellent plant to choose for many purposes. This perennial grows at a moderate rate, and its maximum height ranges between one and three feet, but the height comes from the flower stems that rise above the plant’s bluish-green to green leaves that form low-growing 6-to-8-inch mounds. The full spread of Margarita Bop Foothill Penstemon plants is 1-to-3-feet, while its foliage mats’ sprawl extends from 12-to-18 inches across. 

This hybrid penstemon cultivar produces small bluish-purple flowers that bloom in spring and summer, but the flowers can bloom throughout the year with regular and vigorous deadheading. The plant appeals to people who love flowers that produce a showy display. 

Margarita Bop grows best in full or half sun. And plants prefer to grow in clay or loamy soil. Its low water needs make it a useful plant in areas that are subject to frequent watering restrictions. 

Margarita Bop works well in perennial borders, along parking strips, in raised planting beds, or rocky areas. 

Coast Aster

The botanical name for Coast Aster is Symphyotrichum chilense. It is a California native that produces flowers that look somewhat like daisies. When it blooms during the summer and fall, it produces showy lavender-colored flowers. 

Coast Aster is a low-growing perennial whose height ranges between one-and-three feet with a width whose range is identical. Although the plant doesn’t require a lot of water, regular irrigation makes it spread quickly. Overall, it grows at a moderate rate. 

Plant Coast Aster in full to partial sun, and grow it in sandy soil. Use Coast Aster at entryways, as a foundation plant, or in perennial borders. 

Succulents

San Diego Dudleya

Dudleya edulis, known commonly as San Diego Dudleya, is sometimes called the String Bean Plant. It is a drought-tolerant succulent when it’s growing in its natural habitat in the wild. It has grayish-green leaves that sometimes have red tinges on the leaf tips. The color offers an interesting contrast against the dark green or other shades of green foliage on nearby plants. 

San Diego Dudleya is a low-growing, drought-tolerant succulent that doesn’t exceed a foot in height or width. During the spring, it produces yellow flowers. Grow your String Bean Plant in full to partial sun and in rocky or sandy soil. 

Use San Diego Dudleya along entryways, in containers on your patio or deck, along walkways, or rocky areas or rock gardens. 

Vines

Anacapa Island Pink Morning Glory

Calystegia ‘Anacapa Pink’, or Anacapa Island Pink Morning Glory, as it is commonly known, is a fast-growing vine that can reach anywhere from 3-and-25 feet in height. It spreads to a width of between one-and-twelve feet. 

This morning glory vine blooms during spring and summer, and it produces lovely pink flowers. Its showy flowers make an attractive focal point when used in espalier form. Grow Anacapa Island Pink Morning Glory in full or half sun. It isn’t particular about soil type and will do well in clay, loam, rocky, or sandy soils. 

Use it as a background plant, along a fence or wall, in a raised bed (support with a trellis), or as a patio plant growing up and over a pergola. 

We’re proud to encourage our customers to consider using California Friendly® in their gardens and landscapes. These native plants promote sustainability, water conservation, and promote the establishment of ecosystems that improve our environment and enhance our communities’ beauty. Call us to inquire about our inventory or come into any of our stores to see what we have in stock. Our garden experts are always available to help you choose plants or answer questions you have.


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