Outdoor Plants and Flowers for Southern California Winter Garden Interest 2020-2021

Written by Susan B.

While our neighbors in states across the country are experiencing winter in the form of frigid cold temperatures, mounds of snow that make the landscape almost invisible, we’re surrounded by greenery. And since our winters are comparatively mild, we want to take advantage of that to bring winter interest to our property and gardens. 

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ – Yuletide Camellia

Its name suggests that it’s a holiday plant, but that’s not entirely true. Yuletide Camellia is a compact, evergreen shrub with dark green glossy leaves. Its outstanding characteristic is that it produces bright red, single blossom flowers with yellow stamen. It blooms in the winter. It is hardy in USDA Zones 7A through 10 B, and it tolerates temperatures as low as 0 to 10 degrees F. Yuletide Camellia grows best in partial sun. At maturity, these shrubs reach 4 to 5 feet tall, and they spread to a width of between 6 and 8 feet wide. It has moderate water needs.

Yuletide Camellia is a drought and heat-tolerant compact perennial that blooms throughout the winter. It is easy to care for, has long-lasting blooms, and is an excellent choice if you want a plant that can provide you with cut flowers, too. It is suitable as an accent plant, for a row of hedges, in a mass planting, or a woodland garden. It is adaptable enough to work in wet areas, too. 

Planting and Caring for Yuletide Camellia

Water the soil in the planting hole or pot before you place the shrub in it. For a container, dig a hole that is at least 3 times as wide as the pot. After placing the plant in the hole, backfill the soil, adding about 1-to-2-inches of soil above the base soil level around the trunk—water after planting and applying a mulch layer. Yuletide Camellia only needs to be fertilized once a year. Apply fertilizer in the spring. Prune the shrub after all flowering stops. 

Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’ – Red Emu Bush (or Spotted Emu Bush)

Red Emu Bush belongs to the Myoporaceae family. It is native to inland Australia, making it an ideal plant choice for arid to semi-arid regions. Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’ is round, compact, and informal. It is an evergreen woody perennial. It has dull green foliage in summer, and the foliage turns to a purplish-gray during the winter. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. 

It grows slowly after transplantation, but once it establishes itself in its growing location, it grows at a moderate rate. Its mature height is 4-to-6 feet tall, and it spreads to a width that’s slightly more than its height. Red Emu Bush produces 1-inch long reddish flowers that attract hummingbirds. After flowering, it produces small, rounded, inconspicuous fruits. The bright red flowers start to bloom in late winter and continue blooming through early spring. Its peak growing period is from late summer and through the fall. Spotted Emu bush will tolerate temperatures as low as 23 degrees F. However, it won’t tolerate multiple days of temperatures that exceed 115 degrees F. 

Red Emu Bush Uses

  • Red Emu Bush is an excellent choice for an informal accent. 
  • Use it as a hedge. 
  • Use it as a foundation plant. 
  • Use it as a winter accent in dry landscapes.
  • Use it to attract hummingbirds during the winter in a hummingbird garden.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity.’

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ belongs to the genus Mahonia. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10. It is an excellent shrub choice for a winter garden because it sprays soft yellow flowers that bloom throughout the winter. Starting in late summer and continuing into the fall, shrubs develop clusters of ornamental black berries. Mahonia is an evergreen shrub that grows best in full shade to partial sun. Between the flowers and the berries, it is a plant that offers year-round interest. 

Charity Mahonia has a narrow growth habit and a moderate growth rate. In its natural form, it reaches a mature height and width of between 10-and-15 feet. After planting, it needs regular watering until it establishes itself. Once established, it will only need occasional water — except in extreme heat. It is considered a Waterwise plant, and it’s a low maintenance shrub because it is so easy to care for. Its ornamental berries create interest, and it appeals to birds. 

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ Uses 

There are a variety of ways to use Charity Mahonia successfully in the landscape. 

  • In woodland gardens
  • In wildlife gardens 
  • As part of mass plantings
  • As a hedge (or in a row of hedges)
  • Along a border
  • In a dry shade location 
  • In a container

We’ve highlighted a few garden plants that offer winter interest. But there are many more, including smaller plants like Calendula, Pansies, Stock, and Snapdragons, to name a few. Our mild winters make it possible for Southern California residents to enjoy time outdoors even throughout the winter. And since we’ll continue to get wildlife visitors to our property, we should choose to plant things that serve as food sources for these beautiful creatures. And you’ll get immense enjoyment out of watching hummingbirds visit your nectar-rich flowering plants day after day. We encourage you to come into one of our stores to check out our seasonal inventory. Or if you know what you’re looking for, you can call a local store to find out if we have it. Our garden experts are always available to help you find what you’re looking for, answer your questions or suggest things that are best suited to your area and growing conditions. Our stores are adhering to social distancing and public health recommendations from our local and county health departments and the CDC. Your health and safety and that of all of our employees matter greatly to us. 

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