Rick Lewish/Golden Gate Audubon Society Planting native plants attracts a host of birds and other wildlife to yards and landscaped areas. Here an Anna’s hummingbird visits a California Fuschia, a plant native to California.
California has one of the richest and most diverse environments with more than 4,400 native plants that support hundreds of insects and pollinators.
However, urbanization has derailed things a bit, making it important, says horticulturist and Bay Area News Group columnist Patrice Hanlon, that gardeners create small pockets of habitat by growing native plants.
Hanlon says gardeners should use native plants to build the bones of their gardens, which can then be filled in with other plants. Here are some of her tips for creating native gardens.
- Native plants can thrive in areas where there has been little preparation and care as long as you know some of the basics about the plant, such as the conditions where they grow naturally. Like all plants, you need to put them where they have the best chance of survival.
- We often talk about cutting back on water once the plant is established, but how long does that take? For most natives, Hanlon says, it can be two to three years. During that time, you’ll need to provide regular water. Once established, watering can be greatly reduced, depending on the plant.
- A successful garden often starts in the nursery where you buy plants. Make sure the plants have been grown in the right soil and haven’t been over-fertilized.
- The ratio of plant size to pot size is important. Plant height should be evenly matched with plant roots, thus a 5-foot plant growing in a 1-gallon pot is likely root bound.
- Native plants do not need fertilizer, and doing so can kill them.
Try some of these California natives in your garden.
Fremontodendron (Flannel bush)
Prunus ilicifolia (Holly Leaf Cherry)
Aristolochia californica (Pipevine)
Clematis ligusticifolia (Western Virgin’s Bower)
Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer grass)
Festuca californica (California fescue)
Carex divulsa (Berkeley sedge)
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo (Western Ninebark)
Carpenteria californica (Bush anemone)
Philadelphus lewisii (Mock orange)
Rhamnus californica (California coffeeberry) (Courtesy of Patrice Hanlon)
Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy)
Frangula californica (Coffeeberry)
Holodiscus discolor (Cream bush)
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape)
Abutilon palmeri (Indian mallow)
Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland sage)
Salvia leucophylla (Purple sage)
Salvia ‘Amethyst Bluff’ (Giant purple sage)
Salvia clevelandii (‘Winifred Gillman’)
Salvia apiana (White sage)
Eriogonum fasciculatum (California buckwheat)
Eriogonum crocatum (Sulphur buckwheat)
Eriogonum latifolium (Coast buckwheat)
Sphaeralcea (Globe mallow)
Malacothamnus (Bush mallow)
Eriophyllum confertiflorum (Golden Yarrow)
Eriophyllum lanatum ‘Sisykou’ (Woolly Sunflower)
Monardella villosa (Coyote mint)
Grindelia stricta (Gum plant)
Fern leaf yarrow Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group Archives
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)
Asclepias speciosa (Showy milkweed)
Solidago californica (California goldenrod)
Penstemon heterophyllus (Foothill penstemon)
Penstemon centranthifolius (Scarlet bugler)
Penstemon ‘Pikes Peak Purple’
Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird sage)
“California Native Plants for the Garden,” by Carol Bernstein, David Fross, Bart O’Brien
UC Berkeley’s Urban Bee Lab website contains lists of native plants that attract and support bees.
Next time: Growing olives in your backyard.