Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Native plants in the landscape

Hello fellow gardeners! This week I’d like to continue with my last article which dealt with drought tolerant landscapes and take it even a step further with natives. What do we mean by native plants? Plants that are indigenous to an area. In other words, plants that grow in an area naturally and are not imported. Because a plant is native to the coast, it does not necessarily make it native to where we live in the Inland Empire.

I mostly want to talk about these plants because I find that many people think that any plant that is drought tolerant is a native. This is not true and many native plants will do miserably in your garden. Why? Because if you take a walk out in nature, a mountainside or some other natural preserve, you will see that in most residential areas you do not have the same soil and most people have little knowledge of how to care for natives.

Natives thrive on little attention, similar to cactus and succulents, and usually end up dying due to overwatering more than any other reason. If we’re having a drought (as we are now) it certainly would be a benefit to water all native plants you might have in your garden sparingly. The first couple of years after you purchase your native plants and are establishing them it is ok to water them a little more, but once they’ve gotten full size or close to it, you want to cut back on that water. Once you become in tune with your plants you’ll know when they need some water.

These types of plants do well with cactus and succulents, as you would imagine, as they are all low water plants. These are the types of plants I would replace a lawn along with some strategically placed boulders. Now, I’d like to mention some of the better survivors in residential gardens for you to try. I will mention one other thing, although I am a big proponent of drip irrigation, with natives you really have to know what you’re doing to avoid the overwatering even with drip. They like good drainage as well, just like the previously mentioned cactus and succulents and that’s why they work quite well together.

Also fertilize very sparingly. Remember, they don’t get much fertilizing out in nature and we’re trying to replicate that, only a little better. Most natives bloom for a short period, then when there’s no rain they pretty much go dormant, we want to prolong the looking good period by periodic watering. The same principle applies with succulents – make sure to have some type of groundcover material – 2-3” deep over soil.


Arbutus menziesii ‘Pacific Madrone’; Parkinsonia florida ‘Blue Palo Verde’; Sambucus nigra ‘Mexican elberberry’; Cercis orbiculata ‘Western Redbud’; Chilopsis linearis ‘Desert willow’; Pinus edulis ‘Two needle Pine’


Arctostaphylos species, Manzanitas (some are small trees actually); Artemisia species; Baccharis pilularis ‘coyote brush’; Calliandra californica ‘Fairyduster’; Ceanothus species; Heteromeles arbutifolia ‘Toyon’; Mahonia species ‘barberries’; Nolina species ‘Beargrass’; Rhus species ‘sumacs’; Rosa species ‘wild roses’ (r. californica); Salvia species (Cleveland sage, White Sage, Black Sage, Purple Sage etc.); Simmondsia chinensis ‘Jojoba’

Everything else

Calystegia macrostegia ‘Island morning glory’, a great vine; Baccharis pilularis ‘prostrate coyote brush’ ground cover; Dudleye caespitosa ‘coast dudleya’ a succulent; Leymus condensatus ‘Giant Rye Grass’; Muhelenbergia rigens ‘Deer grass aka Muhly Grass’; Agaves; Cylindropuntia species ‘chollas’; Echinocereus sp.; Ferocactus sp.; Yucca sp.; Opuntia sp. ‘Prickly Pear cactus’; Penstemon sp. ‘Beardtongues’

I am available for consultations and landscape design work. Happy gardening!

Linda McDonald

Landscape Designer

(951) 764-4762

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