How To Make Your Garden A California Native

Here in California we are getting a lot of pressure from all sides to make our homes more drought tolerant. You have probably seen the succulent filled plant beds outside of restaurants and hotels in Los Angeles. It’s trendy, it looks great and it is better for California; a win, win, win. Spring officially starts on March 22 and I want to help you plan your Spring garden. Whether you want to redo the whole garden, add to the garden you already have or just add some indoor plants you will find some great ideas here.


All of these plants and trees are California natives.


Lets start with that lawn. First, decide if you still want a lawn. If you do consider these options.


Carex Pansa

Carex Pansa – will look and feel almost identical to your lawn but you will water it 70% less than your current lawn and you only need to mow it once a month.



Yarrow – If you let yarrow grow without mowing then it will reach about 3-feet high, producing flowers all through the summer. However, yarrow can also be grown as a running ground cover that can handle light foot traffic. It only needs to be mowed a few times a year, however, yarrow may not flower if it has been cut. Yarrow can also be used in teas and has a long history of medicinal uses.


Manzanita is a great tree for the yard. It has a distinct flowing shape to it’s branches with a unique red and black bark. The red bark looks like it is painted on in thick globs of paint. The tree grows just about 12 feet hight when fully mature so it will not take over your yard. It has small red berries that adorn it as well. You can eat the manzanita berries raw or cook them into a drink.



California is native to many types of edible berries. Try growing some blackberries, California strawberries, and wild golden currants.



Monkey flowers are a great way to attract bees and hummingbirds (aka Mimulus Luteus or anything from the Mimulus species).



Add some succulents to your garden to give it that southwestern feel. I love the form of succulents and you find them in a variety of colors. Dudleyas have a round shape with a beautiful fractal emerging from the center there are many types dudleyas, try mixing a few varieties together in your garden. Stonecrop is another great native succulent. It can be used as ornamental ground cover and varies in shades from green to white to red depending on variety. The most prized varietal is the Cape Blanco.




You can have a great drought tolerant garden by choosing any plants that share our same Mediterranean climate type, however, I recommend using native Californian plants. There are lots of great benefits to going native besides a lower water bill. Depending on the species you plant you may not need to mow or do much maintenance on your native garden. Since the plants are well adapted they need no fertilizers or pesticides, they have natural defenses against the pests in the area.



Heuchera – Coral Bells


Native wildlife prefers native plants. You can attract more hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies with the native plants that they know and are accustomed to being around. The abundance of bees, butterflies and the like is great for your viewing pleasure but it is also important ecologically because these plants are necessary for the survival of the wildlife. If you are in a development heavy area then your garden can act as a bridge to nearby wild lands.


Landscape Design by Bernard Trainor


Here are some links to resources on California native plants and inspiring California landscape design artists.


A great resource for California Native Plant information –


Another great resource where you can also purchase seeds –


An awe inspiring designer with a flare for the natural look –


A Los Angeles design artist with great taste –