No-Fail Perennials of Southern California

You can't go wrong with these super-easy garden plants for bold color and texture in the landscape.

By Felder Rushing and Kelly Roberson


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    Southern California's dry and often hot and sunny weather calls for plants that can withstand tough conditions. If you've had troubles finding varieties that look great and don't require a ton of care, try these perennials. We've selected a group of old-fashioned favorites -- in fact, you may see them thriving in yards where no one's cared for them in years.

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Lily-of-the-Nile

    There's old-world beauty to this well-known and well-loved plant. Its distinctiveness lies in its clumping foliage at the base, topped by spikes of flowers, usually trumpet-shaped, that make an appearance in late summer.

    Plant Name: Agapanthus africanus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: The equally tall and large blooms of yellow yarrow for interesting color.

    Zones: 9-10

3/12
African Iris

    Throw a few African iris next to a sidewalk; they won't mind. In fact, this summer bloomer loves hard-to-grow spots, bearing dozens of white flowers from spring through summer.

    Plant Name: Dietes bicolor

    Growing Conditions: Sun or shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Pair the delicate beauty of African iris with a petite sunflower for pretty, neutral color.

    Zones: 8-11

4/12
Santa Barbara Daisy

    Summer brings plenty of showstopping bloomers, including Santa Barbara daisy, a vigorous spreader with gray-green leaves and profusions of yellow-centered flowers. The petals begin white but fade into pink or purple.

    Plant Name: Erigeron karvinskianus

    Growing Conditions: Part sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Create beautiful masses in the garden with mounds of coreopsis.

    Zones: 5-7

5/12
Sea Lavender

    A favorite in dried flower arrangements, sea lavender, or statice, sends out foot-long clumps and spraying clusters of purple and white flowers all summer long.

    Plant Name: Limonium latifolium

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    Grow it with: Choose a foliage accent, such as the silvery gray, thin-leafed dusty miller.

    Zones: 4-9

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Matilija Poppy

    Not quite a shrub, not quite just a flower, matilija poppy bears riotous foliage and showy white flowers in summer. Mostly upright with solitary flowers, they make a vigorous, fast-spreading addition to the garden.

    Plant Name: Romneya coulteri

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide

    Grow it with: Add contrast with Pride of Madeira.

    Zones: 8-10

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Kangaroo Paw

    Distinctive is a word best bestowed on the tropical-inspired form of Kangaroo paw. The slender 5-foot branches stems add height, while the delicate flowers -- tubular and actually resembling a cute kangaroo's paw -- are covered with hairs and flower from spring to midsummer.

    Plant Name: Anigozanthos selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 1 foot wide

    Grow it with: Choose a plant, such as lavender, that adds to the tropical feel but also adds needed fullness and bloom profusion.

    Zones: 10-11

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Bear's Breeches

    It can shoot up flower spikes in summer up to 4 feet high, but bear's breeches is also distinctive for its huge, coarse leaves, adding sculptural form to woodland plantings.

    Plant Name: Acanthus mollis

    Growing Conditions: Part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: The dark foliage and similarly spiky blooms of delphinium.

    Zones: 7-11

9/12
California Fuchsia

    A long bloomer and heat-resistant grower, California fuchsia offers up intense hot red or orange flowers all summer long. Its distinctive shape adds a bit of informality to the garden.

    Plant Name: Zauschneria californica

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    Grow it with: Pair it with the fragrant, low-growing foliage found in plants such as rosemary.

    Zones: 8-11

10/12
Bird of Paradise

    In a word, bird of paradise is exotic. Add decidedly tropical flair to your yard with this perennial's distinctive foliage and glowing orange blooms that bolt up and out of the leaves. This bold plant is surprisingly versatile; it looks equally amazing when grown as a dramatic specimen plant or when planted in large groups.

    Plant Name: Strelitzia reginae

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide

    Grow it with: Include the large-leafed, tropical growth of elephant ears for foliage and bloom interest.

    Zones: 10-11

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Hen and Chicks

    This succulent ground cover eventually forms flocks of little drought-tolerant babies that are easy to transplant to other parts of the yard or share. Add interest to your landscape with different types; hens and chicks comes in a huge number of leaf shapes and tints, including some with rich burgundy foliage.

    Plant Name: Sempervivum spp.

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 6 inches tall and 1 foot wide

    Grow it with: Hen and chicks works mostly as a ground cover or container plant, so add the creeping growth of ground cover sedum for a good pairing.

    Zones: 5-11

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