Top Native Plants of Southern California

flowers
These tough, beautiful plants can take hot, dry conditions with ease. They're among the best easy-care plants for gardeners in this region.

Matilija poppy

This beautiful perennial native poppy is often called the "fried egg plant" for its enormous white crepe papery flowers with their golden yellow centers. This plant spreads by aggressive underground runners, so plant it on a slope or other location with room to run.

Name: Romneya coulteri

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun with well draining soil. Fussy at transplant, so keep root disturbance at an absolute minimum. Plant in fall.

Size: 4-5 feet tall x 8 feet wide

Zones: 6-10

Lemonade berry

This large evergreen shrub is native to coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It has beautiful deep green leathery leaves and rose pink spring flowers. Excellent for screening and habitats. Stabilizes slopes.

Name: Rhus integrifolia

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun or part shade and well draining soil.

Size: 5-10 feet tall x 10-15 feet wide

Zones: 9-10

Toyon

This large, evergreen shrub has deep green leathery leaves and red berries in winter. Excellent habitat plant and screening plant. Stabilizes slopes.

Name: Heteromeles arbutifolia

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun or part shade and well draining soil.

Size: 8–15 feet tall x 15 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

Hoary California fuchsia

This mat-forming perennial has narrow, slightly fuzzy pale green leaves and brilliant vermillion flowers in summer.  Plants tend to run by runners so give it room to roam.

Name: Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun. Grows in less but blooms best in full sun.

Size: 1 feet tall x 4 feet wide

Zones: 9-10

Chalk liveforever

Chalk liveforever's ghostly blue-white succulent rosettes create long flower spikes that feature silver and red flowers in late spring and summer. Excellent choice to tuck in amongst rocks.

Name: Dudleya pulverulenta

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils. Takes a little shade.

Size: 1-2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 8-10

Natives are a key element to any garden. Learn how to incorporate native plants and flowers for a tough yet gorgeous landscape.

How to Add Natives to Your Landscape

Learn how easy it is to create a beautiful landscape with natives.

Shaw’s agave

This smallish agave grows as a colony of succulent rosettes, whose dusky green blades are edged in sharp teeth. Flower stems can reach 12 feet with golden flowers.  Mother plants die after flowering but leaves pups behind.  Good in containers.

Name: Agave shawii

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils.

Size: Rosette 2-3 feet tall x 3-4 feet wide; fllower spike to 12 feet tall

Zones: 9-10

Image Credit: Shaw's Agave closeup 2 by D Coetzee is licensed under Creative Commons.

Desert mallow

A favorite evergreen shrublet with fuzzy, silvery, crenulated leaves and cupped flowers in shades of brilliant orange to watermelon red. Blooms in early spring and after the unusual summer rain.

Name: Sphaeralcea ambigua

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils. Cut back by 30% after bloom to keep plants from growing too leggy.

Size: 2-3 feet tall x 2 feet wide

Zones: 4-10

Manzanita

This is a large group of evergreen shrubs, from groundcover to tree height, and varying widths. Most have architectural structures and mahogany- to ebony-color bark. Excellent habitat plants.

Name: Arctostaphylos

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; part shade or full sun to part shade depending on the species.  Prefers draining soils.

Size: 1-25 feet tall x 4-18 feet wide

Zones: 6–10, depending on species

Giant wild rye

This tall grass has broad, bluish blades and grows into a large, handsome clump. ‘Canyon Prince’ is a popular selection.

Name: Leymus (Elymus) condensatus

Growing Conditions: Grow in full sun to full shade. Very little irrigation after established. 

Size: 3-6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 6–10

San Miguel Island buckwheat

This beautiful mounding perennial features tight, roundish leaves and peglike flower spikes topped in tufts of rose pink flower clusters from summer to fall. Beloved by birds and butterflies.

Name: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens

Growing Conditions: Grows in full sun or part shade.  Needs occasional irrigation once established.

Size: 2 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 8-10

Image Credit: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens by brewbooks is licensed under Creative Commons.

Bush monkeyflower (or sticky monkeyflower)

This medium-size perennial erupts in tubular, soft golden blooms in spring. Stems and leaves can be sticky, perhaps to deter insects. Flowers attract hummingbirds. Plants often go summer dormant.

Name: Mimulus (Diplacus) aurantiacus

Growing Conditions: Dry growing once established; full sun or part shade. Cut back by 30% when summer dormant.

Size: 2 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

Our Lord’s Candle

This foothill native succulent is grown for its long, sharp-tip silvery green blades that give it texture and structure.  Spring bloom, when it occurs, is a tall spike covered in creamy white flowers. Pollinated solely by the yucca moth.

Name: Yucca whipplei

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun; tolerates some shade

Size: 3 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 6-10

Image Credit: Chapparal Yucca Barrett Stoddard by Mechanoid Dolly is licensed under Creative Commons.

Hummingbird sage

Low growing, mat forming perennial hummingbird sage has fruity fragrant leaves and stalks of intense pink flowers in spring. Attractive to hummingbirds. Great understory plant.

Name: Salvia spathacea

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in shade. Perfect for under oaks and other dry growing trees and shrubs.

Size: 2 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

Cleveland sage

Well known and loved evergreen chaparral native Cleveland sage has extremely aromatic, resinous leaves and flower spires that feature whorls of purple to lavender colored blooms in spring and summer. Let flower heads go to seed to support local birds. 

Name: Salvia clevelandii

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun or part shade. Prune, if desired, gingerly and avoid cutting into wood. 

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 7-10

Image Credit: Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)  by Pacific Southwest Region USFWS is licensed under Creative Commons. 

California poppy

California's state flower is a perennial grown as an annual. It features tufts of feathery green leaves topped in brilliant orange blooms starting in early spring. Plant from seed in late fall or winter. Avoid overhead irrigation to keep leaves dry and mildew at bay.

Name: Eschscholzia californica

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun. Blooms a bit more and lasts longer with some irrigation but not overhead. Once initial tufts fade (or mildew), cut to the ground and water once. They'll resprout and bloom again.  Let flowers reseed.

Size: 18 inches tall and wide

Zones: 8-10

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