15 Top Native Plants of Southern California

Eschscholzia californica, California poppy
Photo: Denny Schrock

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

01 of 16

Matilija Poppy

White Romneya coulteri
Laurie Black

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

Name: Romneya coulteri

Growing Conditions: Grow in full sun with well-draining soil. It's 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

02 of 16

Lemonade Berry

lemonade berry sumac
Denny Schrock

This large evergreen shrub is native to coastal sage scrub and chaparral. Lemonade berry has beautiful deep green leathery leaves and rose pink spring flowers. This plant is excellent for screening and habitats, and also stabilizes slopes.

Name: Rhus integrifolia

Growing Conditions: This shrub is dry growing after established; plant in full sun or part shade and well-draining soil.

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

Zones: 9-10

03 of 16

Toyon

Heteromeles arbutifolia evergreen shrub
Denny Schrock

This large, evergreen shrub has deep green leathery leaves and red berries in winter. Toyon is a stand-out habitat plant and screening plant. Stabilize slopes with this sturdy shrub.

Name: Heteromeles arbutifolia

Growing Conditions: This shrub is dry growing after established; plant in full sun or part shade and well-draining soil.

Size: 8-15 feet tall x 15 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

04 of 16

Hoary California Fuchsia

deciduous perennial bearing bright red, funnel-shaped flowers
Getty Images

Hoary California fuchsia is a mat-forming perennial with narrow, slightly fuzzy pale green leaves and brilliant vermillion flowers in summer. Plants tend to spread by runners so give it room to roam.

Name: Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; plant in full sun when possible. It grows in less light but blooms best in full sun.

Size: 1 feet tall x 4 feet wide

Zones: 9-10

05 of 16

Chalk Liveforever

blue-white succulent rosettes
Getty Images

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

Name: Dudleya pulverulenta

Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; plant in full sun and well-draining soils. This plant does take a little shade.

Size: 1-2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 8-10

06 of 16

How to Add Natives to Your Landscape

Learn how easy it is to create a beautiful landscape with natives. Native plants create an excellent habitat for local wildlife and are low-maintenance, too!

07 of 16

Shaw's Agave

Agave shawii succulent rosettes
Getty Images

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 leave pups behind. Try planting this native in containers.

Name: Agave shawii

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

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

Zones: 9-10

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

08 of 16

Desert Mallow

Desert mallow evergreen shrublet
Denny Schrock

Desert mallow is a favorite evergreen shrublet with fuzzy, silvery, crenulated leaves and cupped flowers in shades of brilliant orange to watermelon red. It blooms in early spring and after an unusual summer rain.

Name: Sphaeralcea ambigua

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

Size: 2-3 feet tall x 2 feet wide

Zones: 4-10

09 of 16

Manzanita

Hoary manzanita evergreen shrubs
Getty Images

Manzanita 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. They make excellent habitat plants.

Name: Arctostaphylos

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

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

Zones: 6-10, depending on species

10 of 16

Giant Wild Rye

canyon prince bluish ornamental grass
Peter Krumhardt

This tall grass has broad, bluish blades and grows into a large, handsome clump. 'Canyon Prince' is a popular selection that you can try in your Southern California garden.

Name: Leymus (Elymus) condensatus

Growing Conditions: Grow in full sun to full shade. This plant needs very little irrigation after established.

Size: 3-6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 6–10

11 of 16

San Miguel Island Buckwheat

rose pink flower clusters
Getty Images

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

Name: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens

Growing Conditions: Grow in full sun or part shade. This plant 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.

12 of 16

Bush Monkeyflower (or Sticky Monkeyflower)

Mimulus aurantiacus Butter Cup
Denny Schrock

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; grow in full sun or part shade. Cut back by 30 percent when summer dormant.

Size: 2 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

13 of 16

Our Lord's Candle

Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) plants
Sundry Photography / Getty Images

Foothill native Our Lord's Candle 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. It is pollinated solely by the yucca moth.

Name: Yucca whipplei

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun; this variety does tolerate some shade.

Size: 3 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 6-10

14 of 16

Hummingbird Sage

purple perennial hummingbird sage
Denny Schrock

Low growing, mat-forming perennial hummingbird sage has fruity fragrant leaves and stalks of intense pink flowers in spring. It is attractive to hummingbirds and is a great understory plant.

Name: Salvia spathacea

Growing Conditions: Dry growing in shade. This plant is perfect for under oaks and other dry growing trees and shrubs.

Size: 2 feet tall x 3 feet wide

Zones: 7-10

15 of 16

Cleveland Sage

lavender blossom salvia clevelandii
Getty Images

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.

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California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica, California poppy
Denny Schrock

California's state flower California poppy 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. California poppy 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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