What are your fav California natives or drought tolerant plants?

frenderJuly 26, 2013

We have a blank slate in our sunny front yard in sf Bay Area.

We just installed water guzzling sod and are looking for drought tolerant or California natives.

What are your favorites?

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I was thinking of using French lavender between the sod and retaining wall, (as seen in picture in above post) but it is a 4 foot strip, so maybe we need two plants there?

Here is a picture of our house from street before sod was installed.

Thanks for any suggestions.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 12:00PM
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Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
âÂÂRed Buckwheat"

Not sure if it is my favorite, but it's damn sure up there. I love that plant, it did not make the move with me, but I sure want another one.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 3:41PM
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I would tear out that sod before it gets going just because of water rates. You could put in a salvias, lavenders and have families of hummers, butteflies, honeybees etc all move in.
I had a french lavender and it got to 5 feet wide. I got tired of hours of each each month of deadheading. It really attracts bees and in winter or cooler temps stays nice looking unlike spanish lavender.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 4:38PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

If you are watering that sod with sprinklers, most natives you plant will be very unhappy, unless the drainage is really good. And of course, if it's really good then you're watering all the time...a vicious circle. Summer water shortens the lifespan of a lot of them. Most naturally go dormant or semi-dormant in summer heat.

There's a fair number of drought-tolerant plants that are happy to put up with summer water, though. Agapanthus, erysimums, lantana, tree roses (putting them up high keeps the water off the leaves, but get mildrew-resistant varieties anyway, with the fog), mini-shrub pelargoniums like "Vancouver Bicentennial", variegated boxwood, coleonema, dwarf cannas - I've had good luck with all of these on minimal water, once established, but they can handle additional summer water as well.

I have an evergreen bearded iris that handles summer xeric conditions like a champ, but 200 rhizomes were given to me so I have no idea what its name is. It's an older variety of iris, very vigorous and tough, with beautiful deep purple blooms. Last summer I divided and gave away at least 100 rhizomes because they were just taking over everywhere, LOL.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Lupinus albifrons is not only my favorite lupin, but my favorite CA native plant.

Also has gorgeous spires of purple-blue flowers in the spring. Easy from seed.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:02PM
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I like Matilija Poppy but it will eventually make sod or no sod a moot point since it takes over the place.

Lemonade berry makes such nice shrubs. They can tolerate clipping into formal hedges.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 2:02PM
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Natives/drought tolerant plants and sod are not usually friends. Not sure why you would want both in proximity to each other. At any rate, look for natives that do well in Northern California and grow in a riparian habitat. Not all natives are created equal.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 4:12PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I like Agaves; that Lupinus albifrons is gorgeous.

I have found if you really want to save water, plant shrubs and just get rid of the lawn--more water is required to keep a lawn looking good than to keep a large collection of thirsty shrubs happy--and less thirsty shrubs save even more.

Also, whatever your sod cost was, it is a tiny amount compared to what you will spend on maintenance and water. The cost of a lawn is in the maintenance. Shrubs cost a lot more initially but in the long run are much cheaper. Sod to install is cheap. That's why property developers put in big lawns with just a skinny strip of shrubbery at the base of the home--it's the cheapest thing they can do.

Of course if you have children who want to play out front, grass is the very best choice.

Your home is lovely, enjoy!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 4:34PM
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Thanks everyone. Great ideas. Love all the different varieties. Sounds like we are going to have to plant these in another part of our yard away from the sod. We do have young kids and are planning to keep the sod until it no longer gets used, then replace with lower water garden or hard scape patio.

Any suggestions on deer resistant plants that would make a great sod border?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 9:57AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Hi, I am not a lawn fan, but do put up with them. You could get some semi-dwarf or dwarf citrus in that row; Spanish Lavender is smaller than the French and should look terrific.

This all assumes you have a separate irrigation zone / control for the strip; otherwise you will overwater citrus or lavender if on the same program as the lawn.

Although i highly recommend at least one Meyer Lemon, the deer can sometimes nip at the new growth. Deer haven't bothered my Limequats and Oranges (yet).

Another option is a row of crepe myrtles... tough, drought and moisture tolerant and they bloom like crazy this time of the year.

Good luck!
George K.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 1:27PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Linda I don't know where you are in northern California, but if Santa Rosa is convenient for you, be sure and check out Cal Flora just north between SR and Windsor. I was in there yesterday and the plants look better than ever. More natives than I have ever seen in one nursery. This is the slow time of the year and they have the time to help you make choices. Buy your containerized selections now, but wait for the start of the rainy season to plant them. I can never resist. Al

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 9:45AM
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My favorite is Portulaca. I love the briliant multi-colored flowers. It only blooms in the summer. It will grow by the ocean or inland. The hotter it is, and the more often you forget to water it, the more beautiful the flowers are. It dies back by the end of Sept.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 4:25PM
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I like the tree called Desert Willow. It has a pretty flower and does not grow too large.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 9:52PM
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I can think of a couple natives that have some drought tolerance and can also take twice-a-week watering...

Arctosaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn" (make sure the crown is at least a few feet away from the lawn)
Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Wayside'
Mahonia aquifolium
Carpenteria californica
Rhamnus californica 'Mound San Bruno'
Ribes aureum gracillimum
Ribes sanguineum glutinosum (needs partial shade)
Physocarpus capitatus

Zauschneria septentrionalis 'Mattole River'
Zauschneria garretti
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi cultivars (Point Reyes, San Bruno Mountain, Pacific Mist)
Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 11:45PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Pretty house. I love the colors.

I love natives, but I think you should use something else in that spot- maybe Springtime Viburnums.

If that is a podocarpus up against your home please consider removing it immediately- they grow 60 feet tall and the trunk diameter will get huge very rapidly, even if you carve it into a rectangle. I have a hedge of them, and they are monsters!

Good luck with your landscaping project.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 4:34PM
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My dad had a podocarpus removed from the front of the house. It messed up the water lines and cost money to remove the tree and fix the water lines. Move that tree away from the side of the house would be my suggestion too. They are pretty and grow fast but can be trouble next to the foundation. My neighbor has one out away from the house. She has it clipped close once a year and it grows right back again.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 10:15PM
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You could try checking out Las Pilitas Nursery ( http://www.laspilitas.com/ ); it has quite an extensive database for native plants--including a native plant "finder" that will find something that suits your situation (though planting in proximity to the lawn might pose some issues from competition for nutrients). My personal favorites for California native plants are (as my ID indicates) Manzanitas (which aren't quite suitable to be placed nearby the lawn), California Fuchsias (these can be planted closer to the lawn if you want), Monkeyflowers (Mimulus guttatus can live nearby the lawn, being that it lives in riparian habitats in the wild), and Sages (there's so many aromatic sages in California, with some species capable of tolerating more water). California has quite diverse climate that produces various natives suitable for a multitude of environments; there's probably something that can work for you.

This post was edited by CAManzanita on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 19:21

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 7:19PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Society garlic would be a beautiful border, and it's completely edible! Pests hate it because it does smell like garlic! It's basically only 14" high, has clumps of green tall grasses and blossoms of lavender. It's drought tolerant, but will tolerate water. It needs sun!

It could be the transition between the sod and the really drought tolerant stuff!


    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Salvia leucantha (Mexican sage) grows here in No Cal everywhere, and it blooms all Summer, Fall, and most of the Winter. For some reason it does not usually appear on lists of salvias in catalogues - perhaps because it is cold tender, but that is not an issue. It is very drought tolerant.

Re a border for your lawn - don't forget to put in daffodils! The deer WILL NOT eat them. Make sure to get the "warm weather" kinds, not the big ones that need WInter chill to come back. You can find that out by googling, I am sure.

Re bulbs where you do not have irrigation - most of the bulbs from South Africa love our climate, without extra water. They are so popular around here the nurseries even carry them for Fall planting. Sparaxis, iaxa, and some of the species gladioli come back year after year - I have never had to replant them.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2013 at 6:08PM
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