Wild Lilac Wild lilac. Photo © niicedave/Flickr via Creative Commons

Why Plant California Native Plants

These five beautiful natives will do more than just look good; they’ll save water, too.

Planting Natives to Save Water

With our rains tapering off, what better time than spring to take stock of the garden and replace water-loving plants with drought-tolerant natives? Native species are adapted to our dry summers, and once they’re established you won’t be wasting water irrigating them. Additionally, they provide food for our local bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

For those of you convinced that native plants are more about doing good than looking good, we’ve got a surprise for you.

Check out these five gorgeous alternatives to thirsty, old-school ornamentals.

• Small tree: Rather than a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that demands regular watering, consider the western redbud (Cercis occidentalis). This stunning, drought-tolerant shrub can be pruned as a small tree, rivaling the Japanese maple with its beautiful bright pink or magenta flowers.

• Flowering shrub: How about a wild lilac (Ceanothus) instead of a thirsty rose? We know nothing beats the charm of a rose, but the wide variety of blue, purple or white blooms and the intoxicating fragrance of a wild lilac deserve notice. Unlike the rose, it’s easy to grow, and when it bursts into flower, bees, butterflies and other pollinators will thank you.

• Shade perennial: Hostas are the go-to perennial for shade, but check out our native island alum root (Heuchera maxima). These native coral bells are a compact evergreen that thrive in the shade while requiring little summer water.

• Hedges and screen: For a fast-growing, thick hedge, take a look at the Channel Islands mallow (Lavatera assurgentiflora) instead of a bamboo. It can be sheared as a formal hedge, and, with its gorgeous lavender flowers, it’s a pollinator’s delight.

• Border plants: We’re stretching geography with this one, but anyone who’s grown the Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), a native of Mexico, can attest to its abundant bloom and easy maintenance. Try this instead of petunias or impatiens. Cut your daisy border back in early February for a burst of spring flowers.

 

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