San Diego’s Best Native Plants


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If you wonder which plants do best in San Diego, wonder no more. Nan Sterman, gardening expert and host of the KPBS series A Growing Passion, shares her top 10 list of native plants that are easy to grow, require little water, support local wildlife and are beautiful in the garden. 

  • California lilac (Ceanothus) has beautiful, fragrant spring blooms in shades of indigo blue to white that attract butterflies and bees.
  • Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) is an excellent habitat shrub, especially for birds and beneficial insects.
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) adds a bright spot of orange to the spring garden and reseeds itself.
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a low-growing, spreading perennial with soft, ferny leaves and flowers that bloom yellow, white or red in late spring or summer. 
  • Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) is one of our few large evergreen trees. It offers summer shade and is an excellent animal habitat.
  • California field sedge (Carex praegracilis) is a low-growing sedge that is a good lawn alternative.
  • Purple three-awn (Aristida purpurea) is a medium-sized clumping grass that blooms pink/purple in spring and summer. Plant it instead of the overly aggressive Mexican thread grass (Nasella tenuissima). 
  • Wild rye (Leymus condensatus) is a beautiful blue or blue-green, wider-leaf ornamental grass that works well in a naturalistic landscape.
  • Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica) is a medium-sized evergreen shrub with gorgeous, white, anemone-like flowers in spring. Since this shrub is native to stream areas in the foothills of Fresno County, it benefits from a bit of extra water and some shade in the heat of the day inland.
  • Chalk liveforever (Dudleya pulverulenta) makes large, cabbage-sized, icy-green rosettes. In late spring or summer, plants send out long wands of reddish flowers.

A Growing Passion airs on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and on Saturdays at 4 p.m. on KPBS (Cox 1011 HD, Time Warner 711 HD, Channel 15).

Categories: Gardening