Saying hello to a new year and natives

Nan Sterman

Fri January 17, 2014 2:02pm

Have you started planting natives yet? Native plants that have evolved in our region’s dry summers and mild, rainy winters are mostly low water and low maintenance when planted in our gardens. The best time to plant them is now.
Here are a few of my favorites. By the way, whenever you visit a nursery, be sure to ask for plants by their botanical names, not their common names. Different plants often share common names but the botanicals are as individual as your name. To get the exact plant you want, then, ask for it by name.
jCalifornia field sedge (Carex praegracilis)
Low growing California field sedge looks like grass but requires much less water and doesn’t cause allergy problems. Grow California field sedge instead of a lawn – mowed for a more formal lawn or unmowed to make a meadow.
kDesert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
This two- to three-foot-tall shrub has fuzzy, slivery green leaves and apricot or watermelon pink flowers in spring and fall. 
lCalifornia lilac (Ceanothus)
Ceanothus are shrubs that can grow short and wide or tall and tree-like and everything in between. Their springtime blooms are in shades of indigo blue to white, depending on the cultivar. Butterflies and bees adore Ceanothus.
mBritton’s Dudleya (Dudleya brittonii)
Dudleya are succulents that form foot tall by foot wide rosettes of chalky white leaves. Rub the surface and the chalk comes off to reveal a bright green leaf. 
nManzanita (Arctostaphylos)
There are as many kinds of manzanita as there are of Ceanothus and in as many sizes too. These are excellent habitat shrubs, especially for attracting birds including hummingbirds. Pink or white springtime blooms also attract beneficial insects.
oIsland bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii)
This eight-foot-tall by six-foot-wide shrub has blue green leaves against which they put on a huge show of bright yellow flowers from late winter into spring.
pCalifornia poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Our state flower adds a bright spot of orange to the spring garden. Plant by sprinkling seeds onto the soil now, during our rainy season.
qYarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Yarrow is a low growing, spreading perennial with soft, ferny leaves. In late spring or summer, they send up stalks of umbrella shaped flower clusters that bloom yellow, white or red.
rCoast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) – Oaks are among Southern California’s few large, evergreen trees. They offer summer shade and excellent animal habitat.
sTecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii) – Forget Italian cypress, instead plant this fast growing cypress whose dense foliage and graceful form are beautiful in the garden. These trees grow 10 to 20 feet tall and nearly as wide. 
These plants are easy to grow, do not require fertilizer and are low maintenance. Irrigate with drip irrigation. Water frequently the first two years to get plants established, then cut back after that.
Nan hosts the KPBS TV series “A Growing Passion.” For more information on gardening in San Diego and clips from “A Growing Passion,” visit