Growing California Native Plants
Native plants can be planted year round with different growing strategies.
Native plants are adapted to California climate. The climate of the species original location will determine what conditions the plant will best grow and thrive.
Blossom Hill California Native Plants specializes in plants adapted to the Central Valley and Oak Woodlands.
These regions of California have:
Precipitation – typically 12-24 inches, ~25-60cm
Winter - cold, wet with some hard frost.
Spring – wet, warming spring with little frost after April 1.
Summer - hot, dry with some extreme heat.
Fall - cooling, typically dry with occasional rain.
Dormancy. Most Natives will have a dormant period that depends on the species. Those that flower in spring are mostly summer dormant.
Determine what you want in terms of plant size, flower color and timing, and landscape design. Buy what best fits – not what looks good at the nursery.
Unlike ornamental plants found in normal nurseries, Natives may not be flowering. Nurseries “push” ornamentals to flower as most consumers are attracted to the bright showy displays. Unfortunately, in most cases, when the plant is planted into the garden the shock of being transplanted will set the plant back.
This practice of “pushing” plants to flower is not good for plants in general and really bad for Natives. Natives need to maintain their natural rhythm of growth, flowering and dormancy.
Fall Planting - This is the best time to plant and gives the plants time to develop a root system without the demand of warmer weather and lots of vegetative growth. Best time is after the first good rain. If no rain, then sprinkle irrigate for deep moisture prior to planting. Remember roots will go toward moisture. Mulch - as suggested below a larger rock does the trick.
Winter Planting - Similar to Fall, but careful of possible frost. Mulch to lessen damage. Frost typically burns back new growth but the plant then regrows just fine.
Spring Planting – make sure there is deep moisture. Remember roots will grow towards moisture, so the deeper the moisture and roots the better. After planting – mulch. Any kind of mulch will work. The easiest and one of the most effective, is to place a big rock next to the plant. DO NOT use mulches that contain fertilizer. Supplement with periodic irrigation during the summer. It is best to avoid really hot days and irrigate on cooler days – make the plant think that a thunderstorm happened. During following years, after establishment, most natives require little supplemental water during the summer.
Summer Planting - Not recommended but can be done if managed well. Will need deep moisture and mulch. Generally most Native Plants are dormant in the summer. Too much water can kill them as easily as too little. If careful in plant selection, moisture and mulching should work well. If you need plant recommendations please email - generally those that can take regular, or garden water, can work.
Natives need to be treated like Natives.
Sprinkle only – do not use drip. If you do the plants will look good for a while but many will quickly burn out. In general, the plants will need deep water in winter (usually supplied by rain) and supplemental shallow water the rest of the year until established. Recommend that you put them on a manual timer – wind it up and it waters for up to 2 hours. Avoid normal scheduled automatic timer watering. After established, watering usually is not needed or only very limited.
Fertilize? – no. In the nursery we use a minor amount of fertilizer as the root zone is limited. After planting additional fertilizer will give rapid growth for a while but the plant will over extend itself and quickly burn out and die.
It takes a little bit of work to understand Native Plants - but in the end it is well worth it and exciting to see them grow, flower, and go thru their normal annual life cycle. The hummingbirds, bees and butterflies they attract are well worth the effort.
Enjoy. These plants are beautiful and fun to grow!