Which Plant Would You Choose?

Among the plants we inherited from Mr. Previous Owner are some Agapanthus and a few Dietis (Fortnight Lily). We love the Agapanthus, but over time, I've started to tire of the Dietis just a bit. While the Agapanthus is popular with hummingbirds, the Dietis seems to have no wildlife value. It's also hard to keep under control, needing prompt removal of the seedpods and annual thinning. Finally, I'm not impressed how the strappy leaves of the Dietis contrast with the equally strappy (though less upright) leaves of the Agapanthus.

The challenge is deciding what to put in its place. And while I usually try to replace plants with California Natives, I might resort to something different this time.

Let me tell you about the location (above you can see the two plants from a different angle).
  • Two plants on both sides of a little bridge.
  • Currently about 4 feet high by 3 feet around, and I'd prefer not to go much higher because we want a view of the garden behind from the outside table. 
  • Morning sun only September-March, more sun the rest of the year. (Redwood trees to the south).
  • Acceptable colors: yellow, orange, white, rose but not pink. 
  • Long bloom period in summer/fall preferred.
  • Must tolerate low water condition (but will get some water during the dry season).

My first thought was Asclepias Tuberosa (photo above from Monarchwatch). I see one when walking downtown, the flowers more yellow than the photo. Similar to this photo from Wikipedia.

This butterfly weed is native to America but not California. It is drought tolerant, grows 24-36 inches. My big worry is that it seems to require full sun (though I've seen part sun listed in a few places). I'm also wondering whether this plant might get too big; the one I walk past is closer to 40 inches.

My next possibility is Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or once of its relatives. I have this plant already in two places in the garden, above in front of the bamboo fence -- a little more faded than Ms. Country Mouse's beautiful enclosure. Autumn Joy blooms at exactly the time when I'd like more going on in the Dietis spot, after the Agapanthus is done blooming.  I like the leaf shape, and won't mind that it goes dormant. But it, too, is happiest with full sun.

I've also considered a white rock rose (Cistus), and even some yarrow after cycling past some Moonbeam that was well over 3 feet tall just today. But I've had bad luck with Cistus, possibly drainage issues, and yarrow spreads a little too much for my taste.

So, dear readers, I'd love some input. When the rains start, I want to be ready to remove the Dietis and put in a beautiful wildlife plant that will cheer me in the dry doldrums of September and will attract bees and butterflies.


Anonymous said…
Perhaps California Goldenrod, or does it bloom earlier then September?
P.S. I Love your blog.
I have Asclepias growing in part shade and it does just fine. It is a SLOW growing plant though and it will take two or three years for it to come into its own.
Country Mouse said…
Many people enjoy it but I find this whole choice business difficult. With the new pool garden to fill, I'm having to take deep breaths. Your choice looks fine to me. Interesting that in the Gardening with Natives forum currently there is a big discussion on native/endemic/non-native/wildlife value issues. There are many hotly held opinions out there.
steph said…
If you wanted to keep the same sort of "feel" in those locations, you might want to consider one of the taller native grasses. By "feel" I mean that pointy, upright, fountain-y look. Of course, if you have your heart set on flowers... Anyway, just a thought.
Queer by Choice said…
I'm not sure how big an issue it is in this situation, I've seen claims that some non-native Asclepias species may harm Monarch caterpillars or fail to provide them with adequate protection from predators. You might want to read through this thread while considering milkweed species:

Susan Krzywicki said…
Or buckwheat? It is native and a nice upright form. Nice contrast.
I'm with you, I had fortnight lily at our last house. One of those 'builder's special' plants that came with the house. Was fine for a year or so, but over time it looks raggedy, and really doesn't seem to bring much to the garden. Of the plants you listed, I'd be tempted to go with the Sedum, just because the one time I grew that, the butterflies went berserk! However, I think I spy California fuchsia in the background, and I'm afraid the pink of the sedum, and the red might not go together? How about something like Isocoma menziesii. It's reportedly an excellent nectar plant, and California native, and just now coming into bloom. It's on our list to 'investigate' for next year, as we need to find some late season blooms for our new bees arriving in spring. We seem to have a derth of blooms at the moment. The only 'native' blooming here now with any profusion is a native Verbena. It is a butterfly magnet...but it's lavender blue. Not sure if that would work for you, and it's a bit short in stature, so perhaps not tall enough for alongside your bridge. I'll be curious to see what you choose.
Gail said…
I don't know California natives at all~so I can't make a suggestion there. Look forward to hearing what you decide to add. gail