Favorite California Native Perennials

I've been wanting to share a list of my favorite California Native perennials for a little while - my thoughts turn to plant purchases as the days get shorter. But somehow, other exciting topics kept coming up. But it's not to late to buy some plants, and the best planting season hasn't even started yet.


Above, the star of the fall garden, Zauschneria Californica or California fuchsia. I've fallen in love with 'Calistoga', a cultivar with large green leaves and large red flowers. But others, with more feathery leaves, with flowers that are salmon colored or even white, are also a beautiful addition to the garden, and now is the time to purchase and plant. Even if you get a plant that has started to go dormant, don't worry too much, it will likely come back in spring.


Mimulus, or monkey flower, is a great plant for part shade or part sun that blooms through the spring blooming season and beyond if you're lucky. If you plant this tough California native in full sun, it will survive and look bad, truly unattractive, for several months in summer. This has dampened my enthusiasm for Mimulus just a bit, but ever since I've planted it in part shade, I've had a longer blooming season and more attractive plant in summer.

Mimulus are short lived and very easy to propagate, so if you have some in your garden don't wait too long and make some new plants. They won't mind being an attractive small container plant in the first year, and can then be transplanted to your favorite spot in the garden.


A low growing fragrant perennial for part sun or part shade, Monardella is the perfect plant to tuck into little empty areas. I especially like it combined with grasses or with Mimulus. And it's (more or less) locally native - I see it when I go hiking not too far away, and seems to attract an especially large number of pollinators.

In my garden, Monardella also seems fairly short lived. I'll see whether I can refresh the two plants I have by cutting them back severely, but replacing them might be the right thing, for an explosion of bloom twoard the end spring.

Wooly Blue Curl (Trichstemma Lanatum)

A little bit temperamental but wonderful if it works out is the justly famous wooly blue curl. With its true blue large flowers, (true) green feathery leaves year round, and delicate fragrance, this is truly a show stopper.

What's the catch? This plant wants good to perfect drainage. I've put my three plants right along the dry creek bed and so far all is well. But I suspect if I planted one in the back garden in the clay, the garden fairies would not smile at me. Still, if you can think of a spot where this plant might survive, you really want to get one (or two). I've seen this plant grow wild in the Los Padres National Forest, in sandy soil and in full sun and it's getting full sun in my garden - let's hope for another year of this delightful explosion of blue.


Eriogonum is the native buckwheat. Coming in many shapes and colors, it's the workhorse of the summer garden. Above, the delicate blossoms of the locally native Eriogonum fasciculatum, the native narrow leaf buckwheat.

And here, a single plant of a different buckwheat - don't remember which one, that has created a river of flowers between two Ceanothus during summer dormancy.

Many of the Eriogonum species come from the channel islands, with some of them displaying interesting colors (grande rubescens) or shapes (arborescens). They are generally fairly easy to propagate from seed and hybridize readily, so thing carefully about planting an island species if you live out in the countryside. But for those of us here in the suburbs, this is a perfect plant, very drought tolerant and easy to care for.

And now, I'm hoping I can still grab a few of these beauties somewhere. I stocked up at the CNPS plant sale, but I'm still missing a few more plants - well, maybe I'll just have to take matters into my own hands and propagate at least a few Mimulus.


Jason said…
All gorgeous! The Zauschneria is indeed a star, and your Mimulus makes our eastern species look very frumpy by comparison.
Elephant's Eye said…
that woolly blue curl, has such impressive long spikes of flowers. No question that it's a blue star!
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James said…
At our local plant sale the woolies are set aside in a high-demand area along with matilija poppies, ceanothus and manzanita. I'll be brave enough to try it one of these days, even though everyone I talked to had offed several already--probably that drainage issue you mentioned. Congratulations on your success with the plant!
Country Mouse said…
I also want to try woolly blue curls! I think I have some ideal spots for it - if it can deal with our sandy chaparral soil. You've got me thinking - what are some of my favorites?