Some Colorful California Native Summer Bloomers

This post could have been titled: "But won't it be all brown and desert-like in the summer?"

The article I shared in my last post, about replacing lawns with native plant gardens, also addressed a common fear of beginning native (or Mediterranean) plant gardeners -- that the garden will inevitably be drab while summer dormant plants doff their colorful garb.

Not true! You can have plenty of foliage and bloom interest in a summer native plant garden.

Here are some ideas to get you started. These plant families feature summer bloomers that shine while those early blooming lovelies slumber through the heat.

Give them a backdrop of evergreen shrubs like manzanita, toyon, and coffee berry — which also have colorful berries that birds love.

I've only listed a few — What are your summer blooming favorites?

Salvias. Ground cover, such as ‘Bee’s Bliss’, to mid-sized shrubs, such as Salvia brandegii and Salvia clevelandii) and large spreading bushes like Salvia Leucophylla). Lavender to blue flowers from spring through summer, depending on species (check labels for bloom time), and wonderful scented foliage.

 Probably Salvia clevelandii
Salvia sonomensis 'Fremont Carpet'

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus). Shrubby mid-sized perennials. Many cultivars with blooms from orange and salmon to rose-pink and maroon. Can bloom almost year round in coastal gardens. Following are probably Mimulus 'Trish' and Mimulus 'Eleanor' - not sure.

Buckwheats (Eriogonum). Very low to medium sized perennials. Rosy-red, pink, white, and yellow blooms are attractive into fall.

Reddish one is Eriogonum grande rubescens and the other is likely E. latifolium

Even when browning in fall, these Eriogonum crocatum blooms have visual interest

Penstemons. Small to medium sized perennials. Red, blue and lavender blooms.

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Catherine de la Mare' - Catherine de la Mare  Foothill Penstemon in foreground, with checkerblooms, and chiapas Sage
Penstemon centranthifolius - scarlet bugler

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), medium size perennials. White to salmon pink blooms.

Achillea millefolium 'Island Pink' and Trichostema lanatum - Wooly Blue Curls
Achillea millefolium 'Sonoma'

California fuchsia (Epilobium canum), low to mid size mounding perennial. Scarlet blooms into October.

California fuchsia - Epilobium canum. Blooms in September. A MUST! for the sunny garden.
Epilobium canum 'Everett's Choice'

Dudleyas and Sedums, low growing succulents. Mainly yellow, some pink blooms.

Unknown Dudleya on left, Sedum spathulifolium - Stonecrop - on right
I would again like to thank Pete Veilleux (his nursery is East Bay Wilds) for generously sharing photos of his landscaping work and plants.


ryan said…
I know what you mean with the 'won't it all be brown' comment. I get that a bit, though maybe not as much as I used to. I kind of stopped worrying about summer bloomers, relying on foliage and the overall design to carry it through that late-summer period. Mimulus cardinalis and Lilium pardalinum are probably the last of my showy bloomers, not coincidentally the both like summer water. Monardella villosa and maybe the Calycanthus also bloom pretty late and are favorites of mine.