California Native Plants
Beautiful – Fragrant – Drought Tolerant

California Native Landscape

I have written a number of blogs and newsletters concerning California's drought, sustainable landscape design and the use of drought tolerant plants, the ways one can save water and save money, as well as how to help protect your property against wildfires.

All of this material has now been collected, including available down-loadable PDFs, on my website page, Sustainable Green Landscape Design, which I encourage you to check out and download. However … I've never looked specifically at California Native Plants and what a wonderful natural resource they are, particularly as our current drought looks like it's becoming a permanent reality.

Theodore Payne Foundation

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flower and Native Plants, located in Sun Valley, is dedicated to preserving, propagating and promoting California native plants, seeds and wild flowers – native treasures that conserve water and other resources, provide habitat for wildlife, and add color and fragrance to the garden.

The Foundation operates a year-round, retail nursery – should you decided to go native – offering the region's largest and most interesting selection of California native plants – hundreds of different species and cultivars, many of which are drought tolerant and low maintenance. Their Education Center and Outreach programs offer classes and field trips for adults and children. You can easily spend a day there learning what California natives has to offer.

What follows are some pertinent thoughts and ideas I've selected from the Foundation's California Native Plant Database.

California Native Plants

Why California Natives?

Concerns about water conservation and the current drought throughout much of California cause worried minds to consider California native plants as a means to save water. Although this is a great reason to look at changes in the garden, the first and foremost reason to plant natives is that they are beautiful!

This is the most diverse and fascinating flora in the United States, with nearly 6,000 species and subspecies, and as many cultivars. This diversity allows the home gardener to explore their individual interests and style, and to create a truly unique and personal garden.

The Value In Going Native

With gas prices high, water costs rising, and water becoming an ever-diminishing resource, its time to take a step back and think about the whole picture. When you do, gardening with native plants makes sense for your wallet and your world.

Because natives do not need fertilizers and pesticides and soil amendments, you contribute to clean water at the beach while you save money. And when you save water, you actually reduce your contribution to green house gasses and reduce global warming. The California Department of Water Resources reports that 19% of all electricity used in California goes toward moving water around. Who knew that California water conveyance contributes more to global warming than all the cars and trucks on our local roads?

When you garden with natives, you immerse yourself in a new world of wildlife. Fence lizards appear, as do an extraordinary number of native Pollinators. You discover that California has seasons! And, don't forget, our California native plants are beautiful

California Native Plants

Make Your Castle Garden Unique

The American homeowners' idealized landscape assumed abundant water and abundant time – an English manor for each of us. And the result has been a horticultural industry that has bred bulletproof plants that appear in every yard from Bangor, Maine, to Burbank, California.

But this doesn't have to be your reality. California natives are, after all, native to our landscape and could become native to yours, as well. Why not decided to enjoy the beauty nature provided us rather than maintaining a yard based on a myth that looks like every other yard in the neighborhood.

The California Native Plant Society is an excellent resource and the Theodore Payne Foundation is a wonderful place to visit. Why not check it out and … "go native?"

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In addition to my work as a landscape designer and contractor, I love giving advice and have provided garden consultations to any number of folks with great results.

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Plant Of The Month
Deer Grassam
Deer Grass

Muhlenbergia rigens, commonly known as Deer Grass, is a warm season perennial bunchgrass found in sandy or well drained soils below 7,000 feet (2,100 m) in elevation in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico.

The plant Muhlenbergia rigens is characterized by dense, tufted basal foliage consisting of narrow pointed leaves that reach lengths of about 3 feet (0.91 m) and range in color from light silver-green to purple. The spikelike stems are less than half an inch wide and 3–4 feet (0.91–1.22 m) in length. During bloom, the numerous flowered panicles often reach heights of five feet and terminate in a single awnless floret with a 3-nerved lemma. Deer Grass is characteristic of tallgrass prairie of much of the Western United States.


Muhlenbergia rigens, Deer Grass, can be established in late spring and early summer by broadcast seeding with irrigation. For best results, 50 seeds per square foot are planted then lightly incorporated just below the soil surface with a culti-packer. Establishment is most successful when steps are taken to mitigate weed growth. Burning, discing and reduced fertilization schemes to reduce the weed seed bank are recommended.

Container planting is a highly effective way of establishing Deer Grass. The seed can be sown in flats in May and transplanted in the fall of the same year. In California, except in areas of heavy frost, Muhlenbegia rigens can be successfully planted out in winter and spring to take advantage of seasonal rainfall.[5] Stand preparation should be the same as when broadcast-seeded. During transplant, plants should be spaced with a minimum of two feet between them. After establishment little management is required. Irrigation is unnecessary in normal rainfall years and fertilization is not recommended as it may increase weed competition. Burning or mowing can be used every few years to reduce accumulated dead matter.

Because Muhlenbergia rigens uses C4 carbon fixation, it gains an advantage in conditions of drought and high temperature. This characteristic, along with its attractiveness, has gained the plant recent attention as an ornamental in xeriscapes in yards and parks. Studies have also demonstrated a high tolerance to salt suggesting possible irrigation using low quality reclaimed waste-water sources at very low cost

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