Our Favorite California Native Perennials
Perennial plants are blooming plants that come back year after year (live longer than a few years). To care for them you usually just cut them back in the winter and then they will come back again in the spring. Perennials are truly the sprinkle of color needed in every garden. These types of plants are well worth incorporating into your garden to not only add color but to create habitat for wildlife. Below I have listed some of my favorite California native perennials to add to your garden.
Red Flowering Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens)
This hardy California native blooms from late spring through summer. Its striking pink blooms stand almost a foot from the leaves. I especially love how this plant has such a compact nature helping make it easy to maintain. When in bloom, it is a favorite spot for butterflies, moths, birds and bees. Add it to your garden for a low water, clay tolerant, hardy plant that won't need any of your time to maintain.
Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.)
I personally love seeing these flowers in the hills near my home. On hikes, I have been known to snap a photo (or 10) of these bright yellow/orange flowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies are especially attracted to these flowering plants. Mimulus spp. can handle clay, heat and drought conditions making them an easy to care for plant. The bright POP of color also adds cheer to any garden setting.
There are a wide range of native California salvia species to choose from so I couldn't choose just one. We use these flowers in so many of our designs since each one is so unique. They range from deep purple to pink to white. Their flowers are a favorite of bees but also support other wildlife such as moths, butterflies and hummingbirds. Salvias are also deterrents to deer and rabbits as their pungent smell repels them making them often perfect for front yard gardens. Some of our favorites include Salivia leucophylla, Salvia clevelandii, and Salvia spathacea.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
This fast growing native perennial has a long history of use in Native American medicine. Native Americans used yarrow for such things as a pain relief and fever reduction. Although you are not necessarily going to use this plant in that capacity it is neat to know how useful this plant has been. Yarrow flowers bloom in late spring and summer. They are fast growing with an upright habit. These plants need to be planted where you are fine with them spreading since they easily reseed as well as spread from rhizosomes. Yarrow is also a great plant for soil erosion and in restoration projects since it spreads easily. Yarrow is often used in butterfly gardens but also supports bees and birds.
California Fuschia (Epilobium canum)
These red tubular flowers provide the perfect food for hummingbirds. California fuschia loves full sun and usually doesn't need additional supplemental water after established. In the heat of summer, these plants will be blooming away adding color and hummingbirds to your garden.
Island Alum Root (Heuchera maxima)
This easy to grow perennial loves partial sun in zone 9. You may see lots of cultivars of this native plant in the nurseries that range from lime to purple to pink leaves. However all of these hybrids are from the H. maxima plant. I often use these in mass plantings to make more of an impact as understory plantings to trees. The blooms of these plants are long lasting and are great for bouquets. Heuchera adds color to otherwise dark spaces.
Narrow Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
Narrow leaf milkweed is commonly known as one of the most important host plants for monarch butterflies. Just know that these plants will be eaten by Monarch caterpillars but don't worry you will get the reward of Monarchs visiting your garden. Narrow leaf milkweed doesn't need a lot water, tolerates multiple soil types and loves sun. Needless to say it is an easy to grow garden plant. The one challenge you may have is actually finding it in a nursery to buy. It seems that when these come in they go quickly as so many people want to help add these invaluable plants to their gardens.