What does my native garden need in late spring?


  • After annual wildflowers have completed their bloom period, collect wildflower seeds from spent plants to share with your gardening buddies and save for next year. If you will not be watering through the summer, allow the wildflowers to reseed the beds themselves.
  • Remove messy plants, as desired, but consider leaving some seedheads to feed the birds.
  • For California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), remove some and cut others to the ground, allowing them at least one more display this year.
  • Remove weeds, especially those that haven't set seed yet.


  • Spread mulch, organic for woodland and riparian beds, inorganic for chaparral, scrub and desert areas. Be careful to keep mulch away from the plant stems so as not to encourage rot in this sensitive area.
  • Mulch reduces weeds, enriches the soil (if it is organic) and gives the garden the “cared for” look so important for any garden, native or not.


  • Pinch back monkey flower (Mimulus species), sage (Salvia species) and other perennials, especially on young plants, to encourage the development of a tighter, bushier form with copious blooms.
  • Pinch back ceanothus and other spring flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. Be sure to leave the spent flowers on the shrubs that will develop showy or desirable fruits.
  • Deadhead and pinch back perennials to extend the flowering period. With flowers, it is often the case that the more you cut the more you get. So bring your partner a lovely bouquet and enhance your garden.


  • Most California natives do best if planted in the late fall to early winter. You will have more luck with perennials and plants that require year around water, such as coral bells (Heuchera species and cultivars), penstemons (Penstemon species and cultivars), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens).


  • For native gardens, it is often important to provide supplemental water during dry winters. This is the time of year chaparral and scrubland plants are actively growing. Now that spring is here, if the rains have stopped, you can provide some infrequent deep watering before the plants have entered their dormant period to extend their growing season. You need to check your plants often.
  • Get to know them so that you can tell when they are slowing down for the long, hot summer. As the heat sets in and your plants stop growing, taper off the water. Watering during the summer encourages disease and unsustainable growth. Summertime in southern California is perfect for soft gray colors, slow growth, less physical work and the spicy smell of sage and sagebrush. Get ready to sit back and relax.

Visit Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to see our outstanding wildflower meadow, Pacific Coast Hybrid irises, and other spring flowering perennials, shrubs and trees.