Native Plant Gardening Books

Bornstein, Carol; David Fross and Bart O’Brien. 2005. "California Native Plants for the Garden" Los Olivos, CA: Cachuma Press.

Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Ed. 2001. "Sunset Western Garden Book" Menlo Park, CA: Sunset Publishing.

Dale, Nancy. 1986. "Flowering Plants, The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California" Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press.

Dreistadt, Steve. 2004. "Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide" 2nd Ed. Oakland, CA: UC ANR Publication 3359.

Fross, David and Dieter Wilken. 2006. "Ceanothus" Portand, OR: Timber Press.

Keator, Glenn. 1990. "Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California"

Keator, Glenn. 1994. "Complete Garden Guide to the Native Shrubs of California" San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Lenz Lee W.; John Dourley. 1981. "California Native Trees and Shrubs" Claremont, CA: RSABG.

Lowry, Judith Larner. 1999. "Gardening with a Wild Heart" Berkeley, CA: UC Press.

O’Brien, Bart C. 2002. “California Native Plant Gardens: Care and Maintenance” Claremont, CA: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

O’Brien, Bart; Betsey Landis and Ellen Mackey. 2006. "Care and Maintenance of Southern California Native Plant Gardens" Los Angeles, CA: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Perry, Bob. 1992. "Landscape Plants for Western Regions: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation" San Dimas, CA: Land Design Publishing.

Perry, Bob. 1980. "Trees and Shrubs for Dry California Landscapes" San Dimas, CA: Land Design Publishing.

Pittenger, Dennis R., editor. "California Master Gardener Handbook" Oakland, CA: UC ANR Publication 3382.

Schmidt, Marjorie G. 1980. "Growing California Native Plants" Berkeley, CA: UC Press.

Smith, M. Nevin. 2006. "Native Treasures: Gardening with the Plants of California" Berkeley, CA: UC Press.

Hanging Baskets

There are many California native plants that do well in containers. For hanging baskets in partial shade and moderate water try yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), woodland or seaside strawberry (Fragaria californica, F. chiloensis), wild mints (Monardella villosa, M. macrantha) and yerba buena (Satureja douglasii). All of these will spill over the pot. Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), sedges like Carex praegracilis, and rush (Juncus patens) have a more upright habit and look nice in the center of the pot. Dudleyas and sedums also do well in pots, though they require excellent drainage and less water.

You can combine different plants in pots as long as their water, soil and sun requirements are similar. Consider putting a western columbine in the center of the pot with wild strawberries spilling over the sides. Yerba mansa, has showy white flowers in the spring and long draping stems, responsible for its other common name, lizard’s tail. A pot of yerba mansa, meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum ) and rush mimics a small wetland area. Coral bells (Heuchera spp.) also do well in pots and look nice with woodland strawberries and California fescue (Festuca californica).

Container planting provides exciting gardening opportunities for everyone, including those with limited space or physical capabilities. Visit the RSABG Container Garden for new ideas on growing California native plants in pots.

Types of Irrigation Systems

The best irrigation for your garden is the one you can control and maintain. You have four basic options: 1) hand watering with a hose, using either a nozzle or a sprinkler, 2) overhead sprinklers on automatic controllers, 3) low-volume systems and 4) drip systems. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

1. People who hand-water their gardens can adjust the amount of water on a plant-by-plant basis. The time spent watering the garden allows you to examine your plants often and closely. In the dry Southern California climate, overhead watering is not usually a problem for most plants. The biggest problem with this method is that you may lose plants if you are unable to keep up with the watering. Also, if time is limited or you are too impatient to water deeply, your plants may suffer from stunted root systems.

2. Overhead sprinkler systems on automatic controllers free you from having to remember to water your garden. Automatic controllers, though, must be monitored and adjusted to weather conditions and plant needs, and of course, they must be maintained. A power outage causes some controllers to reset to a default schedule of 10 minutes of watering, everyday of the week – a watering regime that is wasteful and unhealthy for most plants. Although it is best to water in the early morning, it is essential to check your system often, so set it for a time that you will regularly see it running.

3. Low-volume systems are easy and inexpensive to construct with plastic tubing and low-volume sprayers. They can be connected to an outside spigot or a sprinkler system, and can be run on a timer. It is possible to design these systems to provide water to small areas, as needed. For example, they can be set up to water new plants during the establishment period without over-watering nearby low-water use plants. Furthermore, they are easy to check since the spray heads are clearly visible. A disadvantage to this system is that the small, plastic parts are somewhat fragile. Squirrels and other animals can gnaw through the tubing or otherwise disturb the system. The controller must be checked and adjusted to meet the needs of your plants.

4. Drip systems are helpful for potted plants, but like the low-volume system, they are fragile - tubing may break and drip heads may clog. Since they are small and often hidden, you may not notice their failure until your plants are suffering from lack of water. Furthermore, drip systems provide water to a limited area and may not distribute it evenly to the plant’s root system.

One of the biggest advantages of using California native plants is that you can select plants whose water needs match our climate. Once your plants are established you may only need to water them occasionally during dry winters and once a month or less during the dry season - late spring through fall – to keep them looking good.

Native Plant Displays

As California native plants gain in popularity, they are showing up in more gardens, arboreta and parks throughout our region.

Botanic Gardens and Arboreta

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden
350 Gainsborough Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91358
Ph: (805) 494-7630; Website:
collections of native plants, oak trees and water-conserving plants

Fullerton Arboretum
California State University, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA 92634
Ph: (657) 278-3407; Website:
Mediterranean section with plants of coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities

Leaning Pine Arboretum
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Ph: (805) 756-2888; Website:
against the hills at the north end of campus

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Palo Verde Garden Center and Wortz Demonstration Garden 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260
Ph: (760) 346-5694; Website:
desert plantings

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Ph: (310) 825-3620; Website:
coastal sage scrub, Channel Islands and chaparral communities

San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens)
230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024
Ph: (760) 436-3036; Website:
native trail

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 N. College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711
Ph: (909) 625-8767
devoted to the collection, cultivation, study, and display of California native plants

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Ph: (805) 563-2521; Website:
fostering stewardship of the natural world with emphasis on California native plants

University of California Riverside Botanic Gardens
Univ. of Calif. Riverside 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521
Ph: (951) 827-1012; Website:
southwestern desert and Sierran foothills sections

Nursery Gardens

Las Pilitas Nursery
8331 Nelson Way, Escondido, CA 92026
Ph: (760) 749-5930; Website:

Theodore Payne Foundation
10459 Tuxford St., Sunland, CA 91352-2116
Ph: (818) 768-1802; Website:
demonstration garden areas, a wildflower nature trail, and natural canyon areas

Tree of Life Nursery
33201 Ortega Highway, P.O. Box 635, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Ph: (949) 728-0685; Website:
Retail strawbale bookstore, nursery landscaped with native plants

Habitat Gardens

Audubon Center at Debs Park
4700 North Griffin Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90031
Ph: (323) 221-2255; Website:
walnut savannah, oak-walnut-toyon woodland, and coastal sage scrub

Charmlee Wilderness Park
2577 S. Encinal Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265-2411
Ph: (310) 457-7247; Website:
native plant displays and a butterfly garden

Eaton Canyon County Park
1750 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA 91107
Ph: (626) 398-5420; Website:
coastal sage scrub, bird and butterfly, wildflower gardens in a foothill setting

E. Rowley Demonstration Gardens
4594 San Bernardino St., Montclair, CA 91763
Ph: (909) 626-2711
chaparral, desert and riparian sections

Madrona Marsh Preserve & Nature Center
3201 Plaza del Amo, Torrance, CA 90503
Ph: (310) 782-3989 Website:
vernal marsh, wetlands area, nature center

Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority
Arroyo Pescadero, Colima Road, Whittier, CA 90602 Ph: (562) 945-9303; Website:
coastal sage scrub and chaparral

Low-Water Use Gardens With Some California Natives

Chino Basin Water Conservation District Demo Garden
4594 San Bernardino St, Montclair, CA 91763-2228
Ph: (909) 626-2711; Website:
drought resistant plants including desert and chaparral gardens

Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada, CA 91011
Ph: (818) 949-4200; Website:
native plant section

El Alisal, the Lummis Home
200 South Avenue 43, Los Angeles, CA 90042
Ph: (323) 460-5632; Website:
historical-sites low water use garden, offering a display of native and Mediterranean plants

La Casita del Arroyo
177 South Arroyo Boulevard, Pasadena 91105-1075;
Ph: (626) 794-0581
water conservation garden above Lower Arroyo Seco Park

Landscapes Southern California Style
450 Alessandro Blvd., Riverside, CA 92508
Ph: (909) 780-4170; Website:
one-acre water conservation demo garden by Western Municipal Water District

Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Ave. Arcadia, CA 91007
Ph: (626) 821-3222; Website:
native stand of Engelmann oaks, water conservation garden

Sam Maloof Garden
5131 Carnelian Street, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729
Ph: (909) 980-0412; Website:
six acre, low-water use, home garden with many native plants

The Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, El Cajon, CA 92019
Ph: (619) 660-0614; Website:
4.2 acre, low-water use garden featuring Mediterranean plants and a few natives