Some native plants should stay wild.

Long before people came here and imported exotic (non-native) plants from all over the world, native plants had been perfectly happy without any pruning, watering or fertilizing. They had always been perfectly happy with local soils, local climates and even occasional wildfires. Many are still happier in the wild than in seemingly more comfortable refined gardens and landscapes.

It really makes sense though. Most exotic plants need to be watered because they are from climates that naturally get more rain. Some want to be fertilized because they are from regions with different soil types. Some plants prefer cooler winters. Others want more humidity. They crave what they would get in their respective native homelands.

However, plants that are native to California are not necessarily native to here. California is a big place with all sorts of climates and soils. For example, the desert fan palm that is native to warm and dry Palm Springs would not be happy in cool and foggy San Francisco. Big leaf maple that likes the cool winters of the Siskiyous does not like the mild winters near the coast of Los Angeles. The best natives are those that are native to a particular region, or similar region.

Also, there are a few native plants that are not so easy to accommodate in every home garden. Both the giant sequoia, which is the biggest tree in the world, and the coastal redwood, which is the tallest trees in the world, are native to California. Even if the local climate is a good fit, the space available may not be.

One of the most difficult problems for so many natives though, is that they are sensitive to the regular watering that most exotic plants require. The regular watering that lawn needs just to survive is enough to rot the roots of plants that do not expect any water between spring and autumn.

Santa Barbara daisy, penstemon and various salvias are some of the favorite native perennials. Wax myrtle and the various ceanothus and manzanitas are interesting shrubbery. Western redbud and toyon can be big shrubs or small trees. California sycamore and various oaks are big trees for big spaces.

4 thoughts on “Natives Are Right At Home

  1. This is a great discussion of native plants. Way too often, I have heard it done in a similar but overly “you shouldn’t ” type way. Gardening blogs really should be about education–as you do so well!

    Karla

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. This happens to be a complicated topic. This article is so brief because it is from the gardening column, which has limited space.
      By ‘you shouldn’t’, do you mean that natives are not recommended? I am actually not a proponent of natives for all situation like some of the fanatics are. In the Santa Clara Valley, not many of the natives are appealing in refined landscapes, and some are actually undesirable. The natives of the Santa Cruz Mountains are more fun, but not necessarily more appropriate to refined landscapes. (The trunks of some redwoods here are half as wide as city lots in San Jose.) I work with exotics mixed with natives here because the landscapes are so unrefined, and merge into the surrounding forests. The forest constantly tries to move back into landscaped areas. It is fun, but I would not want to do without all exotics, even here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In California, it almost always does more harm than good. In the past, I worked for so-called ‘landscapers’ who regularly installed ‘natives’ because they could brag about doing so, but then watered them generously enough to drown them. Also, native regularly get installed into landscapes with plants that need regular irrigation, yet we get to brag about installing natives. It is such a scam!

      Liked by 2 people

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