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Summer 2023

California Natives: A Smart Choice

by Kate Verhoef

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UC Master Gardener volunteers often provide advice on reducing water use in home gardens. You can do this by selecting drought-resistant California native plants. Drought tolerance is not the only positive feature of many California natives. Here are more reasons to choose California native plants, and a list of recommended plants for a more drought-tolerant, fire-resistant landscape.

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Many California native plants also require fewer pesticides and herbicides. After all, they have co-evolved with native insect pests and have effective defense mechanisms. Native plants are naturally adapted to our climate and soil conditions, so tend to require less maintenance. They contribute to our local ecology: they support native insects, including bees and butterflies, as well as the birds that eat berries, seeds, insects and larvae. Many native plants are also soil stabilizers, preventing erosion and soil loss during wet winters. Finally, a careful selection of native plants can provide color and beauty all year: from January’s berries to marvelous spring wildflower displays, from summer- and fall-blooming butterfly magnets to evergreen foliage shrubs, California native plants really do have something for everyone.

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As the wildfire threat becomes worse and our current drought deepens, we need to talk about fire resistance too. Just as no plant—whether native or introduced—is completely drought resistant, neither is any plant fireproof. All plants will burn under the worst conditions. So our oft-repeated advice—“Choose the right plant for the right place”—also applies to California native plants, especially when it comes to drought and fire.

No matter which plants you choose to incorporate into your landscape, remember that landscape design and maintenance are the best defenses against fire. While many native plants require less maintenance and water than non-native ones, proper placement, pruning, and irrigation are essential for successful fire-resistant landscaping. To implement fire wise landscape design, follow these links:

Fire scaping Issue NTGB Summer 2020
Home Landscaping for Fire

Drought resistance, ease of maintenance, and wildlife benefits are all good reasons to choose California native plants. Let’s help you select native plants that have all of these features and are also firewise.

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Here is our selective list of plants that tick all the boxes!
All the plants listed prefer full sun, unless otherwise noted.
Bloom seasons are indicated, as are other noteworthy features and/or requirements.

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