There are a great many things we can do to conserve water (like having us Vosh your car with less than three gallons of water… just saying). One of the best ways you can conserve water at home, AND save money, is by replacing your water-guzzling lawn with California native plants. And yes, we are aware that there are more drought-tolerant lawns out there, but they still require more water than native plants. Why are we talking about CA native plants now? Because the Autumn season is California native planting season!
Why Fall and Not Spring?
Much of California is desert, and even in non-desert areas, it is hot and dry. As a result, the plants that evolved here have their own cycle, which often includes going dormant in the summer to avoid the stress of high heat and low water. The plants that do not go dormant often are very sensitive to being watered during the summer. So let’s say you plant your CA native plants during Spring. Native plants need regular watering at the beginning to establish them. Once established, they can be left to their own devices. There’s a little bit of rain and you water regularly after planting, and then the hot summer rolls around.
Your plants are just barely established. If you leave them to deal with the summer months on their own at this stage, the stress of it could kill the plant. If you continue watering, the stress of hot moist soil on the roots could kill the plant. Bottom line, if you put a CA native plant that is not well established through the stress of summer, it will potentially die.
To avoid this and to get the plant established as naturally as possible, plant in the Autumn. Not the first day of Autumn, mind you. It’s still 90 degrees out in Southern California on the first day of Fall. Late October to early-November tends to be best. The temperatures are starting to cool and the rains are (hopefully) starting, which gives your plants a low-stress establishment. Additionally, the rain and cooler temperatures mean you don’t have to water as often, letting nature help your plants establish themselves, which makes them healthier.
A Few of Our Favorite CA Natives!
Let’s say we’ve convinced you to go native, what plants should you plant? This is partially dependent on the type of soil you have and how the sun hits your yard. Not all native plants will work in any spot in any yard. You can get such information from the plant’s description or from a professional native landscape designer. In any case, we wanted to pass on a few of our favorite CA native plants for your consideration:
● California Lilac (Ceanothus)
● Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
● Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
● California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
For more information on which plants to plant, visit http://theodorepayne.org/education/plant-guides/.
More Reasons to Go Native
Just in case we still haven’t convinced you, here are more reasons why you should ditch the lawn and create a Southern California landscape:
● native plants provide food and shelter for birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
● native plants are rich in color, form, texture, and aroma – with careful design, your garden can have flowers year round.
● once established, California native gardens use, on average, 80% less water than conventional gardens.
● native plants do well in our native soils and do not require soil amendments or fertilizers.
● native plants are adapted to our natural cycles, responding to cool, wet winters with lush growth and slowing down during the hot, dry summers.
● most California native plants are grown in state and travel short distances to your nursery.
● native plants typically have fewer pest problems than non-natives because they have co-evolved with native insects.
● native gardens can easily be started with one-gallon size plants, saving on installation costs.
● a well-designed native garden, planted for the mature size of the plants, can require very little maintenance once established.
● from cottage to formal to contemporary, there are native plants for every design.
● even through native plants are water thrifty, they play an active role in the water cycle, adding cooling moisture to the atmosphere.
Saving Water, Saving Resources
Transitioning into a native, drought-tolerant garden isn’t just about saving water, but leading a more eco-friendly, environmentally conscious existence. Natural resources are not infinite. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and that likely means that we will soon follow. Respecting and preserving our natural environment, and its inhabitants, is respecting ourselves.
Publish Date: 10/17/2016