Thursday, June 30, 2011

California Native Gardening Choices – Plants that Fit that Landscape

California incorporates the USDA hardiness zones of 5 through 10. This is a wide variance of minimum temperatures and weather patterns. Gardeners and landscapers should be assured of the hardiness zone of the area they are working in as well as the hardiness zones of the plants they are using. These three plants are all native to the area, and are all assured of doing well in the California landscape.

Clinopodium douglasii
Common Name: Oregon-tea, Yerba buena
Synonyms: Micromeria chamissonis, Satureja douglasii
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: This grows to 6 feet wide in a creeping growth pattern. There are round bright green leaves with a mint fragrance and small two-lipped flowers that are white. Bloom season for this plant is April through September. It does well as a ground cover in moist shaded areas.
Planting Guide: Clinopodium douglasii prefers partial shade and moist soil.
Propagation: Oregon-tea is propagated by seed, cuttings, or rooted sections of plant. There is no scarification or stratification needed on the seed.
History: An herbal medicinal tea is made with the leaves to alleviate childbirth pain.
            Yerba buena means “good herb” in Spanish.
Warnings: There are no known warnings for Oregon-tea.
Distribution: Clinopodium douglasii is found in AK, CA, ID, MT, OR and WA.


Sarcodes sanguinea
Common Name: Snow Plant
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: A fleshy erect plant, it is bright red in color. Bracts will wrap around the stems. The flowers, in racemes, also have bracts wrapped around them. Bloom season is between April and July.
Planting Guide: Sarcodes sanguinea
Propagation: Snow plant is propagated by seed.
History: Sarcodes sanguinea was named by an American taxonomist, John Torrey.
Warnings: It is known as a parasitic plant that will get its nutrition from the fungi of tree roots.
Distribution: Sarcodes sanguinea is found in CA, NV and OR.

Catalpa bignonioides
Common Name: Cigar Tree, Southern Catalpa, Indian Bean
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing 25 to 40 feet high and nearly the same in width, this tree has an irregular crown. Leaves are veined, green, heart-shaped, and deciduous. Flowers are 2-lipped, white and bloom between May through June. Fruits look like a cigar and are in a pod.
Planting Guide: Catalpa bignonioides prefers partial shade and wet or moist soils.
Propagation: Cigar tree is propagated by hardwood cuttings, softwood cuttings, or by seed. Seed is collected from split capsules in late winter or the beginning of spring and put into dry cold storage. There is no stratification or scarification needed on the seed to achieve germination.
History: This tree is very hardy and some have called it “indestructible”.
Warnings: Root suckers can be an issue as well as caterpillars defoliating the tree.
Distribution: Catalpa bignonioides is found in AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, IN, IL, IA, KS, KY, ME, MD, LA, MA, MS, MO, NY, NJ, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, TN, UT, VT, VA, WV and DC.


These three plants are all found in the California landscape. They will work well in prairie gardens and in water-wise xeriscaping. While some may require moist or wet soil, they will still take less water than those that were not native to the California state.

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