Thinking about replacing your non-native plants with California natives? The benefits to planting native plants in your garden are huge. Planting native plants is extremely low maintenance. By choosing the correct time to plant, planning and preparing the planting area, and choosing native plants that will take root in the spring to survive the hotter summer temperatures you will be welcoming an attractive and environmentally beneficial landscape. California Native plants work in conjunction with the habitat of wildlife and will attract hummingbirds, songbirds, and butterflies furthering the beauty of your garden. A native naturescape in your garden will provide a variety of hidden treasures to your garden.
Replacing non-native plants with native ones helps the environment by reducing the need for fertilizer, pesticides, and watering - thereby reducing water run-off and improving air quality. The long term benefits to our environment and to your water bill will be lasting. Raking and fertilizers will be a thing of the past because the leaves provide the soil nutrition and will also act as a weed deterrent. Most California Natives require very little watering and are drought tolerant which will save both time and money. With the threat of frost having past, now is the perfect time to establish a small native sanctuary in your backyard.
In Northern California February and March are great months to start planting native plants in your yard. The soil temperature is prime for planting and the success rate is high. If you water the new plants weekly you can expect a loss rate of approximately 5%. You can bet on higher temperatures this summer, so plant soon to allow for your new plants to take root. There are a wide variety of hearty native plants that will thrive when planted late winter or early spring.
There are many varieties of California Native plants to consider for your garden. In addition to the songbirds and butterflies natives attract, California Native plants also have many medicinal values which have long been used by Native Americans. The following list contains just a few to add beauty to any naturescape and are acceptable to plant in late winter early spring.
Consider the following varieties for your garden:
Deergrass - Deergrass was used by Native Americans for basket weaving. It provides habitat for birds and insects. It offers a textural diversity to any landscape with it’s texture of thin blades fanning out from dense foliage. It also will need very little water and thrives in full sun.
Sticky Monkey Flower - The orange blossoms of this perennial will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers also were used by Native Americans as antiseptic bandages for burns. The flower thrives with very little need for frequent watering, but summer watering will extend the blooming period.
California Redbud - The California Redbud is a shrub featuring brightly colored magenta flowers which provide nectar to hummingbirds. This shrub is best planted along irrigation and can be planted in full or partial sun.
California Fuchsia - Hummingbirds love the nectar of the trumpet shaped blooms in fall, this hearty shrub can also provide erosion control for steep slopes.
Common Yarrow The flowers of the yarrow attract butterflies and ladybugs and were used by Native Americans to treat colds, flu, burns, and sprains. It was also used during the Civil War to treat wounds.
Toyon - The berries of this shrub attract birds and once provided a food source for Native Americans. This shrub is drought tolerant but will thrive with periodic watering.
Hollyleaf Cherry - Many birds and mammals make shelter in this shrub. It also attracts butterflies. The shrub does well in well drained soils and requires no summer irrigation once it is established.
California Buckwheat A small needle like leaves retain water during drought. This evergreen shrub produces seeds that attract songbirds and mammals. It also boasts pink flower clusters which attract bees.
California Native Plants are already adapted to native soil and therefore, depending on your planting area little or no preparation is needed for the soil prior to planting. If you are replacing turf you may need to plan how to remove the grass and restore the soil layer. For detailed instructions on how to plan for replacing turf with native plants please visit plantnative.org.
Dig a hole that is twice the width and and the depth of the container. Fill the hole with water and allow it to soak through. When pulling the native plant from the container, shake loose any extra dirt without tampering with the roots. Smooth out the remaining dirt. The root ball should be ½” higher than the surrounding dirt.
Native Plants do not need fertilizer, but they will benefit from mulch. Research the types of mulch beneficial to the native plants you intend on planting by going to Calscape.org. Do not surround the root ball with mulch as it will suffocate, mulch the area surrounding the plant area.
While beginning a native naturescape may take some effort, one may choose to plant a small area in your yard then slowly replace more non-natives with native plants. By choosing native plants you are making a choice to protect and preserve our local ecosystem. By choosing native plants you are also choosing a low cost, low maintenance, and beautiful garden. The short term effort of beginning a native garden for your home results in far-reaching benefits both present and into the future.