While southern California is in hardiness zone 9A and warmer, northern California starts at 9A and gets as cold as 6A further west. In such wide-ranging conditions, you might struggle to bring up some of the most common native plants which southern gardeners love. Which native plants will be low maintenance in your climate? Here are six of your best options.
Basics: Native evergreen shrub that is simple to grow.
Temperature: Tolerates to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
A beautiful and dense shrub that is easy to trim, the coffeeberry has seeds inside its berries which look kind of like coffee beans. It resists drought well but can still handle the colder areas of California. It also can create a fire-resistant hedge, but most people grow it because its fruit attracts birds.
2. California Fescue
Basics: Drought tolerant and cold tolerant grass.
Temperature: Tolerates to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
California fescue is an ideal ornamental grass for most of northern California. It is large and clumps well, growing long, golden tops and yellow flowers. If you have clay soil you may struggle with many natives, but not California fescue which prefers loamy or clay soils over sandy.
3. Calfornia Wildrose
Basics: Native rose that is simple to care for.
Temperature: Tolerates down to negative ten degrees Fahrenheit.
This is what roses used to look like before they were cultivated, with significantly fewer petals and a more “flat” look. Still, a wild rose is a great option to add delightful blooms in an all-native garden. The California wildrose has a sweet scent and can grow up to ten feet tall, if you let it. Those who have wetter soil will be more successful with it. It will also handle the coldest weather California could ever throw at it.
4. Prairie Flax
Basics: Small, deer-resistant wildflower.
Temperature: Tolerates to negative twenty degrees Fahrenheit.
Prairie flax is a gem of a flower that you can only grow in the colder areas of northern California. It grows best in sandy or loam soils and, unlike many other wildflowers, you don’t have to worry about it being immediately eaten by deer. The flower is available in a range of shades, from pale blue to intense lavender, although color may also reflect soil pH.
5. Wicker Buckwheat
Basics: A delicate flower for a rock garden.
Temperature: Tolerates colder weather, lower limit not established.
This gorgeous (usually) pink flower with darker pink stripes is only natively found in northwestern California. When you want to add a spray of flowers to a rock garden, wicker buckwheat is the perfect option. It prefers volcanic or granite sand or gravel.
6. Giant Wildrye
Basics: Gorgeous and drought-tolerant ornamental grass.
Temperature: Tolerates down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
You don’t need to take on a high-maintenance flower to get a spray of silvery blue in your garden. Giant wildrye is an excellent ornamental grass with vibrant blue tips. It won’t spread too easily and very simple to care for even in very dry conditions. Plant it in sandy or clay soil and watch the butterflies flock to it.