What Should You Plant?
You will have the most success with plants that have origins from the Mediterranean regions of the world: California, southern Australia, southern Europe, central Chile and South Africa. These plants are adapted to warm, dry summers, and cool wet winters. You do not have to use California native plants in order to create a water-efficient landscape. However, using them, even in a portion of your yard, provides important habitat.
The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) service area has a lot of diversity when it comes to local climates. You will need to consider temperature minimums and maximums, elevation, aspect, and degree of marine influence. Landscape Plants for California Gardens and The New Sunset Western Garden Book have detailed descriptions of the features of different climate zones across the state . (See Resources.)
Some plants are bred and selected for particular characteristics. They have a special name called a “cultivar.” The cultivar names of many plants can give you a hint about where they thrive. For example, ‘Point Reyes’ manzanita grows much better along the coast but will need more irrigation and shade further inland.
See the RESOURCES for plant list suggestions.
When Should You Plant?
With careful watering (see Soil chapter), most containerized plants can be planted any frost-free time of year. However, the best time of year to plant is in the autumn when the temperatures are cooling off and the landscape soil is still warm. This encourages root establishment before winter in order to take full advantage of winter rains, and roots will have a head start in the spring as growth increases dramatically.
How Should You Plant?
Prepare your planting hole as suggested in the Soil chapter. Most plants come in plastic containers or pots. Water the plant well, then give the pot a little squish on three or four sides and gently pull the plant out of the pot. If you see a lot of roots and hardly any soil, put it back—chances are it will never grow as a healthy plant! The most important thing to do once you have your plant in the ground is to water it immediately after planting!!! Keep the root ball moist the first few weeks after planting. Once roots start to penetrate the landscape soil, then watering frequency can be cut back. Don’t forget to add a few inches of wood chip mulch (see Soil chapter). Just keep it away from the stem or trunk of the plant.
Don't forget the mulch!
For a helpful garden planning checklist see the Garden Planning section of the Natives chapter.