When to Plant Native Plants in Southern California

If you ask the average gardener what the best time to plant is, chances are they will tell you Spring. That’s the time when we think of things as waking up from winter dormancy and coming to life. But in our climate with its non-freezing Winters and dry Summers, plants play by different rules.

You may have heard our climate zone described as “Mediterranean,” which also applies to Central Chile; the Mediterranean Basin; the Cape Region of South Africa; and Southwestern and South Australia[1]. But did you know that out of all these places, California gets the least precipitation? For us, drought is not a rare occurrence but the norm for most years. And if tender baby plants need water to establish, how can that happen?

The answer is that it happens in the cooler months of the year, especially during years with more rainfall. So, to emulate this in your own garden you must be sure to plant once the heat of Summer has ended. Generally, October to April are acceptable months to plant. But your baby plants will have the best odds in late Fall through Winter––the times of year when it is most likely to rain. In dryer years, you can apply supplemental water to help them establish. And an established plant will have much better odds once Summer rolls around again!

If you are ready to start planting, try my Salvia apiana (White Sage) Lewisa cotyledon (Cliff Maids), or any of my Dudleya species! If you have any other requests, leave a comment below to let me know.

[1] International Union for Conservation of Nature, "Mediterranean-Type Ecosystems." Web page



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