5 Designer Plant Combo's for California Gardens
You might not have the budget or the time to find a landscape designer right now, but that doesn't mean you can't still up the ante on wild beauty, wildlife and water saving in your yard! There's a lot I learned as the former owner of an eco-friendly landscape design boutique. And the thing that I cherish the most and that really makes California Wild Gardens different, is that we believe, plants - like people - belong in diverse communities.
It's how we combine plants that matters just as much as the individual species we choose (bye bye monocultures!). Literally, it's the most valuable thing I've learned about California gardening... how to put plants together in way that looks great, grows well & provides benefit for you and the environment (in Permaculture, we call these Guilds). So, I'm going to show you how to do it yourself by giving you some go-to Plant combos that you can find at almost any nursery and install at home today.
5 EASY Plant Combos for California Gardens
Salvia Leucophylla, Erigeron karvinskianus & Santolina virens (which looks a lot like moonshine yarrow) grow together in a garden.
3 Easy Native Flower Guild
- Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karv.)
- Yarrow (Achillea <- we like 'moonshine' but any varietal will do)
- Salvia (leucophylla, apiana or leucantha)
Euphorbia tirucalli (firesticks), Agave americana (blue agave & variegated agave), Yucca aloifolia & Aloe 'blue elf' adorn a steep slope in San Diego
5 Easy Succulent Guild (Sun)
- Agave (almost any varietal)
- Aeonium (almost any varietal)
- Euphorbia (bushy varietals like rigida, characis or firesticks) -> caution sap of all euphorbias is a skin irritant, and in some cases dangerous eye irritant
- Aloe (almost any varietal)
- Yucca (almost any varietal - go with Spanish bayonet for a thornless option)
Echeverias, Aeoniums, Aloe Kalanchoe & Agave attenuata. All but echeverias can handle full sun or substantial shade.
5 Easy Succulent Guild (Shade):
- Aeonium (purple, green or both! - large rosette forming varieties are most shade tolerant)
- Foxtail Agave (or almost any non-hybridized varietal of Agave)
- Aloe Vera (like the aloe you'd grow as a house plant)
- Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe thrysiflora)
- Sedums (most of these good for part shade or Crassula for deepest shade)
Palo verde (Parkinsonia 'desert museum'), Lavender 'Goodwyn creek', Artemisia californica, Anigazanthos (kangaroo paw), Salvias and Rosemary blend together in this beautiful Mediterranean garden.
3 Easy Mediterranean Magic (Sun):
- Rosemary ‘boule’,
- Lavender ‘Goodwin creek’ (give it good drainage)
- Artemisia ('californica' or 'powis castle')
These are low-water, nicely formed varietals. Throw in a Palo Verde tree or two for an epic silver foliage / gold flowering accent combo! Or stick with Olive trees for something super soft and understated.
Heuchera 'creme brulee', Iris douglasiana, Salvia spatheca, Columbine and Western swordfern combine in this California native shade garden. Native fescue lawn blend in back.
4 Easy Native Greenery (shade):
- Catalina perfume (Ribes viburnifolium) - or Ribes sanguinum for fruit
- Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spatheca)
- Coral bells (Heuchera) - pick a colorful variety like 'creme brulee' in the photo above for flare!
- Douglas iris - these seem to be the easiest to grow (to me) in climate regions USDA 8 and lower
California coffee berry / Cascara (Rhamnus californica 'eve case' or other) makes a great low-water camellia sized evergreen in shade and part shade. It can be very slow growing though so start with as large a plant as possible.
Coral bells 'Wendy', Iris and a Ginkgo Biloba tree shine in this partly shaded Pasadena courtyard. A small potted bay laurel in a shady corner in the back.
If there's one thing I know about landscapes, it's that if you're not attracted to them, you're not going to care much about them. So listen to your wildest dreams and start planting a yard that makes your senses tingle, cuz that's the only one that's going to last.