Low Maintenance Plant Selections

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts

By Dan Songster, 2013 July

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives. The question: “What is one of your favorite native plants that requires the “least” maintenance & what care do you give it?”

Laura Camp – “Dudleyas, our gorgeous native succulents, are as carefree as possible. Put them in the ground and completely ignore them, or in a pot and water every once in awhile. My favorite is Dudleya pulverulenta, chalk dudleya.”

Bob Allen – “Gray coast or ash-leaved Buckwheat, Eriogonum cinereum. A beautiful mounded shrub that is not used as often as it should be. Soft, lovely leaves, prolific flowers, and an interesting branching structure. It prefers quick draining soils, bright sun to partial shade, and needs no pampering.”

Alison Shilling – “Isomeris arborea = Bladderpod: A 4′ tall and wide shrub. Needs: very little water, just the occasional pruning if a branch gets ‘floppy’. Yellow flowers about 10 months per year are popular with hummers and bees. Flourishes in both heavy and sandy soil.”

Allan Schoenherr – “I can’t say it is my favorite, but Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus) ranks right up there. It spreads by rhizomes and makes a beautiful low-growing ground cover. It blooms profusely. It has bright blue to violet rays with yellow disc flowers that cover the plants, forming a welcome blast of color. It takes a bit of water from time to time, but loves the coastal climate.”

Christiane Shannon – “In the poor rocky soil of my garden, the sages are particularly reliable and rewarding, looking great all year, with additional water however since the substrate does not retain moisture. They are the foundation of my garden beside the trees, Salvia leucophylla, S. aromas, S. melliferaS. apiana and S. “Desperado”, to mention only a few. In addition to their enjoyable fragrances they attract many birds offering them cover and food (seeds and insects). In addition, Eriogonum fasciculatum and the cultivar E. f. ‘Dana Point’ have to be mentioned here. All these plants have to be given lots of room to produce their best display with maybe a slight exception, E. f. ‘Dana Point’ that grows slower than the others.”

Celia Kutcher – “California poppies are in my ‘least maintenance’category: they reseed, grow, bloom & reseed with NO effort from me. Their “maintenance” consists of removing their spring overabundance from where they will overwhelm less vigorous plants, selectively removing spent ones before their seed ripens (to cut down on the amount that will sprout next spring), & cutting down their remains as part of fall cleanup.”

Rob Moore – “One of my favorite native plants that requires little or no maintenance would be Artemisia ‘Montara’. It has a low profile (2’x4′) making it the perfect size for the suburban garden. A. Montara has a naturally full look, is tolerant of summer irrigation, and makes a great accent specimen. I use it all the time in sunny or part shade gardens!”

Chuck Wright – “I would have to say blue-eyed grass. It is such a cheerful bloomer that self seeds. When it looks ratty, I whack it back almost to the ground. It has been in my little yard for years and keeps on blooming.”

Orchid Black – “Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’ is the original low maintenance groundcover for slopes, especially near the Wildland Urban-Interface, or the fire zone. No pruning necessary if given adequate space—approximately 7’—and minimal deep watering once established. This dependable plant also has wildlife value.”

Dan Songster – “Buckwheats—I love them. Put them in, quick establishment, and then limit water and enjoy! Maybe some deadheading in late fall or early winter on the larger forms (if you feel like it). Especially easy is St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum), California Buckwheat (E. fasciculatum) and the cultivar forms like ‘Dana Point’, and Red Flowered Buckwheat (E. grande var. rubescens). Even that chartreuse beauty Saffron Buckwheat (E. crocatum) works in the clay soil at the Garden!*“

Sarah Jayne – “Four years ago I planted a Humboldt Lily with no great hopes for its survival but here it is again, on its fourth appearance in my garden. A dying lemonadeberry removed last fall now exposes it to full afternoon sun — not good. Nevertheless, I hope it will perform again as it has for the past three years – sprout, bloom, wither, disappear, and magically reappearing in the spring—all without any interference from me.”


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