Container Plants

Native Gardener’s Corner-Member’s Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

“What native plants do you use successfully in containers?”

2019 January-February

By Dan Songster

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.

Elizabeth Wallace: “I have three Dudleya pulverulentas (chalk dudleyas) growing in containers on my front window ledge. The only water they receive is when I set the containers on the front sidewalk during winter rains.  I also grow Eriogonum giganteum in large pots since it seems St. Catherine’s Lace doesn’t grow well in my clay soil but seems to thrive in pots.  I give these beautiful specimen plants supplemental water every three to four weeks, plus a refreshing spray.”

Terry LePage: “Two years ago our renter potted up some of our California Strawberries, Fragaria vesca.  He has moved on but the strawberries persist, lushly leafed and blooming and fruiting (modestly) all year long in full sun with twice-a-week water. The tiny flavor-bomb berries are a wonderful reward for watering my potted plants ”

Nancy Harris: “This may sound like a no brainer, but my success has been using Dudleya and California Native Cactus.  Cactus, of course, can also make a wonderful security wall.  Neither seems to need much depth of soil and almost no water, which can be a problem with pots if you are not attentive.  Also, some red monkeyflowers have found their way into some wayward pots and have survived several years with very little attention.”

Brad Jenkins: “An unexpected success so far is Tecate Cypress in a whisky/wine half barrel. We have about 7 years so far and looking good—but only 7 feet tall.”

Mark Sugars: “Strawberries are a pretty typical container plant, and I have had luck with Fragaria vesca in pots.”

Rama Nayeri: “This is a good one.  I have grown Pacific Wax Myrtle, Ceanothus Concha, Dudleya and Yerba Buena in containers without issues.  I have also had really good luck growing Dudleya indoors in containers on the kitchen window sill.”

Laura Camp: “Pretty much just Dudleyas and cactus. I’m really bad at regular watering.”

Ron Vanderhoff: “I especially like native succulents in containers, including various cacti, Dudleya, Opuntia, Euphorbia misera, etc.  I have had a Dudleya hassei in a nice terra cotta hanging basket that I planted probably ten years ago. I don’t think I’ve watered, fertilized or touched it in nine years. It’s beautiful. What more could one ask for in low-maintenance, low water native plant gardening?”

Chuck Wright: “So sorry fellow native plant lovers. I used to do pots but salt build-up from our “lovely” water inhibited happy healthy plants. I hate to see anything suffer and so if it is not in the ground, I don’t grow it.  My hat is off to those that do.”

Dan Songster: “Lots of natives do well in containers including succulents, ferns, bulbs, and a lot of perennials. But just for the fun of it I like growing a few manzanitas in fair sized pots. I control the drainage of course with good soil with lots of pumice, and watering is by hand for the most part.  Some of the types that do pretty well in containers include ‘White Lanterns’, ‘Big Sur’, ‘Weber Garden’ and also the species, Arctostaphylos buxifolia and A. ophio-viridis. Various cultivars of both Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and A. pajaroensis have also done quite well over the years for me as long as they don’t dry out for too long.”

Although he is up in Oakland, Pete Veilleux of East Bay Wilds Nursery gives good advice in this article: