in foreground, landscape of native platns, includiing purple ceanothus in cloom, orange California poppies, and native lilies; in background, native forest of pines and oaks
Native landscaping in sunny forested clearing, featuring blooming ceanothus, California poppies, and native iris

The secret to successful gardening of any kind starts with choosing plants that are a good fit for the environment in which you’re planting them. Select plants that will thrive in the climate, soil, sunlight, and water conditions where you are working. Beyond that, planting plants that belong in the same plant community fosters microscopic soil life, which, in turns, improves plant health.

In the first part of this section, Designing With Native Plants, we’ll explain some basic landscape design guide lines in the context of native plants. Also see our recommendations of the best native plants for a variety of circumstances and objectives. And check out our Calscape guide; Calscape is a valuable CNPS website with information that will help you learn about any California native plant. See what our Calscape handout explains about how easy it is to build plant lists in Calscape and then export them to your computer.

You can download and print these Redbud resources; they are in PDF form.

Designing with Native Plants

This collaboration between CNPS and the Redbud Chapter includes landscaping design tips for native gardens and gardening advice to keep your plants (and soil) healthy. It also includes a hand-picked list of California native trees, shrubs, ground covers, grasses, succulents, and vines recommended by Redbud Horticulture Chair Nancy Gilbert for Nevada and Placer County gardens.
Brief overview of landscaping design concepts: accent, framing, and funneling; specimen; and massing. Lists of selected native plants for each concept, with subcategories of tall, medium height, and low. Brief description of each plant.

Selecting Plants for Local Landscapes

These handouts can help you figure out which native plants will work best for your setting and purpose.

This spreadsheet includes information about more than 125 native trees and shrubs; perennials; ground covers; grasses, rushes, and sedges; succulents; and vines. For each plant, indicates if deciduous; whether locally native; preferred sun exposure(s); water requirements; height and width; flower color; and kinds of wildlife attracted.
Handout by Redbud Horticultural Chair Nancy Gilbert from her presentation on “California’s Native Garden Gems.” It provides information on 87 of the most garden-worthy California native plants identified by botanical and common name. Includes brief description of the landscape uses of each species, and a key indicating cultivation requirements and wildlife habitat value.
Handout from Chrissy Freeman’s Redbud presentation, “What Makes Native Gardening Special?” It includes many of the more common natives local to Nevada and Placer Counties for our most widespread local plant communities, specifically oak savannah, chaparral, oak woodland, yellow pine forest, and foothill riparian. To aid in garden design, plants are grouped by understory, mid-story, and overstory.
white, downward-facing single flower, with giant seed pods in background
Globe lily (Calochortus albus), like most native bulbs, prefers spots that are mostly sunny, and no supplemental water

Gardening With California’s Native Bulbs

Nevada and Placer Counties have 60 species of locally native bulbs, ranking among the most beautiful and interesting of our native plants. There is a native bulb for almost every niche in your garden. The key to success with native bulbs is to provide the preferred habitat of the species. With a wide range of colors, sizes, and flower shapes, these striking plants become focal points of any landscape. Most are well-adapted to summer drought, and all are excellent pollinator plants.
California was once dominated by vast and beautiful native grasslands and meadows. It is estimated that over 99 percent of these beautiful plant communities and habitat have been lost. Grasses add textures and colors to your garden not found in other plants, as well as uncommon beauty and drama, especially in late summer and early fall when other garden plants are waning. In memory of grasslands past, and to provide forage and shelter to native birds and beneficials, include native grasses in your landscape and garden. Includes descriptions of each plant and line drawings.
Published by the California Oak Foundation. See, particularly, page 5: “Guidelines for Oak Tree Protection.”
Lists of selected native plants for shade, striking fall color, bird attractants, showy flowering shrubs, butterfly and beneficial insect attractants, riparian habitat restoration, sunny rock garden, foothill native grassland and wildflower field, evergreen groundcovers, deer-resistant plants, flowery montane meadow, and evergreen screening.
Learn step-by-step how to use CNPS’s, a database that gives you access to 150 years of knowledge about the almost 7,000 plants that are native to California. With Calscape, you can identify which plants are truly native to your local area. You can then search those plants by type (annual, perennial, grass, shrub, vine, tree) and by cultivation requirements such as exposure (sun/shade) and water needs.
When you grow native plants in the areas where they evolved and naturally belong, with the right soil, sun, and water conditions, they are easier to grow, healthier, and require little or no extra water. Most plant profiles give details about how to grow the plant, its natural plant communities and associations (so you can group plants with similar needs together), and even where you can buy it.

Firewise Design, Plant Selection, and Maintenance

Recent devastating wildfires have underscored the need for firewise landscaping, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do. This handout focuses on the area closest to your house, or Zone 1 — the “lean, low and green” zone. This critical zone plays a key role in keeping your home and property safe from wildfires. To help develop a prioritized action plan, you’ll find here recommendations for plants, “hardscape,” and irrigation, as well as safe access for you and firefighters.
Selected Fire-Resistant Native Plants for Nevada and Placer County Landscapes. A wide variety of California native plants are fire-resistant, making them valuable components of fire-safe landscaping. Characteristics of fire-resistant plants are described (high moisture content of leaves and stems, tolerance for summer irrigation, low amounts of oils and other volatiles, etc.) and lists of commonly available fire-resistant species are provided, grouped by ground covers & vines; annuals, perennials & bulbs; shrubs; and trees. Sources for plants and seeds are also included.
An overview of xeriscape gardening with lists of selected native plants for full sun, shade, and in between with subcategories of tall, medium height, and low.

Planting for Wildlife

Orange, brown, and tan butterfly sits on purple aster, as small bee approaches.
Mylitta crescent butterfly and leafcutter bee share a moment at a Chilean aster (Symphyotrichum chilensis), a local native perennial that’s great for pollinators.

Creating Pollinator-Friendly Gardens

By Nancy Gilbert. Explains the pollination process and the unique ways in which plants and pollinators have evolved and adapted to each other to complete this process; the importance of healthy pollinator populations to our food and other crops and threats to pollinators; design guidelines for creating pollinator-friendly gardens and habitats; and lists of top California native pollinator-attracting plants.
UC Davis researchers have identified 43 plants that attract both pollinators and other beneficial insects to support natural ecosystems and reduce pesticide use. This version includes only local native plants.
List of links to online resources about pollinators from the Redbud Chapter, from CNPS, from the Xerces Society for Pollinator Conservation, and from other sources. Includes links to sources on ecological gardening, restoring vital relationships that are critical to pollinators and the health of our ecosystems, and protecting pollinators from pesticides.
Annotated checklist by Family and Subfamily for Nevada and Placer Counties. Species are listed by common and scientific name in phylogenetic (evolutionary) order. The list also includes select life-history details for each species: Flight period (when the adults can typically be seen flying in the proper habitat); diapause strategy (the life stage that hibernates through the winter); and number of broods (the number of flight periods each species can be expected to have in a normal year).
Brief description of each of our four local species of hummingbirds, description of hummingbird feeding habits, plus other tidbits of information about hummingbirds in general
An overview of hummingbird gardening, including a list of our four local species and when they are here. Extensive list of native plants that attract hummingbirds, most of them native in our two counties, with a brief description of each plant, including horticultural requirements. This list is arranged alphabetically by botanical name and family.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting and Rainscaping Strategies for Healthy Watersheds. Video recording of Redbud program by Nancy Gilbert (our horticulture chair) and Ames Gilbert (long-term member), who have taught a course on this subject. Learn about rain gardens, bio-swales, berms and basins, and appropriate native plants for these ecosystems. Their presentation includes best practices for rainfall bio-retention strategies, such as how to store and harvest rainwater; and strategies to slow, spread and sink rainfall & storm water runoff.

Natives Plants for Sierra Rain Gardens & Bioswales

More Resources for Rain Harvesting