You know how it is when it gets too hot. Your face turns red, your hair is tousled, and you just lock up, conserving energy and waiting for something cool and moist to bring you back to life.

About as many plants, which are native to Southern California, respond to the summer heat. They evolved to grow and thrive in the cooler wet months, bloom in the spring, and then recede and wither in the heat, waiting their turn until the high heat subsides and the (recently mythical) winter rains begin.

But there are decent local plants that bloom in the summer or look just super whatever the season, so if you’re planning your new low-water garden, here are some fast-growing locals to consider, as recommended by Tim Becker, director of gardening at Theodore Foundation Payne, and Evan Meyer, executive director of the foundation.


1. Pala Verde Desert Museum (Cercidia “Museum of the Desert”) is a thornless hybrid of the Pala Verde tree, which in spring (and early summer when watered) is covered with bright yellow flowers, but looks beautiful even without flowering with a smooth, pale green trunk and leaves.

Thin tree with green leaves and purple flowers

2. Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) there is a small tree that is a winter deciduous, which means it loses all its leaves in the winter, but has spectacular deep flowers that love hummingbirds once it blooms in late spring and summer. Particularly spectacular variety of burgundy desert willow (Chilopsis linearis’ Burgundy‘) with rich fuchsia red flowers.


In summer, buckwheat and sage dominate, using little water (one moment based), giving pollinators plenty to keep them busy buzzing happily around your yard. Some great shrubs that do well in the summer include:

Round bushy flowers bloom on the tree

3. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), with its salmon pink hue of flowering clouds, spring through summer. It is a favorite of pollinators and a must for every SoCal garden.


4. buckwheat from the island of Santa Cruz (Eriogonum arborescens) strewn with darker pink inflorescences that dry in autumn to a beautiful rust color.

Red buckwheat.

5. Red-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) has a large growth of dark green leaves, which blooms from spring to autumn with crimson flowers on tall slender stems.

shrubs with yellow flowers

6. Koneho buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) has silvery-green foliage and “smoke eyes” with yellow flowers that bloom in spring and summer.

Purple flowers

7. Cleveland Sage (Cleveland sage) it is difficult to win for the aroma and drama with tangles of bright purple flowers, which in late summer and autumn turn into sculptural seeds.

leafy plant

8. White sage (Sage opiana) flowers in spring to early summer with tall arcuate white inflorescences, and then shines in the garden with its silvery leaves until the end of the year, a beautiful contrast with the deeper green bushes.

Pigeon Point Coyote brush

9. Pigeon Point coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis ssp. pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’) – is a neat variety of more rebellious, but very friendly to pollinators coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) occurs in the wild in Oregon, California and Baja California. Pigeon Point has bright green foliage, beautiful growth and cream flowers that bloom from summer to winter. It looks especially beautiful mixed with silver plants like white sage.

Plants with leaves and small berries

10. Manzanite John Dorley (Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourley’) is a low-growing shrub that reaches 2 feet in height with characteristic mahogany limbs, blue-green leaves and bronze growth, which makes the plant attractive if it overturns on the wall or covers the shore, even if it does not bloom in winter (December-March). ).

The flowers are white with large yellow layered centers

11. Mother of Mother Coulter (Romneya coulteri) is best known for its huge, unusual flowers with crepe-white petals and a bright yolk-colored core that makes them look like giant fried eggs. (Hence the nickname “fried egg plant.”) These shrubs can grow at least 6 feet tall and twice as wide, with uneven gray-green stems and leaves. They can spread aggressively, so consider them for slopes or backgrounds that require drama. Becker says plants are easier to restrain if they are not pruned; otherwise regrowth seems to double the size of the plant and disobedience, but one or two in your yard always elicits compliments.

Hedgerow manufacturers

The flowers are white with dark pink centers on the bush

12. Bach’s milkweed (Euphorbia xanti) is a great replacement for bamboo hedges, Meyer says. It blooms profusely from January to August, and when allowed to spread, has high dense foliage that birds love for shelter and people love for privacy. It also works in containers with clouds of tiny pink-purple flowers.

Tuyon is a native shrub in the shape of a tree

13. Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) also known as California holly, is a wonderful habitat and looks fantastic all year round with its dark green leaves resembling holly. In summer it is covered with white inflorescences – very attractive to pollinators – which turn into bunches of bright red berries that attract many species of birds in autumn and winter. This large shrub can grow large – 10 to 20 feet at least – so be careful where you plant it.

Deciduous shrub with rare yellow flowers

14. Poppy tree of the Channel Islands (Dendromecon harfordii) is a bright green shrub covered with sunny yellow flowers with the smell of cucumbers from spring to autumn. It grows very fast and can reach at least 12 feet, but it is easy to shape, Meyer said. Prune it in winter to control its height. It works great as a stand-alone shrub, but would be beautiful as a hedge, says Becker, “especially in partial shade inside the country, trimmed often enough to make it thick.”


Leafy branch with orange flower at the end

15. California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum) are probably the most popular local flowers for hummingbirds, according to the California Society of Local Plants Calscape database. It blooms profusely in summer and autumn with thin bright red tubular flowers and provides a shaggy, silvery-green ground cover that looks good in combination with other plants in the spring. These plants will be replanted, but around December 1 they are completely cut to create new growth for next year.

Bright yellow small flowers

16. Desert calendulaalso wild calendula (Baileya multiradiata) – sunny yellow flower, good for rock gardens and accents, which blooms on tall slender stems in spring and summer. This annual or short-lived perennial species will begin self-seeding throughout your garden once it is established. Just remember that too much water will kill this plant.

Sunflower among the leaves

17. Sunflower ordinary (Helianthus annuus) – tall multi-flowered sunflower, native to Southern California. It blooms during the summer, but may need support to keep from falling. This plant may look a little neglected, Meyer said, but its large yellow flowers enliven the garden in late summer, and the birds will love you for the seeds. Try moving it with shorter plants and pruning a bit to make it look neat. Betting can also help.

Yellow flower at the end of a slender stem

18. Stones (Grindelia stricta var. platyphilus) is a compact sprawling version of the sunflower, less than 2 feet tall, with bright green foliage and cheerful yellow flowers that bloom throughout the summer.


We are not talking about the lawn, but about local grasses, whose high air heads of seeds capture light and add interesting texture and accents to the garden.

Tall grasses with thorny flowers that fly out

19. Alkaline saccato (Sporobolus airoides) is a stalked green grass that can grow up to 3 feet tall, with delicate purple seed heads resembling a fountain.

Wheat herbs

20. Blue Gram (Bouteloua gracilis) grows tall green clumps with cheerful light purple seed heads, resembling pennants, sometimes folded into circles or semicircles. One of the popular varieties is “Blond Ambition” pictured above.

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