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A few great (and reliable) plants for California landscapes

I’m done with my California winter installations and hoping for some spring Wyoming weather.  But right now it’s the last vestiges of planting time in California before the summer heat so get going and order up some of these fantastic plants.  These are a few of the reliable, unusual, and color interesting plants I love to use in my designs.  I have two places I mail order from.  I’ve tried many mail order companies and these are three of the best.  One is Digging Dog Nursery and another is Cistus Nursery.  They have a great selection, and best of all their plants are nice and big.  One plant I get from them that I can’t get anywhere else is Acaena purpurea.

Acaena purpurea groundcover

Acaena purpurea needs average water and sun to bring out the color.  But it also comes in a grey form which is attractive as well, but usually with slightly bigger leaves.  The grey form takes heat much better and less water.  Cercis Forest Pansy is a fantastically colored Redbud.  Average water and sun again brings out the colors.  It is a small tree.  Below with the Acaena.

Here is the acaena with Cercis Forest Pansy

Let’s continue with the purple theme.  We all know Loropetalums, but if you can find it, I highly recommend Loropetalum ‘Pippin Red’.  It is a small Loropetalum, growing only to about 4-5′ (some grow 15′ so be cautious on your choices), but has a narrower leaf and retains its color year round.

Loropetalum ‘Pippin Red’

Loropetalums usually sulk for a year or two before they take off.  If you can’t find Pippin Red, there is now a dwarf red variety.

Another mail order nursery I recommend is Plants Delight.  They have fabulous plants you can’t find anywhere else, but beware, their plants are small for the price.  I used to order in the fall or winter and pot them up for spring, or grow them in pots for a year before placing in the garden.  The one plant I always get from them that I can not find anywhere else is Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.  It is BY FAR the BEST Dahlia ever with dark red single flowers and dark purple leaves, growing 2-3′ tall.  It will ‘wow’ everyone who comes into your garden.  Don’t be without it.  Order it once and soon you’ll be able to divide it over and over.  Just remember when you divide Dahlias, you MUST have part of the root attached, not just a bulbous end.

Another couple fantastic groundcovers, reliable and neat, that I use over and over especially to accent large plants are Dymondia and Senecio serpens.

Senecio serpens in front of young succulents and bamboo

I like the smaller serpens variety as it doesn’t get large and gross but it is a bit more tender so check your zone.  Its a great blue accent and since its a succulent, low water.

Dymondia again is a workhorse.  Its a steppable that works where others will not.  Drought tolerant, likes full sun, it accents plants like this Chrondopetalum tectorum , another fantastic plant, or Phormiums.

Dymondia highlights Chrondopetalums (in background) and Libertia grandifloras (foreground)

While we are on the subject of blue, a new Podocarpus is on the market called ‘Icee Blue’.  Its a MUST HAVE.  Podocarpus are great for narrow spots, for shade, and are drought tolerant once established.

Podocarpus (in corner) with dymondia and Hellebore

Helleborus argutifolius is another drought tolerant, sun tolerant, plant I use extensively.  It is an evergreen Hellebore with chartreuse flowers in the spring which are a knockout when massed.  Also the above plants in the photo are deer proof.

Centradenia grandiflora is a new plant on the market.  It has flowers like a Bouganvillea but grows only 2′ tall.  Great tall groundcover or accent, it is evergreen and its leaves are reddish in the winter.  Here it is with another fantastic plant Cordyline ‘Festival’.

Centradenia with Cordyline ‘Festival’

Scutellaria ‘Texas Rose’ is another unusual groundcover available from Digging Dog. Also Saponaria ‘Max Frei’ is a workhorse flowering ground cover that is actually a very old cultivar but not carried by many anymore.  Digging Dog has it.

Agave ‘sharkskin’ with armerias and succulents

I, of course, could go on and on, but one more is an agave.  It is an eyestopper because it is so neat and unusual.  Agave ‘Sharkskin’, is well worth its price.  Slow so buy it in 15 gallons.

Another view of Agave Sharkskin. WOW

If you like this post of great, unusual and reliable plants, let me know and I can post some more.  If you are interested in low water gardens that still look lush and interesting, see my new eBook on Gardening for a Dry California Future.  Good Gardening!

4 Responses

  1. My father was an amateur landscaper so I have a great appreciation for beautiful landscaping. These are gorgeous pictures. Please do have more.


  2. Thanks Emma, will do. I must be desiring some spring weather as its been crappy here. I feel like I live in San Francisco in the summer–dreary, cold, overcast, foggy–except I’m in Wyoming in April!


  3. Hi,

    What are the rosette shaped succulents with the Agave Sharkskin in the last picture?
    About, Dymondia, I heard its difficult to weed out weeds that grow in the patch, because of how tight the Dymondia is. Also, heard it does better in partial shade. What say you? I’m in Los Angeles. Your landscaping is supreme!!!


    • They are Echeverrias and there are many colors and types. They are very common plants and this is a very common variety whose name escapes me.

      Dymondia is a fantastic plant. It is a sun and drought lover, although does like a little water or can take ordinary water with good drainage. It is really very tight and so keeps the weeds down. I myself have never had problems with dymondia and weeks. The more cover the better in terms of weed control. Dymondia could take partial shade but wants some sun to do best. I think its one of the most versatile and best g.c. To me, thyme is the one that is a pain when it comes to weeding, plus Thymus has lots of die off problems so you get holes.

      Well, based on your response, think I’ll do another great and reliable plants for today’s post. best


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