Plants do a lot for human beings. If I were to try and list all of the services provided by the Plant Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom, it might amount to an encyclopedia set. Most of us know about a handful taught to us in school: plants breathe out oxygen, provide shade, and offer us delicious produce to eat. In this article, I'd like to share a few of the many additional gifts we get from Southern California plants by highlighting a few species you can grow if you live in Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles County is a diverse place. Multiple cultures coexist here, and everyone lives out their lives across an equally diverse landscape. Cities like Portland, Oregon, took their cue from LA's sprawl and instituted urban growth boundaries that contain development. In Los Angeles County, cities grew together as sprawl continued. Collisions of culture and microclimate (variations of temperature and moisture within a larger area) make the L.A. area what it is. In some areas, maritime air collides with inland air to create specific conditions affecting which crops can be grown.
These five plants are widely adaptable across most of LAC. Which means you can enjoy their multiple benefits over a wider area.
Five Southern California plants I'd recommend for these cities include Salvia microphylla 'Killer Cranberry', Bells of Fire Tecoma, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Cool Blue,' Pittosporum tenuifolium ' Beach Ball,' and Senecio ficoides 'Mount Everest.' These plants offer a variety of growth habits and forms, sun tolerance, leaf and/or flower colors, textures, and more.
If you have a spot on your property where the sun beats down hotter than in other areas and the soil dries out quickly, the Salvia is a gorgeous upright perennial plant that grows to 2-3' tall and wide. It boasts silvery-green leaves for a pop of unexpected foliage color when not in bloom. Spring, Summer, and Autumn flowers are spectacular hot pink-red. Once it has become established, it doesn't need a lot of water to thrive.
For a heat-tolerant shrub, I recommend the Tecoma for its ability to attract beneficial pollinating insects to your yard and its brilliant orange-red funnel flowers. The foliage of this 6' tall and 5' wide evergreen has a lacy look to it and adds a medium-green color to your plant palette. Like the Salvia, this Tecoma doesn't require a lot of water once it becomes established in your yard. It blooms Spring through Fall.
On the cooler color spectrum is the Ceanothus. It's blue flowers almost glow against its variegated (two color) leaves of cream and dark green. This evergreen shrub grows to a height of 3-4' and a width of 4-5' when mature. It can block fire as well as offer a pleasing aroma and nectar to desirable pollinator species. This shrub blooms in Spring and doesn't need much water once it has put down its root system after the first season or so.
Another great shrub to consider for your Southern California plants list is the Pittosporum. This evergreen shrub can be planted in either full sun or partial shade and offers an attractive base of medium green foliage to give the eyes some rest from your flowering plants. This plant is also a fire break and grows to 3-4' tall and wide. Like its friends on this list, it doesn't need you to water it too much after it has become established in the ground.
For a lower-growing option, I recommend that you try the Senecio. Planted every 18", it will form a 2-3' high fire break. Its foliage is a beautiful silvery blue-green, and it can grow in either full sun or partial shade. It doesn't need a lot of water once it has established in the landscape either, which makes for a less expensive landscape along with the other plants I've included in this list.
When adding Southern California plants to your property, why not consider utilizing species that offer you multiple benefits? Lower maintenance and water needs reduce your costs while making it easier to have a beautiful yard. To learn about what beautifying your property can do for its value, check out the FREE report here.