Replant your SoCal garden with native California plants

native California plants
The Ecology Center‘s beautiful garden, which is filled with drought resistant and/or native California plants, including this pink flower hollyhock; photo by Courtney Baird

There’s plenty to love about living in Southern California: pumping surf, food trucks, a yoga studio on every corner. Our only gripe (besides a little smog)? The dry, desert wastelands we let pass for front lawns. Sure, it’d be easy enough to plant some blooms and a few ferns to beautify our homes, but consider this: the average California lawn drinks more than 750 gallons of water per week to stay healthy, and most of that becomes runoff water ripe with pesticides and fertilizers that run straight into the ocean. In other words, in SoCal, the wrong types of plants in your garden can waste a ton of water and create even more pollution.

As surfers, we can’t let that fly, which is why we consulted the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano—a regional hub for eco-education—to find out which plants will thrive in our communities without an overdose of H20. They best part? These plants are pretty, too, so your garden can be beautiful and eco-friendly.

Native California plants
Hollyhock is a drought-resistant plant that does well in Southern California

“By replacing your lawn with native and/or drought-tolerant plants, you can cut your water consumption in half while bringing in local wildlife, including birds and beneficial pollinators,” explains the Ecology Center’s Jeff Davis. “Plus, you’ll reduce household runoff and eliminate the need for pesticides and weed-killing chemicals that end up polluting the ocean we love.”

Keep in mind, lawn removal requires some labor, but if you can commit a full day to revamping your yard, that’s all it takes. Grab a shovel and dig out your existing lawn. Once removed, you’re ready to plant. Here is a top-10 list of the Ecology Center’s favorite drought resistant and/or native California plants and their uses.

California native plants
Purple Clary Sage also does well in Southern California and requires little water

1. White Sage (Salvia apiana)

Use: soothe a sore throat

2. Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)

Use: basket weaving

3. Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis)

Use: cough medicine

4. Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)

Use: antimicrobial

5. Common Rush (Juncus patens)

Use: basket weaving

6. Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

Use: edible nuts

7. Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla)

Use: rituals and ceremonies of Native Americans

8. Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)

Use: Leaves chewed to treat gas pains

9. Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)

Use: attract pollinators and beneficial insects

10. California Poppy (Eschscholzoa californica)

Use: sedative to relieve pain

Not a SoCal native? Fear not, you can still redo your yard with hardy, native plants. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find native plants suitable for your specific region.

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