California Native Plant Society Urges Gardeners to Plant Now

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Most people think spring is the best time to start a garden, but December is the ideal time for Southern California gardeners to plant drought-friendly, native plants.

Picture of a San Diego California Native Plant Garden

A Model California Native Garden in San Diego

By planning your garden around what grows naturally in your area, you're not only creating a beautiful, drought-friendly space, you're restoring a small piece of the wild for local birds and beneficial insects.

Most people think of starting a garden in the spring, but right now is the perfect time to get plants in the ground, especially for gardeners interested in replacing lawns with plants native to Southern California.

“If you’ve been thinking of planting an authentic garden, perfectly suited for Southern California, now is the time to plant natives,” says Mike Evans, president of Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. “The cool weather, winter rains, and approaching spring months make this the best time for planting, so your garden will be established by next summer.”

Growing Local Has Never Been Easier
To help gardeners take advantage of this prime planting time, California Native Plant Society (CNPS) recently updated its garden-planning website, Visitors can use Calscape to build plant lists that meet multiple criteria like type of plant, shade vs. sun, flower color, water requirements, and much more. The updates also make it easy to find nearby nurseries carrying those plants and reference plant lists once at the nursery.

“You can use it to discover what would literally be growing on your property right now if it were in its natural state,” says Calscape creator and San Diego resident Dennis Mudd.

Mudd, a former tech CEO and founder of Musicmatch and Slacker Radio, worked with CNPS and the Jepson Herbarium at U.C. Berkeley to launch Calscape after designing his own six-acre native plant garden. In the years of working on his property, Mudd came to realize the rewards of growing plants specific to one’s locale, such as plant durability, water conservation, and wildlife attraction.

“We like to think of it as the gardening equivalent to the Locavore movement,” says CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp. “By planning your garden around what grows naturally in your area, you’re not only creating a beautiful, drought-friendly space, you’re restoring a small piece of the wild for local birds and beneficial insects.”

For inspiration, see a slideshow of Dennis Mudd’s 6-acre native garden or go to


About Calscape:
Calscape is a garden planning tool for laypeople and professionals alike that lets users discover which plants are truly native to where they live. Using Calscape, people can search multiple criteria to build plant lists for their gardens, see which nurseries carry those plants, and get tips for growing and cultivation.Launched through a partnership of the California Native Plant Society and the Jepson Herbarium at U.C. Berkeley, the goal of Calscape is to help Californians save water and bring native plants back to the developed parts of the state, along with the birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators that depend on them.

About the California Native Plant Society:
The California Native Plant Society is a statewide organization that advances the understanding, appreciation, and protection of California’s native plants and habitats through scientific activities, education, horticulture, and conservation. CNPS has nearly 10,000 members in 35 chapters throughout California and Baja to promote its mission at the local level.

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Liv O'Keeffe
since: 05/2014
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