Are you planting low-maintenance landscapes or restoring natural habitats? Perhaps you’re looking to take your plantings “local” by using more native plant material. January is just about the best time of year to plant California natives. As spring weather is mild and we hope to see more rainfall, natives can be set out now with little follow up maintenance or supplemental irrigation.
While we may not be able to completely recreate natural habitats in our urban environment, planting local natives can help provide habitat and food for local wildlife. Natives are also better suited to our climate, which means they’re easier to care for long-term.
When planting natives, be sure to pair plants together that need similar growing conditions or that grow together naturally in the wild. Soil conditions, water needs and light exposure should be similar for plants grouped together. By doing so, you’ll create successful plant communities and make maintenance much easier.
While it’s common practice to place ornamental plants tightly for instant impact, it’s a better practice to space plants out so they have room to grow. When planted too tightly, plants will get crowded and could succumb to pest and disease problems. You may also end up having to remove plants from the landscape. Space properly first and your natives will mature with better form and appearance.
Know that when you plant natives you’ll attract wildlife to the landscape. Be sure to modify your pruning schedule so that you don’t inadvertently remove food sources such as flowers or berries, just when wildlife may need it most. It’s always a good idea to mix plants that can provide pollen and nectar for pollinators, as well as berries or other fruit for birds and wildlife.