As the third-largest U.S. state, California encompasses a wide range of terrains and mini-climates. This diversity makes the Golden State hospitable to an enormous variety of native and introduced garden flowers. With a little planning, California gardeners can be knee-deep in garden color all year long. Many of these plants also supply eye-catching cut flowers to bring that color indoors.
Lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus) is a showy South African perennial hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11 and a minimum temperature of 20 degrees F. This June and July bloomer has a basal cluster of arching, strap-like green--occasionally variegated--leaves. Its erect, thick leafless stems reach 18 inches to 4 feet high. Funnel-like flowers occur in dense, spherical clusters of blue, purple or white. They make excellent cut flowers, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. When first planted, Lily-of-the-Nile likes moist, organic soil and sun to partial shade. Established plants are drought-tolerant.
Although native to the northeastern corner of Massachusetts, sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum) has found a home in gardens throughout California. This striking, 1- to 2-foot perennial is blue from its stems and foliage to its egg-shaped, July and August flowerheads--and the grayish-blue bracts that support them. The thistle-like blooms make dramatic additions to cut and dried flower arrangements, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Salt- and drought-tolerant, sea holly tolerates winter temperatures to minus 50 degrees F. It grows in full sun and dry, well-drained soil. The plant is toxic when ingested.
Growing wild in 54 of California's 58 counties, annual California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a staple addition to wildflower seed mixes. Drought-resistant and a vigorous re-seeder, this poppy has 1- to 2-foot stems with deeply-cut, greenish-blue foliage. This sunny-day bloomer has profuse yellow or orange blossoms between March and May. With adequate water, blooms may last from February to October. Plants need sunny locations and perform best in well-drained, infertile soil, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Like sea holly, California poppy may be toxic if ingested.
Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) grows wild through much of Southern, Central and Northern California. Its May-to-August flowers rise on nodding stems above airy, shamrock-like basal foliage. The loosely branched perennial can produce hundreds of yellow and red blooms in a single season, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Hummingbirds flock to this plant. Although plants prefer moist, rocky locations, they also tolerate infertile, dry conditions. Western columbine grows in sun to partial shade.