California is a large, varied state with many micro-regions. Some of the native wildflowers can be found throughout the state, others in tiny pockets. Six distinct climatic regions have been identified in order to study the diverse flora of California. To grow them successfully, start by choosing wildflowers native to your region.
San Joaquin Valley
This section of the state is the most centrally located of the growing regions. It has hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The geology is very flat. The San Joaquin sunflower (Bidens laevis) shows its rayed yellow face throughout the valley. Pitcher sage (Lepechinia calycina) consists of spikes of tubular white flowers. Mariposa lilies are delicate and could easily be lost to progress. Two that grow in the San Joaquin Valley are the Pleasant Valley mariposa (Calochortus clavatus) and pussy paws (Calochortus calyptridium).
The Sacramento Valley, located just above the San Joaquin Valley, is also a central California growing region. The climate is also hot and dry in the summer and cool and wet in winter. The region contains the Sacramento river and marsh areas. One wildflower that thrives in these wet areas is the red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Hummingbirds love the red flower spikes.
Another hummingbird plant is California fuchsia (Epilobium canum). This bushy plant is covered with small orange to red tubular flowers. Another showy yellow flower is the evening primrose (Oenothera elata hookeri). The monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) is a sight to see, covered in white, yellow, orange or red flowers.
California's Central Coast is home to Big Sur, a favorite vacation spot. The weather is mild due to the ocean influences. This provides habitat for delicate plants like wake robin (Trillium ovatum). It is also home to tough plants like California Aster (Aster chilensis), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). A daisy like white to purple flower, also dubbed California aster (Corethrogyne filaginifolia), also grows along the Central Coast region. Two snap dragons grace the cliffs of Big Sur: Antirrhinum coulterianum and Antirrhinum nuttallianum.
The wettest region in California is the Northern region. This includes the beloved Redwood Forest National Park. Wildflowers such as Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), and wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) can be seen in woodland areas in the spring.
The inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra) grows in the shady areas below the towering conifers. Also in the forest you will find fairy lanterns (Calohortus albus). A deep blue gentian (Gentiana plurisetosa) is another forest wildflower. Two valuable wild flowers of the Northern region are an orange lily with long stamens (Lilium pardalinum), and a native peony (Paeona brownii).
The Sierra Nevada is a hilly mountainous terrain with erratic weather patterns. Still there are abundant wildflowers there. The diminutive Clarkia virgata can be found as well as the delicate Corydalis caseana. A version of the shooting star, Dodacatheon jeffreyi, can be found growing in the foothills. A very distinctive long-stemmed primrose (Primula suffretescens) grows there that is nothing like the garden variety primrose.
A smaller than usual columbine (Aquilegia pubescens) blooms in early spring along with a deep blue gentian (Gentiana prostrata). Also native to this region is the familiar black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).
Southern California is known for its bounty of colorful flowers. The Pacific Ocean brings warm, moderate weather to the coast, which merges into desert like conditions as you go inland. Along the coast you will find columbine (Aquilegia shokleyi), and Fallugia paradoxa--a papery white flower with yellow centers. Two pestemons are prolific there: Penstemon pseudospectabilis and Pestemon spectabilis.
Other attractive wildflowers worth growing are Astralagus nuttallii and Leptodactylon californicum. The desert type regions of Southern California are home to many lilies including Lilium parryi and Lilium humboldtii.