Plants of California

California falls under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 4 to 11. This means that the climate varies widely across the state. While some California regions offer a desert climate, other areas experience sub-arctic weather conditions. Southern California has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cooler, moist winters. Various flowers, trees and shrubs thrive in California.

California Poppy

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), an annual belonging to the Papaveraceae plant family, is the state flower of California. This poppy features vibrant orange or yellow-orange flowers that bloom in June and July. The petals close at night and on rainy or cloudy days. Stems reach between 12 and 15 inches in height. The bluish-green foliage turns the color of straw after the blooming season. Winter hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10, the California poppy grows well in sandy, well-drained soils that receive full sun. Gardeners often plant this poppy in flowerbeds, containers, borders and rock gardens.

California Milkweed

California milkweed (Asclepias californica), an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the Asclepiadaceae family, thrives in Central and Southern California. The California milkweed displays red-purple blooms from April through July. The bold petals contrast nicely with the fuzzy, white foliage. This plant tolerates clay soils and drought conditions. Butterflies often feed on California milkweed plants.

Lizard Tail

Lizard tail (Anemopsis californica), often called yerba mansa, is an herbaceous perennial in the Saururaceae family. Native to the areas around Santa Clara and Sacramento, the lizard tail grows between 4 and 20 feet in height. The woolly stems root while growing along the soil, making an interesting looking ground cover. White flowers bloom on top of the stems from March through September. This aromatic herb has long been used to treat mild physical ailments, including cuts, burns and upset stomachs. Lizard tail naturally thrives along creeks and marshes.

California Nutmeg

The California nutmeg, a perennial tree belonging to the yew family (Taxaceae), naturally grows in the California mountain regions. This small, aromatic tree matures between 15 and 50 feet in height. The California nutmeg tree features slender branches, green leaves and white flowers that are followed by green and purple fruits. The California nutmeg tree requires moist soils in shady planting sites.

California Oatgrass

California oatgrass (Danthonia californica) is a perennial plant in the grass family (Poaceae). The California oatgrass only reaches about 1-1/2 feet tall. This plant features fuzzy leaves and non-showy, red flowers that bloom from April through June. California oatgrass naturally grows in the woods and dry hills of California. This oatgrass needs moist soils in partially shady locations. Gardeners often plant California oatgrass in rock gardens and meadows.

California Rose

The California rose (Rosa californica), a perennial shrub in the Rosaceae plant family, reaches heights between 3 and 6 feet. The California rose bush features thorny branches and green leaves. Aromatic, pink flowers and edible, red hips bloom from May through August. The California rose occasionally succumbs to fungal diseases. This plant needs moist soils in partly shady to fully sunny locations.

Keywords: plants of California, California plants, plants that grow in California

About this Author

Cat Carson has been a writer, editor and researcher for the past decade. She has professional experience in a variety of media, including the Internet, newspapers, newsletters and magazines. Her work has appeared on websites like and, among others. Carson holds a master’s degrees in writing and cultural anthropology, and is currently working on her doctoral degree in psychology.