California Landscaping Ideas

Landscaping in California requires the hobbyist to consider her nearness to the coastal regions, local winter temperatures and overall yearly rainfall. As outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California features an array of hardiness zones from 5b through 10b. The easiest way to identify suitable plants and landscaping ideas is the division of the state into its three basic regions.

Northern California

The northern portion of the state features Mediterranean weather along the coast and in some of the inland areas, but it also has distinct alpine climates in the higher elevations. Using native flora in the landscape ensures that the plants withstand the cooler temperatures and also can handle the increased rainfall that is common to the northern portion of the state. Trees appropriate for landscaping in northern California include the Oregon fir (Abies grandis) that thrives at sea level up to an altitude of almost 6,000 feet, and the western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), which is a smaller tree. Flowering plants include the coast sunflower (Encelia californica), caterpillar flower (Phacelia bolanderi) and the evergreen Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum). Although planting bulbs in northern California landscapes is difficult, the lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna) and the African flag (Chasmanthe floribunda) offer good results.

Central California

The central portion of the state features weather patterns that very closely resemble those found in northern California's lower elevations. Rain is more plentiful, as are cooler temperatures. This allows landscapers to look to flora for the central California garden that is similar to that used for inland Northern California landscapes. Examples include the flowering California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), evergreen California buckthorn (Rhamnus californica) shrubs and the California plane tree (Platanus racemosa).

Southern California

Southern California weather spans arid desert regions, lush coastlines and overall elevated Mediterranean temperatures in the inland portions. Rainfall is scarce and there are copious watering restrictions in place. Landscaping here requires dependence on native flora, succulents, cacti and plants that can withstand hot summer temperatures and only occasional watering. Landscapers find that the use of ornamental grasses beautifies landscapes and breaks up yards that rely on several separated flower beds for visual appeal. Ornamental grasses suitable for Southern California include prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) and California fescue (Festuca californica). Flowering plants for the Southern California garden include the bright scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale), the blooms of the deciduous Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) tree and also the perennial fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) that offers spectacular lavender blooms.

Keywords: California hardiness zones, Northern California, California native plants, Southern California, Central California

About this Author

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.