The San Diego sun provides us with nationally-recognized rays and picture-perfect sunsets that light the horizon on fire. When people think of our weather they think of sunny days basking on the beach, enjoying the salty sea breeze. Just like us, many plants here thrive in the warm lazy summers.
While these dreamy beach scenes may be what come to mind when thinking of San Diego, did you know that it is the most biodiverse county in the United States? California is even in the top 10 biodiverse regions on the whole planet! From our beautiful beaches and oaky woodlands to our drier deserts, we provide a unique place to live for not only locals, but for our plants!
Which Plants Grow Well in San Diego?
While San Diego’s charming warm weather lets us grow plants year-round, it does come with some interesting challenges to think about. The summers, while perfect for the beach, can be dry and harsh for high-maintenance plants that need a lot of moisture. As a general tip, plants that grow well in desert climates and are able to stand up to droughts will have less trouble. Needy, delicate, or tropical plants may require a lot more love and care to keep from wilting away. But really, who wants that kind of dependence in a companion plant anyway? Consider sticking with those low-maintenance, highly compatible relationships instead!
Best Landscaping Plants in San Diego
The consideration for heartier, tougher plants is even more true when looking for outdoor landscaping options. When thinking of some of the most resilient pops of color you can add to any arid yard, succulents immediately come to mind. They are popular nation-wide as easy indoor plants, but we have the ability to add them to our outdoor landscape as well! Consider them for a great indoor option, especially since many such as the Echeveria are pet safe, but think about them as a fun option for texture and character outside too! Looking for a succulent that has beauty and medicinal uses as well? Aloe vera is extremely popular and a great succulent addition to your landscaping project! All of these tough little guys are low-maintenance, but also add unique vibes to your outdoor scenery. You also can learn to propagate them easier than most plants, helping you grow your collection for free!
Looking for something a little less desert-y? Try star jasmine! These plants grow fast - up to an impressive 6 feet a season! This and their lush evergreen leaves make it a perfect candidate anywhere you want a plant to trellis, like your porch rails or as a natural privacy screen to hide from nosey neighbors. Adding them to a fence will add gorgeous natural touches to your property, but also keep others from snooping on your sunbathing. Around the spring, this plant blooms gorgeous white flowers that are reminiscent of stars, making them a romantic addition to any part of your home.
Dwarf olive tree shrubs are another evergreen option that is really low-maintenance and grows wonderfully under full sun. They are no muss, no fuss, but still give you that unique Mediterranean look. If you need something picturesque and elegant, you can trim and shape it as it grows to perfectly compliment your space! They unfortunately don’t fruit olives, but that also means your home or garden won’t become covered in squashed dropped fruit.
Which Plants are Native to San Diego?
There are a ton of unique plants that grow natively in San Diego, from agave to snapdragons. Some of the plants that grow natively here are endemic, or exclusive to the area due to our special biodiversity! Because of this, some plants such as the San Diego yerba buena (clinopodium chandleri) and San Diego sea dahlia (leptosyne maritima) are named after the area. The San Diego savory is very rare, and often is seen on rocky mountainous areas. Even with that being the case, it can be grown in a garden container in other areas. The San Diego sea dahlia is equally good at adapting to unique climates and is also rare, often seen peeking through ocean bluffs.
Many wild varieties of sage are found throughout southern California including San Diego, such as white sage, Brandegee’s sage, and purple sage. Apart from being known as a potential herb for the kitchen, many varieties of sage are also a great butterfly and bee attractors. Different types flower in an arrangement of colors, from white to rose and lavender. They often require full sun and are very drought tolerant options for your garden.
Not all native plants to San Diego require tanning in the sun, for example the California maiden-hair fern needs partial shade to full shade as they grow in the underbrush. While not the most commonly known variety of maiden-hair fern, they similarly thrive in hanging baskets and are a delicate green addition to your home. Consider adding some to your patio under some shade, or on a bookshelf with indirect light!
Other Plants that Grow Best in San Diego
Amaryllis are eye-grabbing bulbs that add pops of color to any indoor space. While they thrive in low humidity and with low watering, they do need bright but indirect light in order to bloom. They come in stunning colors from fiery dragon red to a more gentle salmon pink. These bulbs are easy to care for, but toxic if you have any pets around so be careful!
Some herbs such as tuscan blue rosemary do really well under the hot sun and with little water, but need a little love and care when it comes to humidity. If you spritz this guy daily, it will thrive under bright direct sun in your home without any problems! It even blooms white and blue flowers, adding a visual appeal to an already popular herb. Aromatically this is a common favorite, the smell of freshly plucked rosemary is one that is reminiscent of so many wonderful dishes.
When looking for other plants to grow in San Diego, remember to consider drought resistance, sun tolerance, and soil needs. Your best bet will be low-water, high-sun plants that won’t be burned sitting out under the sun too long. If you are willing to commit to a high-maintenance partner, you can look for more water-hungry plants, but think about avoiding tropically-based high-maintenance matches.
San Diego Gardening Tips
Planting in San Diego requires some strategic placements. The sun can be hard on delicate plants, and creating or finding shade for those that need it isn’t always easy. If starting a new garden or indoor plant collection, consider planning everything out beforehand. This will help you make sure every new green addition gets a prime spot to shine and grow according to the sun they need!
Think about integrating drought-resistant plants whenever possible. Not only are they easier to take care of if you locate them indoors, but they have a much better chance of surviving the San Diego weather if placed outside as well. Also think about humidity - some plants that thrive in constantly wet and humid tropical areas may not feel at home under the beachy rays here.
When Should I Plant My Garden in San Diego?
Normally you are going to have the best luck planting around the beginning of the rainy season, so anywhere around the end of the year! Because there aren’t often frosts in San Diego, you don’t have to worry about that when deciding when to plant. Remember that every plant has special requirements, for instance some plants like rosemary will prefer a March plant date, while something like beets or parsley will prefer February.
Planting in Zone 10a
San Diego falls within USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone 10a. Zone 10 is already a very small portion of the country in comparison to others, including areas like the bay area, San Diego, and the southern tip of Florida. Due to their mild winters and warmer summers, you trade off worrying about frost for having to be careful of strong sun and heat. Heartier, desert plants are guaranteed the most success and will thrive while also being low maintenance! You also are able to grow a fun, diverse group of plants here due to the milder winters, including citrus fruit trees, mexicola grande avocado trees, some less delicate herbs, and some varieties of banana trees!
In Zone 10a, not everything has to be planted during the rainy season. Some plants like basil, bell peppers, strawberries, and sweet potatoes do well being planted in the early summer. Even in the hot July sun, pumpkins, squash, watermelon, and chives can be planted. Of course, as you start to approach those less-harsh winter months, your options open up to more delicate plants like spinach, peas, tomatillos, and shallots. Consider planting some sunflowers in December - they not only add a pop of color to your yard but absolutely bask and flourish in the San Diego weather!