Which Plants Can I Grow In San Francisco?
San Francisco has something for everyone, a city of beautiful locations and stunning vistas, where technology and industry come alive. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods National Monument nearby are just a taste of the beauty held by this welcoming city. With one of the most amiable climates in the U.S, anyone with a green thumb in San Francisco can grow the garden of their dreams. Fruits, veggies, and a wide variety of flowers and shrubs all thrive here, so let's take a closer look at what makes San Francisco so great for gardeners:
Which Plants Grow Well in San Francisco?
A wealth of plants are ready to thrive in the hospitable climate San Francisco affords, both indoors and outdoors. If you're getting ready for the growing season, the best thing you can do to ensure success is your homework. Take a look at any number of the local parks and gardens in the San Francisco area for some inspiration and glean some insights into what makes these plants successful. Soil composition and your specific area's high and low temperatures should be considered, but once you've done that, get ready to enjoy! Here are some plants you can try this year:
Peperomia Ginny (Peperomia clusiifolia): A member of the black pepper family, this beautiful and variegated foliage boasts quite unique color characteristics. With hints of red around the edges of its leaves, it stands out wherever you plant it. Keep it in warmer conditions with lots of humidity, and be sure to let the soil dry out between waterings for best results!
Peacock Plant (Calathea roseopicta): Like the animal from which it derives its name, this plant loves to show off. Deep green and dark red shades adorn the bottom of variegated, green and yellow leaves, making this plant a definite contender for the showpiece of your garden! With Brazilian origins, they're also known as prayer plants because of their ability to raise and lower leaves throughout the day, producing a bowing effect as if in worship. It thrives best in humid environments!
Orange Flower Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginea): More simply the Bird of Paradise or Crane Flower, this plant hails from the coastlines of South Africa. In the wild, it grows in broad patches that can span miles! This evergreen perennial also boasts vivid flowers, making it widely cultivated and desired by gardeners. Keep it in humid conditions with lots of sun!
If you're looking for plants beyond flowers, you're in luck! San Francisco is the perfect place to cultivate lush, jungle vibes. Give a few of these a look for your home and garden:
Money Tree (Pachira aquatica): A plant with lots of Feng Shui to offer, it's said this tree brings good luck wherever it goes! Easy to care for and exceptionally resilient, it's also a great air purifier that thrives best in sunny spaces. Know that there is a bonsai version of this plant that makes a great starter or housewarming gift for beginning gardeners.
Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus): With fronds reminiscent of a ruffled skirt, this tropical, lush plant makes a beautiful centerpiece with its unique leaves. And when new fronds grow, they often resemble bird eggs to start, ensuring you'll know why the plant is so aptly named! Capable of reaching up to four feet in length, give this one a humid environment with partial sun.
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia Carina): A popular houseplant composed of lush foliage, large leaves, and a vibrant green color, it also bears variegated splotches of darker and lighter tones giving it lots of character! Easy to maintain with just the occasional spritz of water, it's perfect for growing in pots, hanging baskets, or training on a trellis.
While veggies can thrive in the San Francisco area, it's a good idea to keep them to the warmer-loving variety. However that's not to deter you from trying, as almost any veggies can grow in the area provided they're cared for properly. Here are some you can try that split the difference of mixed climate:
- Bitter Melon
- Miracle Fruit
- Curry Leaf
Best Landscaping Plants in San Francisco
Being in a warmer zone, San Francisco caters to a wide variety of exotic fruit trees and shrubs. Note that whatever options you choose should be hardy enough to withstand drought and extreme heat, making native plants a good choice for your lawn or garden. If you need some help, give a few of these a try:
Floss Flower (Ageratum): This perennial is great for the San Francisco area, sporting a whimsical look of flowers shaped like pom-poms amidst its greenery! It does well in full sun to partial shade and blooms in late spring up to the first frost.
Verbena (Verbena officinalis): Grown as both a perennial or annual, this plant thrives even in the sunniest and driest areas, making it a perfect, low-maintenance option for your lawn or garden! Just make sure to give it its full allotment of 8 to 10 hours of daily sun!
Purple Needle Grass (Stipa pulchra): A native of the southern California area, needle grass is ideally suited to thrive in the San Francisco area! Natural air purifiers with excellent water restoration capabilities, this environmentally cohesive plant will make a great addition to your home!
If fruit is something you're hoping to grow, San Francisco will continue to impress with how well it accommodates a number of fruit plants! Here are a few to get you started:
- Jackfruit Tree
- Apple Guava
- June Plum
- Soursop Tree
Which Plants Are Native to San Francisco?
By choosing native plants for your garden, you're not only reinforcing your odds of success, but you're nurturing both local biodiversity and ecosystems! Many types of local wildlife like birds and pollinating insects depend on these plants for reliable food and habitat sources. What's more, you can help endangered plant species if you can help grow a few more of their number, making you quite the environmental MVP! Be sure to see which native variants will do best in your specific conditions, but if you need somewhere to start, give a few of these plants a try:
Ithuriel's Spear (Triteleia laxa): With a name as fascinating as the flower itself derived from the epic poem, Paradise Lost, Ithuriel's spear is a triplet lily. This plant also goes by the names triteleia and grassnut. Give this perennial full sun for the best results!
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa): A widespread shrub that can also grow into a small tree up to 12 feet tall, you'll find this plant in moist, cool places. Look for its tightly clustered basal stems that are a defining characteristic of this plant.
California Wild Rose (Rosa californica): Also known as the California Rose, this rose plant is widely seen from southern California all the way to Oregon. With a preference for arid regions, be sure to give it lots of sun, and know that it can easily survive in drought conditions!
Buckwheat: Perfect for landscaping projects, you'll often see this plant flowering along highways where conditions are more conducive to its growth. An excellent plant for numerous reasons, one of the best is to help several kinds of endangered butterflies who need buckwheat varieties to survive!
Other Plants That Grow Best in San Francisco
Janet Craig Dragon Plant (Dracaena): This one comes with a reputation of being virtually indestructible! Capable of thriving in low light with little water, it also makes a great air purifier with its sword-like and dark green leaves that can span up to three inches in width and up to two feet in length in the right conditions. Perfect for lending tropical vibes wherever you plant it.
Alocasia Polly: This one will bring mid-century style to your home, along with a tropical vibe with its glossy, dark green leaves and silver veins all growing from a red stem. Give it high humidity and bright light with warm temperatures for best results!
Good Luck Plant (Cordyline fruticosa Glauca): Also known as the Green Ti plant, it can grow an impressive 13 feet tall with fan-like leaves that grow in spiral clusters! These leaves line the central stalk, growing as large as 24 inches themselves. Plant in partial sun with moderate watering to keep it healthy!
Garden Tips For San Francisco
Planting in the San Francisco area comes with the caveat of staying vigilant of shifting conditions, specifically when it comes to hotter, dryer temperatures. As always, it's never a bad idea to consult your local Farmer's Almanac or similar resource to stay on top of climate changes, ensuring optimal water conservation. Mulching or similar materials can protect soil from getting too hot but also delay water evaporation. Techniques such as drip irrigation and shade cloth will also help keep your plants happy and healthy, and be sure to stay on top of your soil composition with tests as well. If needed, add fertilizer or compost to renew the soil in your area.
When Should I Plant My Garden in San Francisco?
With an impressive growing season, it's not uncommon to see gardeners in San Francisco pulling old plants out of their gardens even into the winter months! Crops you'll commonly see in fall in other zones grow well during the whole winter season in this region, also known as "second summer." You can start summer crops indoors in January or February, then move them outside once things warm up when you can start a whole second round of seeds! Just mind any major heat waves or temperature fluctuations.
Planting in Zone 10a & 10b
San Francisco falls in Zone 10 of the USDA Plant Hardiness scale and is divided into two subzones, 10a and 10b. Both are categorized by their average winter temperature range. 10a has a range of 30⁰F to 35⁰F, and 10b has a range of 35⁰F to 40⁰F. Because of this warmer climate, you'll often see tropical plants growing in this zone. Since most winters don't have freezes, a wider variety of plants can survive here! Just be mindful of the hotter, dryer conditions this area is prone to, and be ready to provide for your plants accordingly.