Which Plants Can I Grow in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is home to the rich and famous, but is also known for its amazing Mediterranean climate. While many move to LA for its promise of opportunity, others fall in love with the warm weather and mild winters. The summers are also famously sunny, with most of the rain around this area occurring in the winter months. Plants that thrive in Los Angeles love basking in the warm summer sun and hate freezing winters (just like us).
California is one of the top 10 biodiverse regions on the planet, and Los Angeles itself is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its over 2,000 rare plant species! In fact, LA is the largest United States city to be deemed a “biodiversity haven” by the National Wildlife Federation, achieved through the hard conservation work of the green-minded city planners and residents. Through a combination of warm weather, mild winters, and a local love of nature, you can grow and find a huge variety of plants in LA!
Which Plants Grow Well in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles has a very long growing season because of the warm winters, often nine or more months, depending on what part of the city you live in! The hot summers do come with some challenges, though, and while the summer rays are great for sunbathing, they can also burn the leaves of more sensitive plants. Higher-maintenance plants that need more moisture may struggle in the arid summer and will need to be able to handle droughts! To combat some of this, you can always install a drip irrigation system or diligently keep plants watered to keep more thirsty outdoor greenery happy and healthy. Mulch is another option for maintaining soil cooler during hotter months. Consider plants that are hardy enough to handle the cooler months, but also can stand up to the drought of the summer!
Best Landscaping Plants for Los Angeles
When you start to look at options for landscaping plants in Los Angeles, you need to consider plants that can both handle the cooler months while standing up to the drought and strong sun during the summer! For some plants that are hardy to both the hot, dry summer and the cooler winters, some succulents such as Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) are great options! Hardy down to Zone 8, Aloe Vera loves hot sun and is perfectly fine with low humidity and low moisture areas. Not only are they easy to care for, but they can provide medicinal use as well. Succulents are very easy to propagate for beginners, which will help you fill out your landscaping over time!
If you want a unique grass for your landscaping, the Jack Spratt New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax “Jack Spratt”) is a great option! This plant will need some extra water during dry months but can handle really harsh sunlight and doesn’t need high humidity. The Jack Spratt Flax is a great option for accents or edging in a garden with the beautiful, multi-colored leaves that vary in color from red, green, gold, purple, and burgundy shades.
If you are looking for some plants that will add some elegance and color to your outdoor spaces, the Gardenia Veitchii (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Veitchii’) is an amazing pick. This plant is a little finicky, needing some attention for watering and increased humidity in the LA area. It likes full sun to partial shade, and when taken care of, its beautiful white flowers will scent your patio or garden! Want something a little easy to care for? Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) will need some extra watering but doesn’t have the humidity needs of the Gardenia. The Star Jasmine grows extremely quickly, up to six feet in a season! Because of this, it is often picked for trellising areas such as along porch rails or as a privacy screen. It will bloom in May or June with delicate, wonderfully scented star-shaped flowers. Both of these plants have evergreen vines that will beautify your space regardless of the season.
Which Plants are Native to Los Angeles?
Native plants are a fantastic way to help support the environment. These plants are already tried and tested in your area, meaning they often won’t need much care. Talk to your local nursery to find out what plants are native to your location, and you may even find some plants that are endangered in your area! These experts can help you pick the suitable varieties that will support the local ecosystem and provide vital habitats and food for things like bees, butterflies, and birds! Some examples of local LA plants include:
Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia):
This unique local plant not only has berries that can be stewed to make a sour, health-packed drink, but is vital for preventing erosion. It has small flowers that will show up in February or May, and the berries also are an excellent food source for local fauna. The Lemonade Berry is evergreen and is exceptionally hardy to the heat of LA.
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea):
Also known as the Mexican Elderberry or the Tapiro, this is one of the easiest native plants to grow! Once it is established in your yard, it can handle significant abuse before it starts struggling. The berries can be used for multiple purposes, such as jellies, pies, wine, and bakery applications. Raw berries should not be eaten as they can cause stomach upset. Luckily, these berries and the flowers that come before them are a great source of food for local wildlife!
Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca Whipplei):
This plant is somewhat unremarkable when not flowering, but when it does flower, they are unforgettable. Only flowering these white blooms during the end of the plant’s lifecycle, they have both cultural significance and importance to the local environment. The Yucca moth has a symbiotic relationship with this plant and is the only way that it can be pollinated. In return, the Chaparral Yucca provides shelter and food for the Yucca moth’s larva.
Los Angeles Gardening Tips
When picking your Los Angeles garden, warmer areas have access to a “second summer,” which means that if you can start your crops in January or February, you can plant a whole second harvest later in the year! As you pick what veggies you want to add to your garden, remember that the summer sun can be more challenging for cold-loving vegetables. Make sure to keep an eye on the local first and last frosts to make sure you don’t plant too early or leave overwintering plants out too late!
To help defend against the heat, you can use tools such as mulches to help prevent too much water evaporation and to keep the soil cooler. Drip water systems can also help you keep needier plants moist and happy. In the harshest of circumstances, you can also implement shade cloths, but be careful because this does block life-giving sun from your plants! If you want to protect some highly cold-sensitive plants, you can consider raised beds to keep the soil warmer during colder months.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Los Angeles?
The weather throughout Los Angeles can be quite different depending on where you live. Checking your local freeze dates will be crucial to successfully planning your planting date. Different vegetables and plants will prefer a different planting date, so check with your local nursery to see what would be best! If trying to do two harvests, you can start plants indoors before the last frost to ensure that they get the start they need early in the season. If you live in the cooler areas of Los Angeles, the last frost is often around mid-December.
Planting in Zones 9 and 10
Los Angeles has multiple Zones depending on what area you live in, both Zones 9 and 10. Hardiness zones are split into two subcategories and are based on the minimum average winter temperatures of the areas. Zone 9a has a minimum average temperature of 20 °F to 25 °F, Zone 9b is 25 °F to 30 °F, Zone 10a is 30 °F to 35 °F, and Zone 10b is 35 °F to 40 °F. Regardless of what Zone you live in within LA, you are guaranteed to have a warm, long growing season. When planting, the usual rule is to start veggies indoors 6-8 months before the last frost to get a nice head-start on the growing season, which will help you make room for a second batch of plants in these areas!
Heat loving-veggies love these zones, including vegetables such as sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, peppers (both hot and sweet), eggplant, collards, okra, parsnips, turnips, tomatillos, ginger, bitter melon, and miracle fruit. Cold-loving plants will struggle in these Zones - make sure to plant any of these veggies during the cooler months to get a good harvest. When growing, make sure to protect plants that won’t stand up to the intense sun, as many plants may get burned under the summer heat.