Regional Picks: Plant It And Forget It – Southern California

Fine Gardening – Issue 179

1. ‘Blush’ Leucadendron

Name: Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’

Zones: 911

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

I am a leucadendron fanatic, and ‘Blush’ is one of my all-time favorites. This plant has great red color in its foliage, striking winter blooms, and low water needs. Its foliage or flowers can be used for cut-flower arrangements. Australian plants are notorious for struggling with high-phosphorus soils, so this plant does best with limited fertilizer in acidic soil that has good drainage. With its bright color and vertical architectural form, ‘Blush’ makes a great showpiece or highlight in a garden.

2. California Hedge Nettle

Name: Stachys bullata

Zones: 710

Size: 2 to 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

I am testing out this California native at Descanso Gardens in our new wildlife landscape. This gentle spreader is easily established and thrives underneath shade trees. Don’t let its common name fool you: California hedge nettle does not have any stinging hairs like other nettles. This plant is great for medium- to moderately watered shade gardens, and its striking pink, salvia-like blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. It pairs well with heuchera (Heuchera spp. and cvs., Zones 4-8) and Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana, Zones 5-9). Fragrant, mint-scented foliage means that this plant is almost 100 percent deer resistant.


3. Breeze Dwarf Mat Rush

Name: Lomandra longifolia ‘LM300’

Zones: 811

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

This beauty is a bright green, grasslike plant that performs well in all sorts of conditions. I often end up using it in sunny spots that have poor soil quality as well as in shady areas of the garden that get medium to low water, (especially since the selection of grasses for dry shade is rather limited). Breeze is a smaller Lomandra cultivar that stays put when you plant it and is low to no maintenance. This Australian plant is tolerant of salt spray and reclaimed water, so it can be used in all sorts of difficult locations. It will also remain evergreen in Southern California.


4. Feathery Cassia

Name: Senna artemisioides

Zones: 810

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; dry soil

Feathery cassia is a great find for anyone looking for a lush plant in a low-water garden. It’s a mediumsize shrub that has silver foliage and bright yellow spring flowers that bloom for 2 to 3 months. Unlike many drought-tolerant plants, this stunner does not have a dormant period, so it looks good year-round. Its lacy foliage looks great as a textural contrast to large-leaved succulents. Pale green seed pods form after the bloom season, and you can expect no maintenance once it’s established.



Rachel Young is the director of horticulture and garden operations at Descanso Gardens, a public gardenin La Cañada, California.

Photos: Brent Wilson/;; Doreen Wynja; courtesy of Rachel Young

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