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7 California native grasses to consider for your Bay Area landscape project

CA Native Grasses | Pacific Nurseries
Interest in CA native plants by Bay Area Landscape Pros is on the rise—including CA native grasses. There are many reasons for this increasing attention including:

What makes CA native grasses so attractive for Bay Are landscapes?

According to the California Native Plant Society | CNPS, California native grasses provide several attractive benefits for both landscape professionals and their clients looking for a low-maintenance and water-efficient landscape.

These amazing CA native plants are hard to match for their unique qualities that include:
Water savings
Low maintenance
Reduced pesticide use
Summer-dry tolerant
Wildlife habitat support
Carbon neutral landscapes | Pacific Nurseries
High carbon sequestration
Beautiful all-seasons foilage

A unique and important role for California native grasses

California native grasses play a unique and important role in providing cover, nesting materials, and additional food sources for beneficial, garden-friendly wildlife.

They also provide the aesthetic design benefits of contrast, loose structural form, and interesting leaf variety. Best of all, they’re unmatched for their graceful, flowing movement throughout the seasons.

Over 300 species of native grasses are found in California and they are an integral part of diverse habitats including cool, wet forests to hot, dry deserts.

Anatomy of Grass | Pacific Nurseries
Key anatomical components of CA native grass | California Native Plant Society
In their natural environment, native grasses typically occur in groups with bare ground between them and where wildflowers grow. And when grasses get a bit messy while going to seed, this is exactly what seed-eaters and butterflies hope for as the seeds provide food for nourishment and survival.

Most native ornamental grasses prefer lots of sun and will be tolerant of drought once they’re established. However, many species improve their appearance with occasional water during dry periods.

The deep roots of native grasses stabilize soil, increase water infiltration, and recycle nutrients. When native grasses are planted in urban environments, their unique qualities can even help to filter polluted runoff.

Native rangeland grasses also excel in sequestering carbon to help reduce air pollutants and mitigate the effects of climate change.
CA native grass | Tunnel Tops Park
The Tunnel Tops park in SF is a showcase of over 1200 species of CA native plants—including grasses—featured throughout the park.

California Native Grass for Bay Area landscapes

With so many aesthetic and ecological benefits, it makes sense to consider California native grasses for your next installation. At Pacific Nurseries, we have a wide selection of native grasses in many container sizes in our acres of inventory. Below is a list of a few featured specimens that we think you’ll find particularly attractive for just about any Bay Area landscape.
Bouteloua gracilis
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Mosquito Grass
Bouteloua gracilis | Pacific Nurseries
Bouteloua gracilis | Pacific Nurseries
Bouteloua gracilis is a low-growing species that is native to a large portion of the United States. It also grows well in hot, dry regions of California. It’s semi-evergreen and it shuts off growth as the weather cools in our Bay Area Fall and Winter seasons. It’s also a great candidate for replacing a water-wasting lawn.
Festuca californica
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | California Fescue
California native grasses | Pacific Nurseries
Festuca californica | Pacific Nurseries
Festuca californica is a native and robust medium bunchgrass with glaucus evergreen foliage associated with brushlands and deciduous oak forests. It’s an excellent option for shady or filtered light settings. It features airy flowers and provides great contrast and leaf texture in an installation.
Muhlenbergia rigens
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Deergrass
Muhlenbergia rigens | Pacific Nurseries
Muhlenbergia rigens | Pacific Nurseries

As a hard-working CA native grass, Muhlenbergia rigens provides attractive textural contrast in a landscape with many erect narrow blades that fan out of the vase-shaped foliage in dense clumps. It’s one of the most beautiful and easiest to grow of all the native California bunchgrasses. It prefers sandy or gravelly soil but will perform well in almost any well-drained location.

“When regionally appropriate California native grasses are combined with colorful perennials, the result is a shimmering, mini-ecosystem that’s friendly to all life. Even better, it requires minimal water, care, or other limited resources.”
John Greenlee | Greenlee & Associates
Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Canyon Prince Wild Rye
Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' | Pacific Nurseries
Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' | Pacific Nurseries
A compact and blue-leaved form of Leymus condensatus, ‘Canyon Prince’ tolerates both sun and shade. It also does well when irrigated and when water is restricted in drought conditions. Its foliage makes this a brilliant accent and over time, it becomes a resilient, hearty, and handsome addition to just about any garden.
Carex tumulicola
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Foothill Sedge
Carex tumulicola | Pacific Nurseries
Carex tumulicola | Pacific Nurseries
This wispy and free-form Carex tumulicola is found in western North America, from British Columbia to California. It has a height and width of approximately 2′ and is slowly spreading. It’s a great native grass solution for use in meadows and open woodlands.
Calamagrostis foliosa
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Leafy Reedgrass
Calamagrostis foliosa | Pacific Nurseries
Calamagrostis foliosa is a perennial bunchgrass that is native to California and endemic to the state. It produces a tuft of stems about 1—2′ tall with the leaves mostly located about the base of the stems.
Carex praegracilis
CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Field Sedge
Carex praegracilis | Pacific Nurseries
Carex praegracilis | Pacific Nurseries
Carex praegracilis is a monocot and perennial grass-like herb that is native to California. It produces sharply triangular stems up to 2-3′ tall from a network of thin, coarse rhizomes. The inflorescence is a dense, somewhat cylindrical array of flower spikes up about 1-1-1/2″ long. It’s a great lawn substitute and ideal for meadow settings.
Carex testacea
Common name | Orange Sedge
Lomandra longifolia ‘Tropic Belle’| Pacific Nurseries
Carex testacea | Pacific Nurseries
Carex testacea is not a California native. But it’s one of the hardiest of the New Zealand Hair Sedges and one of our favorites. It forms striking mounds of narrow, bronzy-orange leaves and when exposed to sunlight, the foliage seems to shimmer with movement. It’s a striking solution in rock gardens as well as containers. And it prefers exposure to partial sun with regular watering.

Low maintenance with beauty all year long.

California native grasses can be a thoughtful and attractive addition to just about any Bay Area landscape. And by following some of the low care tips below, you’ll ensure that your clients will thank you for your guidance in helping them save water and reduce maintenance work in their garden.

Installation Care + Maintenance
Planting day at Spark | Pacific Nurseries


Although most California natives can be planted at any time of year, it is best to put them in the ground during the Fall and early Winter. This gives them time to establish a healthy root system and build the energy for new growth and stunning floral displays in Spring and Summer.
Water in early morning | Pacific Nurseries


Many native plants can survive with minimal supplemental water once they have become established (after 2-5 years). Some native species can maintain a healthy appearance for much of the year while being watered occasionally each month.
Soil Carbon sequestration | Pacific Nurseries


Most native plants perform better without any fertilizer. Extra nutrients push plants to grow quickly, sometimes beyond naturally supportable levels and can shorten their life span. Adding a layer of mulch helps to slow water evaporation, discourage weed germination, and create a favorable environment for creating beneficial biological bacteria.

Want to know more about California native grasses?

If you would like to discuss your project requirements or learn more about California native grasses, contact any of our Customer Service experts by clicking on the PHONE icon below their name to call. Or click on the ENVELOPE icon below their name to send an email directly to them.

If that’s all too complicated, just reach out at 650.755.2330.

As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right plants that will make your project a water-wise success. It’s one of the many qualities that make us different from just an ordinary nursery.

We can also provide an Estimate for one item or for an entire installation. Just attach your Microsoft Excel .xlsx plant list to our convenient online estimate form.

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