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Why bring California native plants from the wild into your project?

Bring CA native plants into your project | Pacific Nurseries
Many Bay Area Landscape Professionals—and their clients—want to know why they should bring California native plants from the wild into their project.

To help answer this timely question, we’ve assembled a comprehensive summary of what makes California native plants so attractive and why they’re worth considering as valuable additions to any landscape.

We’ve also included some native specimen recommendations for trees, shrubs, ferns, and perennials that are great choices for bringing California native plants from the wild into your project.

California natives all over the Bay Area

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are blessed with many wild lands areas and open spaces where California native plants thrive.

From the trails and watershed of Mt Tam in Marin to the rolling hills of San Bruno on the San Francisco Peninsula to the dry heights of Mt Diablo in the East Bay, we can hike, walk or bike through these unique landscapes and see native plants growing, blooming and fostering natural habitats that support essential life around them.

So if you discover a native plant from the wild that you find particularly attractive, bringing it into your landscape project is easier than ever.

“I always use as many California native plants as I can in my customer’s landscapes. One of my favorites is Salvia spathacea because hummingbirds and bees are so attracted to it. And once the beautiful  flowers have fallen, bees continue to find them and extract nectar.”
Raul Campos | Raul Campos Landscapes

Why choose CA native plants for your project?

Native plants have evolved over centuries with our local climate, diverse soil types, and unique wildlife. The result of this evolutionary process has enabled native plants to develop amazing characteristics that are detailed below.

Water-efficient

Once established, many California native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall. Every Landscape Pro should be doing everything that they can to conserve limited water resources—especially as climate change continues to transform the Bay Area with greater risk to fire. What’s more, saving water saves money too for both you and your client.

Essential pollinator support

Native plants, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects are vital contributors to a healthy, interconnected ecosystem. Recognized research reveals that native wildlife prefers native plants. For example, California’s many pollinators help improve fruit set in trees. And native insects and birds that rely on native plants also reduce the proliferation of mosquitoes and other plant-eating bugs.

High carbon sequestration

A study from the University of California, Davis, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that native grasslands and rangelands are more resilient carbon sinks than California forests. Unlike forests, grasslands sequester most of their carbon underground, while forests store it mostly in woody biomass and leaves. When fire burns native grasslands, the carbon-fixed underground tends to stay in the roots and soil, making them more adaptive to climate change.

Looking ahead, our model simulations show that grasslands store more carbon than forests because they are impacted less by droughts and wildfires,” said lead author Pawlok Dass, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis

Pesticide elimination

Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases. And as most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets when used to attempt to control pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use engages natural pest control and thereby reduces the opportunity for harmful added toxins to leach into creeks and watersheds.

Lower Maintenance

While no landscape is maintenance-free, California native plants require significantly less time and resources for care than other plants. Native plants do best with some attention in a landscape. However, they use less water, require little to no fertilizer or pesticides, and require less pruning and time for care.

Local Ecology Support

Planting California native plants can effectively connect wildland and developed areas together. As never-ending community growth in the Bay Area replaces natural habitats, native plants can serve as important bridges from one growing area to another. The result is a sustainable local ecosystem that supports wildlife and provides essential habitat for survival.

Unique California beauty

California native plants offer incredible color variety, amazing structural design, and uniquely stunning beauty when used in just about any Bay Area landscape. While frequently not considered or often overlooked in planting design, they create a strong sense of place and connect more deeply to the natural environment when they are thoughtfully integrated. From trees to shrubs to ground covers and grasses, there is a California native plant that you can choose that will perform better, look more attractive, and effectively support the wildlife and the environment around it.

Leading the way to a healthier Bay Area landscape

The California Native Plant Society | CNPS is a statewide organization working to save and celebrate California’s native plants and places through plant science, advocacy, education, and horticulture.

With nearly 10,000 members in 35 chapters, CNPS is leading a statewide effort to increase the awareness and use of California native plants by Landscape Professionals and residents.

This campaign is named Bloom! California and it launched in early 2021.

Bloom! California | Pacific NurseriesDeveloped in partnership with a diverse group of nurseries, water agencies, nonprofits, and others, the three-year campaign is timed to address the dual crises of climate change and increasing specimen extinction.

This important effort was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture | USDA, and funding by a California Specialty Crop Block Grant.

California is facing a real-time crisis of both drought and the collapse of insect and bird populations. Installation and use of California Native Plants offer a specific and tangible way for Landscape Professionals to help,” said Liv O’Keeffe, senior director of public affairs for CNPS.

As a targeted outreach effort to grow a more sustainable future for California, Liv and CNPS encourage all Landscape Pros, and residents, to support Bloom! California in order to protect biodiversity, build climate resilience and improve natural ecosystems.

“With local, state, and federal efforts underway to protect biodiversity, improve access to nature, and build climate resilience, we’re encouraging Landscape Professionals to grow a more sustainable future for California by using native plants.”
Liv O’Keeffe | Senior Director of Public Affairs, California Native Plant Society

Wholesale support for CA natives

Pacific Nurseries is supporting the use and installation of California native plants in 11 groups as a participating partner in the Bloom! California campaign. The native plant groups include:

  1. | Ornamental Grass
  2. | Mint
  3. | Iris
  4. | Currant
  5. | Clarkia
  6. | Manzanita
  7. | Yarrow
  8. | Sage
  9. | Phacelia
  10. | Toyon
  11. | Oak

Every plant in these groups embodies all of the valuable qualities of California native plants and each is ideal for use in many of the Bay Area’s diverse micro-climates.
Don Baldocchi, President of Pacific Nurseries, added: “As California’s longest operating wholesale nursery, we are supporting and encouraging our community of Landscape Pros to choose and install California native plants.

From backyard gardens to city parks and commercial development projects, we all need to do our part to create both beautiful and ecologically sustainable landscapes that integrate California native plants from the wild.

To learn more about Bloom! California, click the button below.

Bring natives from our growing grounds into your project

At our Gabilan Growing Grounds in San Martin, we grow and produce California native plants from the ground up.

Here, we foster and cultivate these plant varieties with the latest eco-friendly techniques and strive to offer them in the sizes and quantities sought after by Bay Area Landscape Pros and their customers.

To help you in planning your next successful project, we’ve assembled a group of great California native plants from our Gabilan Growing Grounds—and from the wild—that your clients will love. Check them out below and consider adding one or more of them to your next project.

Great California Native Plants

Dudleya farinosa

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Bluff Lettuce
Dudleya farinosa | Pacific Nurseries
Dudleya farinosa is a native succulent plant that’s attractive to hummingbirds along the coast in its natural range. Its leaves are generally very pale green but they often have edges or tips that are bright red. The plant erects a tall stem that bears a branching flower cluster with many pale to bright yellow flowers. It’s commonly found on bluffs and coastal hillsides and is very easy to grow in marine environments. It prefers well-draining soil in either full sun or part shade.

Stachys bullata

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | California Hedgenettle
Stachys bullata | Pacific Nurseries

Stachys bullata is a native perennial in the mint family. As a delicate, attractive and flowering plant, it performs very well in damp, partially shaded areas. While not drought tolerant, it’s a good choice for moist bioswales, pond margins, and similar areas where a flowering plant may be desired. It blooms from spring through summer with delicate, pale violet flowers. Be aware that it spreads freely to cover an area but it can be easily controlled.

“I’m fascinated by the role each plant and small green space can play to restore individuals and families. And as an advocate of networked small gardens, California native plants do so much to mitigate many of the harmful environmental impacts of urban life.”
Elisa Baier | Small Spot Gardens

Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno’

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | California Coffee Berry
Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno’ | Pacific Nurseries
Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno’ is a small low-growing, evergreen shrub that has stunning red twigs and bark that are contrasted with intense green foliage. This shrub cultivar is exclusive to the san Bruno Mountain area in South San Francisco. It’s ideal for use in a small garden as a feature plant or as a hedge. It requires minimal water but is less tolerant of heat and drought than other varieties of coffeeberry. The shrub flowers in the mid to late spring with berries fading from bright red to black in the fall. It grows best in sandy, fast draining soil and prefers sun or partial shade in coastal sites, and mostly shade in inland areas.

Satureja douglasii

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Yerba Buena
Satureja douglasii | Pacific Nurseries
Satureja douglasii is a creeping perennial herb that is so common in the SF Bay Area that was first called Yerba Buena. This easy-care, handsome plant looks great in a rock garden climbing around boulders or on a declining grade. With delicate, tiny leaves on very slender stems that creep along the ground, it roots itself as it spreads. The leaves and flowers have an amazing mint-like fragrance and are both edible. The leaves also make a great tea. It performs best in a moderately moist woodland setting where summers are cool and there is frequent environmental moisture. Clay soil is not a challenge with this great native plant and it’s deer resistant.

Blechnum spicant

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Deer Fern
Blechnum spicant | Pacific Nurseries
Blechnum spicant is a very popular garden fern that likes damp, shaded forest areas such as Redwood Forest and Mixed Evergreen Forest. With flat, wavy-margined leaflets and gracefully arching, upright fertile leaves, it grows to about 2′ wide and typically goes dormant in the winter. As a great deer resistant choice, it can be used in shade were not too much heat is prevalent and rich, forest soil with well-decomposed organic components are available.

Ceanothus maritimus

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Maritime Ceanothus
Ceanothus maritimus | Pacific Nurseries
Ceanothus maritimus is a rare, narrow endemic species of shrub in the Buckthorn family. It’s an attractive, adaptable, long-lived plant that’s a great choice for coastal gardens. Unlike other Ceanothus, it can resemble the non-native Cotoneaster. And as a spreading shrub under 2-3′ in height, it prefers sun to part shade and is fairly drought tolerant. It flowers in a small cluster of deep blue to off-white flowers with leaves that are shiny green on top and woolly underneath. Consider this as a very easy-to-care-for CA native that’s evergreen, deer resistant, and a pollinator-friendly ground-cover or hillside stabilizer.

Salvia spathacea

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Hummingbird Sage
Salvia spathacea | Pacific Nurseries
Salvia spathacea is sought after for its dramatic flowering spikes and attractive scent. Hummingbirds go crazy for this plant. It features very pronounced square stems and the entire plant is covered with wavy glandular hairs. With a woody base, growing from 1-3′ tall and spreading by rhizomes, it forms clumps of sprawling foliage. Its arrowhead-shaped, bright green leaves are highly aromatic when crushed or touched. Dark red flowers are produced in beautiful clusters that appear on spike-like stems where nodes of the clusters produce stunning, deep magenta-colored flowers. Salvia spathacea prefers dry shaded or partly shaded areas and does best in full shade, under oak trees and other dense foliage. It’s very drought-tolerant and requires little supplementary water once established. Clay soil is not a problem for this beauty and it’s a good deer-resistant choice.
“I always encourage our Landscape Pro customers to use CA natives because they will grow easily, look better, and support essential pollinators.”
Sophia Blocher | Pacific Nurseries

Polystichum munitum

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Western Sword Fern
Polystichum munitum | Pacific Nurseries
Polystichum munitum is one of the most abundant ferns occurring along the Pacific coast and in the Bay Area. The dark green fronds of this easy-to-grow fern can reach 6′ tall in a tight clump spreading out radially from a round base. Individual fronds live for 1.5-2.5 years and remain attached to the rhizome after withering. This handsome fern prefers full shade to partial sun and is very tolerant of clay or slow-draining soil. Once established, they can require infrequent watering but prefer some regular moisture to perform well.

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Red-flowered Buckwheat
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens | Pacific Nurseries
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens is a rare native perennial herb originating from the Channel Islands in Ventura, CA. As a mat-forming plant producing tall, stout flower clusters of red or pinkish flowers, it has a long summer bloom time and is very attractive to pollinators. Wavy leaves are located mainly at the base of the plant where the upper side is dark green and the underside is pale. It doesn’t spread far or fast and retains a compact form. It’s a great choice for rock gardens, spilling over a wall, or in the understory of larger plants. Eriogonum grande var. rubescens prefers full sun and performs well with some afternoon shade and a little extra water. It’s also deer resistant.

Cercis occidentalis

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Western Redbud
Cercis occidentalis | Pacific Nurseries
Cercis occidentalis is a small deciduous tree or shrub often found in the foothills and mountains of California. This plant is very easy to grow in the Bay Area and needs four seasons of climate with a cool winter to thrive. It prefers full sun with some shade and requires little water once established. This CA native features thin, shiny brown branches that bear glossy heart-shaped leaves that are light green early in the season and darken as they age. Cercis occidentalis also features abundant, blazing pink or magenta flowers that develop in the spring all over the shrub. The result is a spectacular floral display in a landscape. As a deer-resistant, drought tolerant, pollinator-attractive CA native, this plant is an excellent choice for just about any Bay Area installation.

Aesculus californica

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | California Buckeye
Aesculus californica | Pacific Nurseries
Aesculus californica is a native species that grows prolifically throughout the Bay Area. As a large shrub or small tree growing to 13-39′ tall, it’s typically multi-trunked with a crown as broad as the height. The leaves are tender and prone to heat or extreme cold damage with a dark green color and a finely toothed margin. It also tends to drop leaves readily. Exercise caution when installing this plant as the fruit is toxic. Aesculus californica is deer resistant, clay soil tolerant and it performs best with little water.

Quercus agrifolia

CA native plants | Pacific Nurseries
CA Native  Common name | Coast Live Oak
Quercus agrifolia | Pacific Nurseries
Quercus agrifolia is a beautiful evergreen tree that typically has a multi-branched trunk that can reach a mature height of 25-82′ tall. They can attain an age of +250 years, with trunk diameters up to 9-13′. Its form is highly variable, and younger trees are often shrubby. The Quercus agrifolia trunk can be highly contorted, massive, and gnarled. The crown is broadly rounded and dense, especially when aged. Leaves are dark green, oval, often convex in shape, with a spiny-toothed margin. Flowers are produced in early-to-mid spring and attract a variety of birds and butterflies.

Quercus agrifolia is one of the only California native oaks that thrive in coastal environments and is somewhat tolerant of aerosol-borne sea salt. It is the dominant overstory plant of the Coast Live Oak woodland habitat, often joined by California Bay Laurel and California Buckeye. Coastal fog can supply relief from rainless summer heat to this signature California tree.

Coast Live Oaks are fairly easy to grow and prefer to have their roots shaded in soil that is not fast draining. After the first year of planting and at a height of +/-10′, it’s best to avoid direct summer watering. It’s also a good idea to surround young specimens with mulch, rocks, or smaller native plants that will provide shade to the roots. The best mulch is a thick layer of oak leaves that build natural mycorrhizal fungus in the soil that creates natural fertility and improves the health of the nearby plants. As these trees can get quite large over time, consider a location that provides plenty of room for growth and spread.

Interested in using California native plants in your project?

If you want to learn more about selecting California native plants and availability, just contact one of our experts online at Pacific Nurseries. Or just give us a call at 650.755.2330.

You can also check out our Growing Plant List. This comprehensive, alphabetized and searchable list includes all of the plants that we’re growing right now in available sizes. And if the plant you want is not on our list, we’ll do all that we can to get you what you want, when you need it.

As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right California native plants that will make your project a success with your clients.

We can also provide an Estimate for one item or for an entire installation. Just attach your Microsoft Excel .xlsx plant list to ourour ONLINE ESTIMATE | ORDER FORM.
Growing Plant List | Pacific Nurseries
Our Growing Plant List is and alphabetized and searchable list of the plants that we’re growing right now | Pacific Nurseries

What California native plant do your clients love?

Have you recently installed some  California native plants that look fabulous and have performed well? Share your success with our community of Bay Area Landscape Pros! We look forward to hearing from you.

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