Choosing Native Plants
You might be surprised to learn just how showy many native shrubs and perennials can be. If you have never seen the native western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), wait for June and head for Bassi Falls or Loon Lake where these roadside plants are gorgeous. If you love snapdragons, investigate the penstemons for a more native approach to a similar flower. For other good places to see natives growing naturally, check out Plant Places and Gardens to Visit.
When choosing natives plants for your garden, it is best to choose plants that are native not only to California, but native to El Dorado County. Even better is to choose plants native to your specific area of the county!
Native plant online resources
Three excellent resources are:
Calflora.org – See what plants grow in your area.
Calscape.org – Learn what native plants would be good for gardens in your area. You can actually input your address, receiving valuable information on finding native plants good for your particular area, as well information on growing the plants once you have them.
WUCOLS (Water Use Classification Of Landscape Species) – Choose native plants that will need very little water. On this site, you will find our foothill communities listed individually under “Central Valley.” Be sure and select the “N (California Native)” box to get California natives.
Note: Another thing you can do with CNPLX is to pick a particular El Dorado County tree (Fraxinus latifolia for instance), and ask to see what other plants have been observed growing nearby.
Specific lists of plants for some of the various gardening situations on the West Slope of our county:
- Native plants for dry sunny locations (state CNPS website)
- Gardening in El Dorado County: Top Ten Native Plants (pdf)
- Plant Communities – El Dorado County (pdf)
- Deer resistant natives
- Plants offered at our biannual plant sales
- Plants good for butterflies
- El Dorado County Native Plant’s List (pdf) This list is complied by Ray Griffth, former Horitculture Instructor at Folsom Lake College. Ray has a BA in biology and an MA in Ecology from UC Davis.
Wildlife friendly gardening choices
For more on choosing native plant especially beneficial to wildlife click here, visit our Attracting Wildlife page.
Another helpful approach is to just look and see what grows nearby naturally. Observing plants growing in wild areas near you, however small, at various times of year can be very helpful.
An up-and-coming concept is that of turning natives on your property into a garden area. For this, you’ll want to prune, remove, and fuss with an area of native plants until it gives you the landscape look you want. When you’re done, the area should take no more care, still give you beauty, and help the local critters as well. An inspiring article on this topic was published in the May 2015 edition of Fremontia, the CNPS statewide publication.
So where do you find these plants to buy?
The good news is that there are loads of great looking flowers, shrubs, and trees that will augment your natural vegetation. The bad news is that it can be hard to find these plants in El Dorado County. Part of the problem is that native plants do not always do well in pots. Visit our Nurseries page for suggestions on where to purchase native plants in and around our area.