Flower gardening in Southern Cal ~ Help

Calling all gardening dopers…

Note to mods:
I’m not sure what forum to put this thread so if this is the wrong place, please move. I still get confused what goes where :confused:

So I was born/raised here in Los Angeles. I got the hell outta Dodge 2 days after high school graduation. Consequently, I’ve never gardened here. I just love it and really miss it, but all my experience was through trial and error in Utah.

The soil is totally different as is the temperature so I’m guessing that gardening and what can be grown here and when is different.

Since we aren’t rolling in dough, I’d really rather not go through all the trial and error and wasting money by buying, planting and watching it die this year.

So, I’m coming to you smart dopers. You never seem to let anyone down. :smiley:

We rent a house where the yard is already landscaped. We have bushes, rose bushes (that won’t bloom but I don’t have any idea why, unless it’s that they aren’t getting enough sunlight through the trees that need to be trimmed), well developed trees. So, not a lot of room in the front yard for anything else. Perhaps a little space for some flowers in between the bushes, or put some planters out along the walkway or driveway.

The back yard is less developed. A large backyard with 2 ornamental orange trees (I made the mistake of thinking it was a real orange last year… PUCKER POWER), 1 grapefruit tree, and the yard is surrounded with very tall evergreens.

I’d describe our soil as sandy. Most of the front yard would be shady and the back yard would be mostly sunny.

I would like your help with ideas on what kinds of flowers I can plant, when, and how to go about it.

My experience has been limited to rose bushes, tulips, daffodils and iris. I love these flowers and would like to plant them again, but would also like to plant other colorful flowers.

What are your suggestions? Advice? Insights? Warnings? ETC…

Hie thee to thy local home center and purchase Sunset’s Western Garden Book, the bible of California gardening. You might also ask any elderly female relatives if you can borrow theirs.

Thank you very much Nametag. I went out and got it. Boy, is it big! So much information:D

Since you’re looking for advice, I’ll move this thread to IMHO.

Thank you bibliophage. I really wasn’t sure where to put it. :slight_smile:

I’ve got the 768 page book in my lap now.

What kinds of flowers do ya’ll have in your yards or would have if you could? It’s going to take me a long time to narrow it down from 768 pages. :eek:

I’m really interested in the idea of hummingbirds and butterflys making our yard their home. Does this really happen given the right flowers?

If you want hummingbirds and butterflies; you could start out with some fuschias. Jasmine and honeysuckle attract them too. Planting your flower beds with petunias and snapdragons will keep them coming back for more.

Darn, up here in Oregon it won’t be planting season until May. I envy you!:slight_smile:

For hummingbird and butterfly attraction, look up salvias. There are many kinds ideally suited for life in Southern California, including Salvia guaranitica (anise sage).

You’ll also find lots of California gardeners at this site.

Cool site Jackmannii. Thank you.

truthbot, I lived outside of Portland for a little while. That is one area where they really know how to landscape! I loved driving around looking at yards there.

I don’t want strictly hummingbird and butterfly plants. Sorry if that’s what it sounded like. I had seen that in Sunset’s Western Garden Book and thought it sounds like a great idea and would like that, but am skeptical. If I plant it, will they really come??? :confused:

I love color and want lots of it!

Keep your suggestions coming


I do landscape work. I look around the neighborhood & see whats growing & then I know what I can put in. Also if the neighborhood has a nursery (not the child’s bedroom type), I ask them what I can put in or just look at what they have.

Also, they now have bagged soil with fertilizer in it, get some of that you can put the stuff right in it (around here they have chicken poop in it for fertilizer). Don’t spread it around the yard, dig where you want to plant & put that soil in & then the plant on top of it.

This is a very good idea. Look around and see what is growing good and you think looks pretty, then look it up in your book. I haven’t gardened in Southern Ca, but it would seem to me you’d want to pick stuff that doesn’t require a lot of watering.

In my experience, purple coneflowers are the big butterfly-getters here. They will really come! Hummers like tubular shaped flowers, and I have had the best results with red ones. Lillies, salvias, even petunias and impatiens will attract hummers.

I don’t try and grow stuff that is too picky anymore - my garden is survival of the fittest. I really like California poppies, too. They thrive in dry soil.


Both excellent ideas. I’m ashamed I hadn’t thought of either one. :smack:

Why is it that the obvious is ALWAYS what escapes me? :confused:

This is so much fun! Keep 'um coming folks.


My mom’s a big gardener. Especially roses. So I’ve soaked up a bit of knowledge. And I grew up in Orange County, and she still lives there, so let me see if I can give a few recommendations.

My mom has irises growing in the backyard. I think they’re kind of an ugly plant, but she likes them.

We used to grow big giant sunflowers when I was growing up. And we used to have chrysanthamums.

And, of course, lots of roses. If your roses aren’t blooming, they may need to be clipped so new buds come out.