San Diego Native Plant Guide

Are you considering redoing your San Diego landscape architecture? Plant selection is one of the most significant factors in creating a beautiful, low-maintenance yard. Do you know what ground cover, shrubs, and trees thrive in Southern California’s climate? With this San Diego native plant guide, you can create a flourishing garden that adds to your home’s curb appeal year round.

For help redesigning your San Diego landscape architecture, contact Eco Minded Solutions online to schedule a free design consultation.

Consider Southern California’s Climate

“One of the best things about landscaping in San Diego is its Mediterranean climate,” explains Josh Rosenthal, co-founder of Eco Minded Solutions. “The growing season lasts all year around here. With the right plants and timing, you can truly have a 12-month growing season.”

While San Diego gardens enjoy the benefit of year-round growth, Southern California experiences very low annual rainfall, making it a desert where droughts are quite common. At the same time, the nearby ocean produces a somewhere tropical climate with mild winters and warm summers.

What Are the Best Plants for San Diego Landscapes?

The key to landscaping in San Diego is to choose hardy, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants that add to the beauty of your home. We have compiled this San Diego native plant guide to help you make the appropriate selections.

Silver Carpet (ground cover)

Silver carpet is perfect for filling in the spaces between flagstone pavers. This slowly spreading evergreen forms a dense, silvery-green mat that requires little water and chokes out virtually all weeds. The plant thrives in coastal desert conditions that may feature poor, rocky soil and salt spray, making it perfect for San Diego.

Lantana (ground cover, vine, or shrub)

Lantana is an easy-to-grow plant in the verbena family with clusters of bright, beautiful blossoms. It has versatile uses in your landscape: trim it for ground cover, train it to climb as a vine plant, or allow it to grow naturally as a wide-spreading shrub.

Pride of Madeira (shrub)

Deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, this fast-growing shrub reaches heights of four to six feet. Purple flower spikes and sage green foliage add gorgeous color and visual interest to your San Diego landscape. Be sure to plant pride of Madeira where it has plenty of room to grow.

Blue Fescue (ornamental grass)

Looking to add a little height around a garden path? Blue fescue could be the perfect solution. This mounding ornamental grass is low-maintenance and tolerant of various sites and growing conditions. Its beautiful blue-green color adds a stunning accent to your landscape.

Agave (succulent)

All types of agave thrive in San Diego’s Mediterranean climate. This succulent boasts gorgeous shades of blue, silver, and turquoise and can grow to be quite large. It’s well-suited for desert survival, yetremains hardy down to 5 degrees Farenheit for those rare cold spells.

Aloe (succulent)

Most species of aloe feature thick, waxy leaves with spiky tips. This plant is a staple in any San Diego landscape and also survives well in indoor planters. If you get a sunburn, head to your garden, pick off a few aloe leaves, and squeeze the sap out to soothe and moisturize your skin.

Shoestring Acacia (tree)

This medium-sized evergreen has two rare qualities for a desert tree: it grows upright and features evergreen foliage. It grows to about 30 feet tall and can adopt a weeping form, which is where the name “shoestring” comes from. Once established, acacia trees require little water and provide filtered shade for your San Diego landscape.

Western Redbud (tree)

This small deciduous tree native to the western US blooms with edible magenta flowers in the spring. With its shrub-like, multi-trunk growth and a maximum height of 20 feet, the Western Redbud is a lovely addition to smaller landscapes and ornamental gardens.

What Plants Should You Avoid in Your San Diego Landscape?

When planning a landscape, it’s worthwhile to consider the types of plants you should actively avoid. Here’s what won’t work in your San Diego landscape.

Tropical & Exotic Plants

Because of our dry, warm climate, tropical plants that are accustomed to rainforest conditions—such as hibiscus flowers and banana trees—won’t thrive unless you give them what they want: constantly moist soil. This can drive water costs higher than you’re willing to spend and ruin the eco-friendly landscape you’re aiming for in the process. Try to avoid any plants with large, glossy leaves and soft, pithy trunks, especially if they’re not native to Southern California.


Short-lived annuals are some of the thirstiest plants around. They have a short growing season and intense blooms for the summer, but this comes with shallow root systems that make it difficult for the plant to access water sources deep underground. You’ll need to water your annuals extensively to keep them alive, and then you’ll have to go through the effort of replanting everything next year. Stick with perennials that return year after year to keep landscape maintenance requirements to a minimum.

Invasive Plants

An invasive plant is one that spreads from its introduction site and takes over the territory of native plants, displacing them in the process. There are numerous plant species found in the San Diego area today that are only here because humans have introduced them from elsewhere. Don’t harm the natural ecosystem—avoid these invasive plants as you select species to include in your San Diego landscape:

  • Brazilian pepper tree: This plant uses chemical warfare to suppress the growth of plants around it. It also sends out suckers that can spur growth in your neighbor’s yard.
  • Pampas grass: The seeds of this plant spread easily, and it suffocates plants intended to prevent erosion.
  • Fountain grass: Many landscapes feature this invasive species, which can self-seed and spread rapidly.
  • Horsetail: Horsetail can easily invade your neighbor’s yard. All it takes is for one piece of the stalk to break off and seed in an undesirable location.
  • Ice plant: Seen on roadsides throughout San Diego, ice plant is thought to be a fire deterrent because of its water-filled leaves, but it grows in mats and suffocates native plants and grasses as it spreads.
  • Australian saltbush: This low-lying bush suffocates established native plants. It grows in salty soil, making coastal areas of San Diego particularly susceptible

Landscapers in San Diego, CA

If you’re looking to create a gorgeous, low-water, native landscape in San Diego, you’ve come to the right place. Our landscapers are experts when it comes to native plants and can make recommendations based on the specific micro-climate of your home to ensure a flourishing landscape.

Contact us online to schedule a consultation for your landscaping project in the San Diego area today!

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