Choosing Your Plants

& using Calscape to find plants for your landscape

Heuchera and Lupine. Credit Jeff Silva.

The right plants for your location

Choosing local California native plants is an excellent place to start creating a beautiful landscape. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil, making them low-maintenance and water-efficient. To help you select the best native plants for your landscape, here are some tips and resources to guide you through the process.

  • Look at your site: Understanding your site conditions will help you select plants.
    • Sun exposure- Know how much sunlight your garden receives. Remember that changes significantly throughout the year. For example, in summer solstice in Los Angeles a 5 foot fence will only cast a 1 foot shadow at noon (1/5 of the height of the object). But in the winter at the same time, the fence will cast a 7 1/2 feet shadow (1 1/2 times the object).
    • Soil type- It’s really important to choose plants that will thrive in your soil. Do a soil drainage test. Here is instructions and a guide. The faster the soil drains, the more sandy it is. The slower it is, the more clay and compacted the soil is. You can also do a soil ribbon test to find out what kind of soil you have. Also, your garden most likely has different kinds of soil throughout, so be sure to test your soil in multiple areas and where you’ll be planting.
    • Dimensions- Measure out how much space you have and be sure to choose plants that will fit when they are at maturity. You don’t want to overcrowd your space and native plants need room to grow.
  • Consider your garden’s purpose: Are you trying to attract pollinators? Conserve water? Create a wildlife garden? Or simply beautify your landscape? This will help guide your decisions on plant sizes, layouts, and what types of plants works best for that purpose.
  • Plan for low-water use. Group plants with similar watering needs together. Consider the watering needs of every plant, including existing plants and trees, and your existing irrigation when choosing new plants to add to your garden. Use timers and moisture sensors to optimize watering schedules and prevent overwatering.
  • Consider the maintenance requirements: While native plants are generally lower-maintenance, they still require some care. Thinking about maintenance when you’re selecting plants for the time and energy that you’re interested in providing maintenance.

Watch here to learn more about how to choose the right plants for you!

Watch here to learn more tips and tricks to choose the best native plants at your local nursery!

Selecting the right native plants for your location is the first and possibly most important step to creating a successful native plant garden. So, CNPS partnered with the UC Berkeley Jepson Herbarium to create a powerful native plant database that helps you discover the plants best suited to your property. Using, you can:

  • Search by location, plant name, water needs, and more!
  • Get detailed plant information and growing tips
  • Create and share your own plant lists
  • Find nurseries near you and check available inventory

The single most important factor in successfully gardening with native plants is to choose plants that naturally occur in your area. Go on hikes, visit your local botanical gardens, find out what your neighbors are growing to find plants that naturally grow in your area. Use iNaturalist to identify native plants growing in near you, and use Calscape to find out their gardening needs and where to buy them.

Create your free Calscape account now!

Using Calscape is easy!

Create your account

Creating an account will allow you to save plants to your personalized plant list. Start as many lists as you need, and share them with others!

Calscape account
Add plants to your list

Add plants to your lists. Create one or many. You can also download detailed spreadsheets to bring to the nursery.

Plant Search
Find a nursery

Find a nursery near you by using the interactive map tool. Check inventory right from the site to see where you can purchase your plants!


Start finding plants for your landscape! Choose a category, then enter your location.

Salvia spathacea. Credit Calscape.
Salvia spathacea. Credit Calscape.
Fremontodendron californicum
Fremontodendron californicum
Romneya coulteri
Romneya coulteri


Sisyrinchium bellum
Sisyrinchium bellum
Muhlenbergia rigens
Muhlenbergia rigens
Dudleya pulverulenta
Dudleya pulverulenta

Locally Native Plants

They are easier to grow, healthier, and require little or no artificial irrigation when they are planted in an area in which they evolved and naturally belong.

Native planting guides

Native planting guides

These regional guides
give you the tools you
need to get started with
your landscape project.