Start with these native design fundamentals to help you create a beautiful and sustainable California native landscape!

Simulated creek bed. Photo: Kathy Kramer
Simulated creek bed. Photo: Kathy Kramer

Plan for Rain

Design your landscape to capture as much rainwater as possible! Keeping rainwater onsite will help sustain your landscape through the dry months, and minimize your need for irrigation.

  • Incorporate swales or dry creek beds, contour your landscape with berms, and use permeable surfaces wherever possible to allow water to infiltrate into the soil below.
  • Direct water from downspouts and impermeable surfaces, such as concrete walkways or driveways, to swales, the landscape, or other permeable area to help keep water on site and benefit your plants.
  • Plant in the fall or during the rainy season to take advantage of the rainfall for establishing your plants and minimize your irrigation needs.
Swale basin with water. Photo: Doreen Jones
Swale basin with water. Photo: Doreen Jones

Plant Local

Locally native plant species are the best plants for your garden because they are adapted to your exact climate conditions, including annual rainfall, seasonal temperatures, etc.  These plants will perform the best in your garden, and provide valuable habitat for native pollinators and wildlife.

  • Choose locally native plants.  Visit to discover what plants are native to your area!
  • Pair plants from the same “plant communities” (plants that grow together in nature) for optimal plant health and wildlife value.
  • Plant locally native species in gardens, parks, and roadsides to help provide important habitat for local pollinators and wildlife, and create a valuable bridge to nearby wild areas.
  • DO NOT use invasive plants!  Visit or to learn more!
Monarch caterpillar on Snowy milkweed. Photo: Jim Wadsworth
Monarch caterpillar on Snowy milkweed. Photo: Jim Wadsworth

Plant for Success

Plant the right plant in the right place by paying attention to the needs of each plant.  Adjust your practices to optimize the health of your landscape and minimize water needs.

  • Group plants with similar water, sun, and soil needs.  If you plan to use your irrigation system, be sure that plants with the same water needs are on the same irrigation zones.
  • Space plants based on their mature size for growth.  This will help prevent an “overgrown” look, and minimize water and maintenance needs.
  • Build healthy soils to support healthy plants.  Avoid disturbing soils as much as possible.  Allow leaf litter to stay in place to promote nutrient cycling.
  • Convert to organic gardening methods by avoiding synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.
Permeable path. Photo: Jim Wadsworth
Permeable path. Photo: Jim Wadsworth

Susan Krzywicki

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