5 Great Ground-covers for the Central Valley
California's Central valley can be a harsh environment for growing many plants. The constant heat in the summer and very low rainfall make finding drought-tolerant plants a little tricky. However, this niche can easily be filled with California native ground covers. Here are 5 good drought-tolerant choices for the Central valley.
Photo of 'Ghostly Red' California Fuchsia
'Ghostly Red' California Fuchsia
'Ghostly Red' California Fuchsia is more compact than a lot of the other more heat-tolerant species available. It has soft gray foliage and intense red-orange flowers. California Fuchsia is an excellent hummingbird plant, providing nectar in the late summer when flowers are in short supply. 'Ghostly red' spreads by rhizomes and therefore can be used for slope stabilization. Also it can be planted directly in dry stack rock wall thereby making a very interesting vertical rock garden. Watering once a week will keep this plant looking its best.
Hayes Iva (Iva Hayesiana) can grow almost anywhere. It does well in salty soils or alkaline soils, heavy clay soils or sandy soils. It's great for slope stabilization or just to give a lush look to a dry barren area. As an added perk, it provides cover for native birds like California Quail.
Gracias Sage can cover a lot of ground. 1 plant can spread up to 10 feet but at its highest it only reaches 1 ˝ feet tall. It needs no water after it is established in areas that receive more than 15 inches of rainfall. Gracias Sage can get a little ragged in the summer so a sprinkle once a week can keep it looking lush. Gray foliage and an abundance of light purple flowers can make it a lovely addition to any garden. Gracias Sage is also an excellent nectar source for hummingbirds.
Yankee Point Lilac
This lush ground cover may require water once a week in the winter and spring but is well worth it. It has large dark green leaves that can make any hot, dry garden seem moist and cool (or at least cooler). It has vibrant blue flowers in late spring that are fragrant and quite attractive. Because this is a species that is native in the wild along the coast it is best to plant Yankee Point Lilac in an area that will get some afternoon shade. This species would especially appreciate surface mulch. 4-6 inches of shredded redwood bark is preferred.
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California Buckwheat is fast to get established and requires very little water once it is. Watering every 2 weeks in the winter and spring brings most dry areas of California up to the level of this plant's normal rainfall in the wild. Antique white flowers appear in late spring that attract butterflies. As the summer temperatures intensify, the flowers darken to a deep chocolate. These flowers will linger until fall if they are not dead-headed.
Photos courtesy of Penny Wilson. Article by Penny Wilson. Penny is a gardening writer who specializes in California native plants