Instant Curb Appeal – Native Plants to the Rescue

The latest series in our summer heat wave has not only wore me out, it’s clearly worn out my numerous perennials and succulents throughout my entire garden leaving behind singed leaf litter in its wake.

As I assess my plant damages this week, I realize I have helpful options to cure the various bald spots throughout my garden. It also gives me the opportunity to prepare for the rest of the summer & fall as well as the future in case of more heat waves that could come our way in August & September.  

As we know, as gardeners there can be a huge cost to do a major garden fix, especially if the latest heat wave has destroyed your annuals, perennials, shrubs, container plants and vegetable gardens as it did to my garden. You may have entertaining plans for this summer and now have to add new plants to your “to do” list. Don’t fret I have some solutions to share whether your garden is large like mine or you have a small patio garden. Bottom line: It’s sad to come home to dead plants and leaf litter. I was inspired to write this article because I’m navigating what I have to do myself since I’m on a deadline to spruce up my gardens as host to a garden party for the local garden club this September. No pressure here with fellow gardeners looking at each corner, curb and container! The good news is I know these costs that I will incur in the next few weeks will not be wasted and will benefit & add to my overall natural garden while increasing pollinators habitats and preserving water in the future.

My good friend Mike Evans co owner of Tree of Life Nursery in SJC has shared with me many plants that can be planted now in the heat and give you summer & fall bloom. Tree of Life Nursery carries a vast array of California native plants as well as native from the low elevation of the Sonoran Deserts of Baja California, Arizona and Northern Mexico. These regional natives truly adapt to extreme heat beautifully & sync in our landscapes supporting the delicate eco system while collaborating together with beneficial insects.

According to Mike, “Sonoran Desert plants thrive in those regions because of an interesting climatic phenomenon known as “bimodal rainy season.” Unlike our plants on the cool continental coast, Sonoran plants get their rain in both winter and summer. They will bloom accordingly. The gentle winter rains cross over from the Pacific; we know all about those. But those unique summer rains march in from the direction of the tropics, often in the form of violent thunderstorms. The vegetation responds in kind with an intense show, the desert bloom.” In addition, Mike offers hope in the garden. ”This bit of plant ecology works in the favor of the California gardeners who don’t mind providing a little summer irrigation to their southwestern gardens. The plants reply with colorful blooms during the hot months, thus providing an extended welcome to butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. When used in and among California natives, southwest plants will brighten any garden with beautiful color spring through summer and well into fall”. Well-drained soil will also improve the vitality of these plants. For more information visit Check out their list of FREE upcoming weekend classes and workshops.

Here is a list of 10 colorful CA native or desert plants that are available now at the nursery to install:

  • Artemisia tridentata
    Great Basin Sagebrush

  • Calliandra californica
    Baja Fairy Duster

  • Calylophus hartwegii


  • Chilopsis linearis
    Desert Willow

  • Gambelia (Galvezia) Gran Canon
    Baja Snapdragon

  • Sphaeralcea ambigua
    Apricot Mallow

  • Sphaeralcea ‘La Luna’

La Luna desert mallow

  • Solanum hindsianum


Tecoma stans

Yellow Bells

  • Verbena lilacina

Lilac verbena

Another option instead of adding plants to the scorched garden areas is adding a 3” layer of wood chip or mulch throughout your garden. Mulch or wood chip will freshen up the gardens; creates a tidy curbside effect while protecting plants from constant summer and fall heat. The 3” layer will absorb the moisture from watering, replenishing the plant with hydration. Using either product will last a minimum of two years or more in the garden, saving you money in the long run.

For smaller patio homes, refresh areas along the sidewalk or curb with a drought tolerant ground cover. Although not a native plant, I prefer to work with sedum ground covers for smaller spaces. Check with Plant Depot of SJC, Dana Point Nursery, Shore Nursery of SC or SJC Armstrong Gardens for their selections of colorful summer ground covers and sedums. This is a great time to take advantage of any of these nurseries summer sales for tall colorful annuals and perennials for your containers. So you see you can have instant curbside appeal no matter what garden size or how hot the summer and fall heat up. With local resources at your fingertips, visit a local Nursery this weekend and see what you discover. Be sure to garden responsibly, wear a hat, sunscreen and hydrate often.

Join the Los Rios Park Garden Angels, No Wings Required.

On any given hot summer day, the colorful native gardens at the Montanez Adobe in the Los Rios Park are the headquarters to flittering beneficial pollinators, soaking up the sunrays and drinking nectar from the flowers.

As you meander through the pathways you will be greeted by a variety of local Orange County butterflies that have made their way to a new home at the park. Thanks to the dedicated Los Rios Park Garden Angel volunteers, an organization started in 2009 have tended to the habitats every Thursday morning while caring and maintaining the thriving gardens.

Sadly, the butterfly populations are on the decline worldwide due to many reasons, some to loss of habitats and most from usage of pesticides and insecticides. One thing is certain the butterfly populations in our beloved Los Rios Park are on the rise. The Garden Angels have taken up this plight to strengthen our local pollinators by distinguishing the fauna and flora to benefit their declining population through the North American Butterfly Association.

In 2013 the park received recognition as a certified North America Butterfly Association (NABA) approved garden. In order to be a NABA certified butterfly garden the park needed to provide a minimum of 12 host and nectar plants from the required plant list to support regional native butterfly habitats. Many of the existing plants in the Los Rios Park were on the list, those plants that weren’t on the list were supplied by Tree of Life Nursery.

The common named plants listed below provide a strong butterfly habitat and are the correct food source to support the growing Orange County butterfly populations at the park. Included below is the list of the butterflies.

By using these plants in your garden pallet, you will help in the plight of the butterfly recovery and can gain a NABA certificate of your own. For more info

Host and Nectar :Plants, Shrubs, Trees and Vines:

  • CA Buckwheat

  • Golden ,White and Red Yarrow

  • CA Native Milkweed

  • Tropical Milkweed

  • Budlea butterfly bush

  • Toyon

  • Bush Mallow

  • Hollyhocks

  • CA Poppies

  • Passion vine

  • Ceanothus

  • Coffee Berry

  • Yellow Cassia

  • Bush Sunflower

  • Mistletoe

  • Sycamore

  • Holly Leaf Cherry

  • Coast Live Oak

Los Rios Park Butterflies

  • Monarchs

  • Mourning Cloak

  • Cloudless sulphurs

  • Yellow sulphurs

  • Anise swallowtail

  • White checkered skippers

  • Gulf fritillary

Creating a butterfly garden or caring for one is one step you can make this winter to get started and make a difference. Would you like to learn more about butterfly gardens and caring for their habitats? The Los Rios Garden Angels Volunteers are in need of more volunteers to help tend to the gardens on Thursdays. No garden experience is needed, you will be trained. Volunteer application is required as are gloves and closed toe shoes. For more details contact If you would like to create a garden of your own visit Tree of Life Nursery for workshops, plants and landscape consultants to help you.

This summer Los Rios Park will celebrate the return of the Monarch butterflies, We welcome you to join us this winter at the Los Rios Park to help prepare for their arrival. More details to follow this spring. See you at the park.