Do you have a Southern or Southwest slope that bakes in the sun? The slope is steep enough where it is difficult for irrigation water to soak in and easy for rain to erode? Here are native plants that will work for you.
There isn’t a much tougher plant than native buckwheat. Different varieties offer different growth patterns and bloom color, such as the rosy Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat. Buckwheats thrive on eroded areas, and after being well established need no additional water. They are heat and frost tolerant, and are exemplary for wildlife.
The next most durable plant is Coyote Brush. You’ve seen the dwarf, spreading version, ‘Pigeon Point’, on stepped retaining walls and embankments. Although they are a vibrant green most of the year, the coyote brushes bloom heavily and are pollinator magnets when they do. They, like buckwheat, have spreading roots that prevent erosion.
You’ve never seen blue flowers if you haven’t seen Woolly Blue Curls in bloom. This plant has a reputation for being fussy, but that is because it is often planted in rich soil and overwatered. Plant this beauty on a hot slope, give it supplemental water while it’s growing and then maybe an overhead shower once a month during the summer (which hydrates native plants and reduces fire risk). The show is incredible.
A plant I’ve really come to admire is Incienso. This type of sunflower is so tough and beautiful; it blooms happy yellow flowers most of the year including winter. Its foliage is a light grey-green, so the plant stands out in the landscape and is great to place around dark foliage, and purple blooming plants such as sages or Woolly Blue Curls. Another tough flower is Desert Marigold, which is an annual that reseeds readily and blooms for months.
There are many more tough plants to recommend, such as California Flannelbush and the unusual Apache Plume, but two large shrubs need to be mentioned. Sugarbush and Lemonade Berry are evergreen, fast growing, handsome shrubs that are amazing. Often in a field of drought dormant California natives, the only green are these bushes and they are busy flowering as if it wasn’t 100F outside. They make great boundary plants as well.
Repair your slopes with hardy native plants and enjoy the wildlife and flower show that they will bring.
Diane and Miranda Kennedy operate Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, at www.vegetariat.com.