Can you mix native plants with non-native favorite flowers? Of course! Choosing plants that all want the same amount of water, soil and sunshine is important.
Here are some colorful choices:
Bee’s Bliss Sage is a compact hybrid that spread wider than it grows tall. Its fragrant leaves and purple blooms are perfect near more brightly colored flowers.
Desert Marigold’s bright yellow disks move in the breeze and set off other colors around it. This annual should be watered sparingly and deadheaded for continuous bloom. It will reseed on bare ground.
What flower garden is complete without butterflies? Planting native milkweed, such as Woollypod, Showy and Narrow-Leaf, will not only feed Monarchs better food than the tropical types, but the natives go dormant. This is important because the tropical kinds that do not go dormant can harbor a protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, that will kill Monarch caterpillars that feed on the milkweed in the Spring. Some nurseries, avoid insect damage on pre-sale plants such as milkweed, and others marketed as good for pollinators by treating them with a systemic insecticide. Unfortunately this will also kill the Monarch caterpillars. If you have tropical milkweed be sure to cut it to the ground in the Fall, or better still, replace it with natives.
Beach Aster is a low-growing plant with happy purple flowers. It can bloom for months. Inland, give it some sun protection by tucking it in the shade of a taller shrub.
Wishbone Bush can take heat, poor soils and drought, but may go dormant after blooming pretty purple blooms if not given occasional water. Grow it with other plants that will help fill in during the summer.
Most natives don’t like a slow drip system nor enriched or heavy soil. Keeping the ground constantly wet isn’t a good practice for plants that aren’t riparian. Constant moisture causes shallow root growth, nourishes weeds and can invite rot. Giving the plants a good soak less frequently so that the soil can recharge with oxygen is a healthier watering system.
Mix natives into your flower border and you’ll save water. The birds and butterflies will love you for it!
Diane and Miranda Kennedy operate Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, at www.vegetariat.com.