Best Native Plant Nurseries for Habitats in Southern California

Best Native Plant Nurseries for Habitats in Southern California

Slowly, but surely, as the sun rises, the landscape of Southern California changes. Despite recent rains, water has become too precious a commodity to be used to irrigate large swaths of thirsty bushes and residential lawns, especially when those lawns are of little use.

However, no one wants to see Southern California covered in gravel or artificial turf. If anything, we need more Cool shade in our urban neighborhoods, as well as flowering shrubs and perennials to provide shelter and food for the insects that pollinate our food and the birds that need those insects and plants to survive. We want fragrance in our yards, a variety of plants, and of course, naturallyWe must have beauty. (Listen to the amazing dance of California wildflowers.)

That's why interest in drought-tolerant native plants has been growing over the past decade. Native trees such as oak, elder, sycamore, and Palo Verde Desert Museum (Cercidium “Desert Museum”) Provide abundant shade as well as beauty. Native shrubs such as toyon and coffee create beautiful green hedges that shelter and feed birds. Buckwheat and cyanothus provide gorgeous blooms that feed pollinators. Sage plants such as white sage and the thick purple spiers of hummingbird sage are considered perfume plants.

With their diversity of flowers, seeds and scents, native plants can be just as beautiful — and more wildlife-friendly — than the imported ornamental plants we're accustomed to in Southern California. If you need a living privacy screen, why plant non-native species when you can have a hedge of dense, aromatic evergreen laurel sumac whose flowers and berries attract and feed a multitude of critters?

It's clear, though, that there's a lot to learn with this new method of landscaping, which is why we've compiled a list of nurseries that focus on native plants. These are places where you can explore, learn and eventually purchase the plants you need. Even if you're starting small and just want to create a small native plant habitat in your side yard or patio, these are the nurseries that can best help you achieve your goal.

Most of the nurseries listed here are retail stores, intended for residential landscaping, but if you have a large project coming up, there are wholesale nurseries that can supply developers' needs of native plants for parks, for example, or commercial landscaping — as long as they get proper notice.

Most domestic wholesale plant nurseries focus on supplying retail nurseries or restoration work, so they don't maintain a large inventory of plants that would allow them to quickly supply a large commercial or government project, said Evan Meyer, CEO of Theodore Payne. Foundation, which recently partnered with the Audubon Center in Debs Park to expand the Los Nogales Native Plant Nursery wholesale.

Theodore Payne already grows native plants for retail nurseries and habitat restoration projects, but the foundation wants to see more resources available to contractors and designers who typically create landscapes based on whatever plants are easiest to find and cheapest.

It will be an educational process, Meyer said. Landscapers and contractors need to start working with local plant growers in the early stages of their projects, so nurseries will have enough time to grow the amount of plants needed when they are ready to plant.

“Our goal is to promote the availability of (native) plants that do well in the landscape, but we also need landscapers to realize the impact they can have by selecting the right plants and coming to us early, so we can create a habitat for all landscapes,” Meyer said. Our urban areas, using plants (that) birds and other wildlife need to survive.

Los Nogales Native Plant Nursery will not sell to homeowners or other retail customers, but may sometimes have enough native plants to sell or give away during special events, Meyer said.

Fremontia Horticulture in Ontario has 75 acres of mostly native plants and focuses entirely on large wholesale projects. But other wholesale nurseries offer some guidance for retail customers searching online. For example, El Nativo Growers in Azusa does not sell to individuals, but its website lists the dozen or so retail nurseries that sell its plants and encourages people to order what they want through them. Moses Creek Nursery in Valley Center offers similar recommendations, but also allows people to order small quantities of plants online and then pick them up and pay for them at the participating nursery.

A few nonprofits, such as the Mojave Desert Land Trust, devote most of their energy to collecting seeds and planting native plants in their areas for restoration work, but they open their doors to the public once or twice a year to sell popular plants. If you are interested in the plants grown by these organizations, you can become a member to support their work, or at least join their mailing list to get notifications about upcoming events.

Fortunately, there are at least a dozen options in Southern California for people who don't want to wait for these relatively rare events. Check out our list of retail native plant nurseries below, where you should be able to find a wide variety of plants you need for an entire lawn removal project at home or just to fill some pots in your yard to feed hummingbirds.

One caveat: Native plant nurseries tend to have a limited number of options during the hottest months of the year — usually May through September — and some close during that period. This is because many native plants become dormant in the heat of summer. A few, such as milkweed, can be planted during the warm months, but it's usually best to plan your planting in late fall or winter, so that the plants can slowly develop strong roots during SoCal's historically cool and rainy season.

Also note that many native plant nurseries have demonstration gardens where you can see what these nondescript plants will look like in 4-inch pots or gallon containers when grown. Take a few minutes to wander the grounds and learn about the aromatic diversity and beauty of California's native plants – then start your own little habitat oasis and enjoy the birds and butterflies that come to visit.

And one final insider tip: Many retail and wholesale non-profit native plant nurseries rely heavily on volunteers, so ask if they need help. At the very least, a few hours of volunteer work can give you deeper insights into how to grow and maintain native plants. Some places, like the Santa Monica Mountain Trust's Rancho Sierra Vista Native Plant Nursery in Newberry Park, go further and pay volunteers by giving them three nurseries for working at least two hours between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays tend to native plants that will help restore habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains destroyed by fires.

Fresh air, new knowledge and free plants And Make a difference? This is a combo that's hard to beat.

For the record:

2:02 PM April 14, 2023Business days for all three botanical stores are Tuesday to Sunday, not Thursday to Sunday as originally stated.

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