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GOING WILD WITH NATIVES: CNPS Fall Plant Sale - A Great Time To Plant Native Plants!

By Susan Lewitt, for Let’s Talk Plants! October 2022.


“We will be here ready to help you with your native plant selections!”

Photo from CNPS-SD website

Seven Reasons to Plant Native Trees:

  1. They provide shade

  2. They help cool the areas where they are planted

  3. They provide oxygen

  4. Many of them provide food for native animals and people

  5. They provide shelter

  6. Native trees support native biodiversity

  7. They provide beauty and spirituality

This is a great time to add native plants to your garden and you still have time to plan and decide which native plants are ideal for you. Keep several plants in mind for each situation. Some of the selections sell out quickly. Wherever you add them in, you want to make sure that they will be able to tolerate the same conditions as the plants that you already have in your landscaping.

Several factors in grouping plants include water tolerance, for example is it a plant that can tolerate overwatering or does it prefer to be dryer certain times of the year? Does it prefer well drained soil, or does it tolerate slow draining soil? How much sun will it get where you are planting it?

Our gardening experts will help you pick out the best choices to plant in your garden from our wonderful selection. Even though native plants can be installed year-round, the cooler weather will help the plants acclimate to your garden more easily.

If you have the space, please consider adding some native trees, or shrubs that can be grown as trees, to your property. Like many other tree species, they are great for providing shade, and they help keep the area cooler as well as providing oxygen. Unlike the exotic species, these natives require very little or no fertilizer, as well as less water in most cases. Our natives provide food as well as shelter for native animals. The native Americans used them as a source of food. These native trees support biodiversity, and they are a source of spiritual and aesthetic beauty.

Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, saying ”Look, I am as tall a 5th grader!” Photo by Melissa Lewitt.

I currently have three oaks in my curb strip, two Scrub Oaks, Quercus berberidifolia, and one Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia. I have been enjoying watching them grow from small saplings. They are relatively slow growing, but after about five or six years, the coast live oak is now five feet tall and quite impressive looking for a youngster. The following oaks will be available at the plant sale:

Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia

Nuttall's Scrub Oak, Quercus Dumosa

Engelmann Oak, Quercus engelmannii

Malva assurgentiflora (syn: Lavatera assurgentiflora) — Island Mallow, Island Tree Mallow; flower. Endemic species of the Channel Islands in Southern California. Specimen at the University of California Botanical Garden in the Berkeley Hills. Date: July 2006 Source: Own work Author: Stan Shebs.

I am also exceedingly pleased with the Tree Mallow, which is also known as Malva Rosa, Malva assurgentiflora, that I have in my backyard partly because in three years’ time it went from a scrawny twig to large shrub over five feet tall and about seven feet wide and it has been blooming continuously since the spring after it was planted. It is attractive to many butterflies, hummingbirds, and a variety of other small native animal species. If pruned a bit, the tree Mallow will grow more like a tree.

Of the 216 California native trees, twenty-seven of these wonderful species and subspecies are found in San Diego. Some of the trees and large shrubs that will most likely be available at the plant sale include those with low water requirements. There are several trees and shrubs that fit into the categories of either low or very low water and are easy to grow.

Heteromeles arbutifolia, Toyon. Near Donner Canyon Road, on Mount Diablo, Contra Costa County, California. Date: 30 January 2010. Source: Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) on Mount Diablo Donner Canyon Road. Author: Miguel Vieira from Walnut Creek, CA.

Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, is a very easy to grow native, grows in full sun to part shade with slow to fast soil drainage and it is visited by at least 4 butterfly and moth species.

Another very easy plant, Lemonade Berry, Rhus integrifolia, grows a bit faster, also likes full sun to part shade with slow to fast draining soil. It is appreciated by at least two native moths and butterflies.

Big Cone Pine or Coulter Pine, Pinus coulteri. Dreamstime stock photo.

Big Cone Pine or Coulter Pine, Pinus coulteri, needs medium to fast draining soil, grows in full sun to part shade and may attract as many as seventy-eight different butterfly and moth species, plus birds like it.

Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry, Ribes speciosum. Calscape.

The Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry, Ribes speciosum requires very little water, full to part shade and slow to medium draining soil. At least seventy moths and butterflies are thought to be visitors to this charming plant. It does go summer dormant but is magnificent especially when in bloom.

Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. Date:13 September 2016. Source: Own work. Author: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz.

Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana, requires full sun, low water, and attracts up to 21 species of butterflies and moths.

Smoke Tree, Psorothamnus spinosus. Keir Morse Photo.

Another possibility is the Smoke Tree, Psorothamnus spinosus, with beautiful purple and white flowers. It needs full sun, and fast soil drainage, very little water and its care is moderately easy.

This should give you a good idea of some of the 260 plant species that will most likely be available at the CNPS-SD sale. With a little planning and assistance from our knowledgeable landscapers, you can come to the sale and be sure of going home with plants that will work well for your situation. For a preview, there is a plant list showing what will be available the day of the sale, although this is subject to change according to availability. This link will give you the lists and more information: ( There are three plant lists on this website: the CNPS list of plants by size and price listed alphabetically by botanical name, the Calscape lists that describes each plant and gives their requirements, and the Calflora list that shows the areas where these plants naturally occur and more. Not all available plants are on the Calscape or Calflora lists.

Come browse, come shop, come learn and enjoy and take some ‘biodiversity’ home with you!


Susan Lewitt is a member of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), participating in their Native Gardening Committee, and their Conservation Committee.


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