top of page

SHARING SECRETS: Highly Recommended Plants

Edited by Christina Ivany.

What are your top 2 or 3 plants for your location in San Diego, the ones you have the most success with and find yourself recommending to your friends?  (Thanks for Joselle Spinoza for suggesting this question).  

Susi Torre-Bueno (Vista, 92084):

  • One tree I have been recommending for years is Calliandra surinamensis, Surinam Powder Puff tree.  There is a photo of it (taken at my old home in Encinitas) in our tree book.  It is evergreen, exceedingly low maintenance, flowers nearly every day of the year, and needs very little water once established.  The new leaves have a lovely bronzy color. It just about never self-seeds, and the flowers drop off cleanly so it always looks great.  It also tops out at about 15' tall, so it doesn't get huge.

  • I have also had excellent success with Parkinsonia aculeata 'Desert Museum', the Mexican Palo Verde Tree.  It is extremely drought-tolerant, has bright yellow flowers many months of the year, and is an open, airy, graceful tree.

  • The 3rd plant I've had great success with is Aloe arborescens.  It flowers on and off all year, which the hummingbirds love, is very drought-tolerant, and pretty much thrives on neglect.  It clumps to forms a big colony if allowed to spread out, up to about 5' tall and 6' wide or wider.

Susan Starr (92037):

  • I have a couple of kinds of Breath of Heaven (Coleonema pulchrum) in my garden and really enjoy them.  I don't like the tall ones so much - they tend to get leggy.  But 'compacta' and 'Sunset Gold' are beautiful year round and have a long bloom season.  

  • I also like my Pineapple Guavas, Feijoa sellowiana. We planted 3 of them as a hedge against our fence some 35 years ago and they are still doing really well. Lovely trees and we enjoy the fruit each fall.  You do need more than one I think to get any fruit.  

Linda Chisari:

  • Camellia hiemalis ‘Shishi Gashira’ has been thriving in a half-shade location for 40 years. Blooms with stunning bright fuchsia flowers from late September until mid-March. Mature plants are quite drought-tolerant.

  • Petrea Volubilis (Queen’s Wreath)-beautiful evergreen vine with abundant cascading racemes of purple flowers in Spring. Low to moderate water required.

  • Rosa banksia ‘Lutea’-A thornless, pest-free, evergreen vine with small pale-yellow flowers, blooms off and on all year. Long-lasting vine that requires little supplemental water.

Gerald D. Stewart (92084):

  • ... has found that for shrubs, the various Eleaegnus species and cultivars have universally done well.

  • For herbaceous perennials, Pelargoniums (aka "geraniums") do well, except for regals (aka Martha Washingtons) and angels.

  • While having limited experience with trees, the Siberian Elm that was on the property 42 years ago is still going strong, albeit by one of its seedlings, which is now about 30' tall. The Siberian Elm leaves have been allowed to stay where they fall, creating a nice mulch.

  • All of the plants listed have proven, over the last 40 years, to withstand drought admirably once established, and grow just fine in the native adobe soil. The pels are planted on subtle little mounds that the plant soon masks. Planted that way, even if the soil doesn't drain quickly, the pel's crown won't be sitting in water at all.

Marilyn Wilson (92008):

  • I live in Olde Carlsbad, just east of I-5, zipcode 92008. This is the closest I have lived to the ocean, and I'm learning what plants are troubled with powdery mildew. I'm replacing them with hardier stock.  My best plants are Australian natives.  Specifically, Grevilleas absolutely THRIVE here.  No pests, no mildew, drought tolerant, and absolutely gorgeous blooms!  I have the red Robyn Gordon, white Moonlight, and multicolored Superb and Peaches & Cream as well as a few prostrate varieties.  Bees love them and so do I -- excellent cut flowers.

Al Myrick:

  • I grow curtains of Spanish moss by placing the bunches on low tree branches in the air currents and giving them a water spray every now and then. It spreads and flowers especially in filtered or eastern sun. 

  • I grow dragon fruit on poles and in trees and atop our gazebo it forms an open network of green, flowering in the summer and producing delicious fruit in the sun with little care.

  • I grow epidendrum orchid plants and small bromeliads of various kinds in hanging Spanish moss without other media… only a little water and air and sometimes fish emulsion spray.

Connie Beck (Singing Hills92019, ):

  • Justicia spicigera, Mexican Fire Bush or Mexican Honeysuckle.  Sprawling on a bank in full sun it is pretty much indestructible and laughs at our East County heat.  Red orange flowers for a long hot summer are visited all day by hummingbirds.  

Donna Kaptain (92064):

  • Agave attentuatas - They are big and bold.  They have architectural appeal and can handle the heat, drought, and decomposed granite soil in our hillsides that so many other plants can't handle.

  • Olive trees - They love the micro climate on our property and have a different texture and color to their leaves when compared to other trees on our property.  With the exception of occasional pruning, they require little care.   They fit the Mediterranean design of our home and are reminiscent of our travels to Italy.  

  • Iceberg roses - with the increasing heat we have had and visits from our local deer, my tea roses have suffered significantly.  My iceberg roses, however, have taken a great deal of abuse and continue to provide beautiful roses from the spring, well into late fall.    As they have matured, I also have a beautiful barrier to hide my edibles raised gardens keeping the area looking more polished without a great deal of maintenance.   

Lisa Rini (92115, College Area):

  • Bromeliads and tillandsias - low water, easy care, practically no pests, wonderfully diverse - just need to place in the garden based on light needs for the specific plant (can vary from full sun to partial sun or filtered light).

Lisa Lindmark:

  • Citrus trees and roses.

Vincent Lazaneo (92126):

  • I grew Amaranth "love lies bleeding" again this year. Two plants that I grew in the back yard grew very large and needed a stake to support them. It gets very warm in the back yard raised bed next to a patio and seemed to love the heat.

Charlotte Getz (92024):

  • Top plants in my yard are Grevillea Mt. Taboritha, a ground cover that blooms most of the year w. coral red tiny flowers and dark green branches. Plant is 1 ft. tall and a width of 3 - 4 ft. Very drought tolerant and disease free.

  • Second plant is Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ which is a hummingbird favorite. Lovely red flowers that are 4 - 6 inches long on a plant that is 5’ x 5’ with arching branches. Drought tolerant and also disease free as most grevilleas are with Australian heritage.

Cathy Tylka, Escondido: OK, here we go -

  • White Banksia Rose

  • Bird of Paradise

  • Pin Cushion Protea

  • Agaves of all kinds

  • Lantana

  • Jade, and, and, and....

Pat Venolia (92084):

  • Adenanthos x cunninghamii Albany Woolly Bush - I love to pet this Aussie! With grays and a touch of pink on the tips, it makes a wonderful filler in floral arrangements.

  • Grevillea austraflora 'Fanfare' - This Aussie is a fantastic ground cover, and certain times of the year it has red ‘toothbrush’ blossoms. Also a good floral filler.

  • Alstroemeria. Oh, let me count the ways that I love these plants. On second thought, don’t get me started. But give them a try…they don’t disappoint.


bottom of page