|Native Toyon berries are a treat for birds. Photo by Bruce Chambers, OC Register|
If you've thought about going native, now is as good a time as any to start. Rains have arrived, and with them native plants begin to break out of their summer dormancy and will grow and bloom until spring. Get them into the ground now – it's the best possible time to do it.
Before you start, consider the varied geography of California alone and you can imagine the wide range of native plants you could grow, from tiny violets that thrive along high Sierra creeks, to desert sages that rarely see a drop of rain.
Mostly what you'll find at the nurseries are the less-persnickety types that tolerate our clay soils and sprinkler systems. If you try to treat natives like garden plants, though, they will fail. Mimic their environment – fast-draining, sometimes sandy soils, and water from fall through spring, with a dry dormancy in the summer – and you'll have the best chance of succeeding.
Once they are established (after a year or so), most native plants need very little water, and the wildlife they attract makes your backyard feel like a wonderland.
Check with your nursery about the best home you can provide for each native plant. Because the state is so large and varied, you can't treat them all alike.
Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano recommends these reliable plants for local landscapes:
Coast live oak
Fillers, ground covers,
Native wildflower seed mix