The Q&A Archives: Hillside, snow line plants

Question: I need plant suggestions for a hillside lot, terrible soil at 5800 elevation. Manzanita grows well, but too slowly. Of these 5 would you suggest: desert willow, smoke tree, mexican manzanita or butterfly bush? THANKS!

Answer: University of California has produced a list of plants which are fire-safe and recommended for all areas of El Dorado County. I suspect they will grow well in your landscape:
Kniphofia uvaria, Red hot poker, perennial shrub, Height 3 to 6 feet. Coarse with large, rather dense clumps of long, grasslike leaves. Flowerstalks topped with many drooping tubular flowers. Blooms spring through summer. Cut out flower spikes after bloom. Cut old leaves at base in fall, new leaves will replace them by spring. Increase by root divisions. Full sun or little shade. No dry season water. Drought tolerant.

Mahonia repens Creeping mahonia, evergreen shrub, Height to 3 feet with spreading habit. Dull leaves have 3 to 7 spine toothed leaflets. Flowers April through June, followed by blue berries in short clusters. Good groundcover in sun orpartial shade. Needs little water. Drought tolerant.

Zauschneria californica California fuschia, perennial shrub,Hummingbird flower, Height 1 to 2 feet. Stems upright or somewhat arching. Plants sometimes shrubby at base. Evergreen in mild climate, otherwise becomes twiggy and ungroomed through winter. Little or no water once established. Will go to seed and reseed itself. Drought tolerant. 6+ feet tall

Alnus rhombifolia White alder, deciduous tree, Height 50-90 feet, spreading to 40 feet wide. Very fast growing. Clusters of flower catkins appear before leaves in spring. Flowers develop into small, woody cones in winter. Will tolerated any exposure, but requires regular watering. Very tolerant of heat and wind.

Arbutus menziesii Madrone, evergreen tree, Height 20-100 feet. Forms a broad, round head almost as wide as tall. Smooth, reddish brown bark peels in thin flakes. Leathery, 3-6 inch leaves. Flowers in spring, followed by clusters of berries in early fall. It must have fast drainage and non-alkaline water. Water just enough to keep plants going until they are established, then only infrequent deep waterings. Full sun. Drought tolerant. Useful for erosion control.

Campsis radicans Trumpet vine, Trumpet creeper,Height to 40 feet, fast growing. Flowers in clusters, Aug - Sept. Vigorous climber that clings to wood, brick and stucco with aerial rootlets. Unless thinned, old plants become top heavy and pull away from supporting surface. Spreads easily by suckering roots. Full sun or partial shade. Low water requirement. Drought tolerant.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus Blue blossom, evergreen shrub,Height 6-20 feet, spreading 8-30 feet wide. As a small tree it is upright and branching. Glossy, hardy foliage and long leaves (to 2 inches)., Flowers in spike-like clusters in mid- to late-spring. Dead matter must be removed from garden. Full sun to partial shade. Drought tolerant

Cercis occidentalis Western redbud, evergreen tree, Height 10 to 18 feet with equal spread. Usually grows several trunks from base. Blooms for 3weeks in the spring, produces seed pods in summer and holds them until winter. Full sun, excellent in dry banks. Water regularly the first year or two. Drought tolerant. Suitable for erosion control.

Populus tremuloides Quaking aspen, deciduous tree, Height 20 to 60 feet. Fast growing. Trunk and limbs smooth, almost whitish. Dainty foliage. Brilliant color in fall, leaves need to be raked. Full sun. Best with regular deep watering.

Santolina chamaecyparissus Santolina, Lavender evergreen shrub, Grey lavender, Height to 2 feet, but best clipped to 1 foot. Brittle, woody stems densely clothed with rough, finely divided leaves. Flower heads in summer on unclipped plants. Replace plant if woodiness takes over. Full sun. Little to no water. Drought tolerant. Suitable for erosion control.

Native plants will also work well. If you have your heart set on only the 5 choices you mention in your question, I'd choose butterfly bush. It's fast growing and adapts to most soil types.

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