what to plant - Knowledgebase Question

California City, CA (Zone 8A)
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Question by jlvhill
May 7, 2007
What will grow well in California City California it is very dry and windy. And there are a lot of Jack rabbits that eat everything.

Answer from NGA
May 7, 2007
The following shrubs are well adapted for use in the High Desert. There are many more water efficient plants carried by local nurseries, or ones you have had good success with that expand your plant choices.

Agapanthus species, Lily-of-the-Nile, an adaptable evergreen perennial to 2 feet in height with white or blue flower stalks. Does well in full sun or partial, shade. Drought tolerant when established. Can freeze back during High Desert winters.

Atriplex canescens, Saltbush, silvery leaves, fire retardant, with 3 - 6 foot growth, good for erosion control. Likes full sun. Use as a naturalizer to native surroundings. Tolerates saline soils.

Caesalpinia gilliesii, Bird of Paradise Bush, open, sparsely leafed shrub grown for interesting shape and spectacular flowers, long blooming--spring through summer. Fast growing to 10 feet, does best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Centurea cineraria, Dusty Miller, annual or perennial, with silvery white leaves and spring and summer yellow flowers. Use as a border plant and as a foliage contrast. Cut back if leggy.

Cercocarpus betuloides, Mountain Mahogany, native to the west, sun or light shade, good under tree canopy, evergreen with open growth 5 - 10 feet, white spring flowers.

Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, deciduous large shrub or small tree, drops leaves early and holds seed capsules until removed, showy summer flower clusters pink to white trumpet shaped. Use in full sun, does well in highly exposed and difficult situations.

Coreopsis lanceolata, Coreopsis, perennial herb to 5 feet with bright yellow daisy-like flowers spring to summer, start by seed then spreads by reseeding, water increases plant size. Use anywhere to get bright color--near buildings or as a naturalizer.

Cotoneaster species, Cotoneaster, evergreen, semideciduous or deciduous groundcovers and small shrub, arching branches with small leaves and red winter berries, good for erosion control, give north or east exposure with some shade, do not prune, looks best with natural growth, give room to spread.

Elaeagnus angustifolia, Russian Olive, large shrub or small tree to 20 feet, 10 - 15 foot spread, deciduous. Attractive silver gray leaves with pale yellow flowers in summer, producing olive-like berries. Hardy, takes nearly any conditions. Use as a screen shrub, small tree, or pruned on a trellis or fence.

Elaeagnus pungens, Silverberry, evergreen shrub to 10 feet with grayish foliage and rust colored undersides, can be shaped with pruning or allowed to naturally sprawl, could be hedge or screen. Sun to partial shade. Alkaline soils may need amendment to adjust pH for successful growth.

Hemerocallis species, Daylily, bulb-like small shrubs with showy summer to fall blooms, generally yellow to orange, use in borders, as mass plantings, near pools, best in shade or east exposure. Very successful in the High Desert, but may suffer some winter freeze damage and wind burn.

Leucophyllum frutescens, Texas Ranger, evergreen, slow-growing shrub 4 - 10 feet high, 4 -5 feet wide. Tolerant of full sun, heat, wind, and alkali sail, lavender flowers in summer and fall. Needs no pruning, use as a hedge, or as an accent with other shrubs. Native to Texas and Mexico.

Mahonia species. Oregon Grape, western natives, low to medium shrubs, yellow spring flowers, fall berries, use in shade or north exposure site. Large varieties make good barrier plants because of their spiny leaves. Mahonia "Golden Abundance" is particularly attractive. Can freeze back during High Desert winters.

Rhus ovata, Sugar Bush, evergreen shrub, slow growing with deep green, glossy leaves and an attractive form. Plant in fall. Use as a hedge in full sun or partial shade.

Rosa banksiae, Banks Rose, evergreen to deciduous climber to 20 feet, thornless, large clusters of yellow or white flowers spring to summer, use on slopes, fences and arbors. Full sun to partial shade. Can freeze back during High Desert winters.

Rosa damascena, Damask Rose, deciduous oldstyle spreading rose with pale to deep pink 3 - 4 inch fragrant flowers, grows 6 - 8 feet, prickly stoma, hardy and green during the hot season, good for erosion control on banks or as hedges. Full sun. Can freeze back during High Desert winters.

Salvia species, Sage, evergreen shrubs with fragrant foliage to 4 feet tall, flowers spring to fall in a range of colors from reds to blues, attracts hummingbirds. Remove dead blooms to prolong flowering. Some species are frost sensitive.

Simmondsia chinensis, Jojoba, evergreen to 10 feet, slow growth, can be trimmed to large screen, can take reflected sun from walls or streets. Full sun.

Of course, there are many more plants but this list will at least get you started in the right direction. As for the rabbits - fencing is about the only solution. I surround my small plants with cylinders of chicken wire until the plants are large enough to fend for themselves.

Best wishes with your garden!

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