Gardens with California native plants get a bad rap for looking great in spring, then turning brown and dry for the rest of the year. That’s not true in nature and certainly doesn’t need to be true in a well-designed native landscape. An easy way to prolong your spring flower show through the summer and into fall is to include native sunflowers in your garden.
The Sunflower Family (aka Asteraceae aka Compositae) is a huge and varied group of plants worldwide and in California. (Nerd alert: 17% of the 1410 pages of plant describing California’s plants in the Jepson Manual are Asteraceae). The species we’ll be looking at are pioneer (early successional) species in coastal sage scrub communities in SoCal and Baja.
In nature, their small seeds, often carried by the wind, land in patches of bare ground where they can germinate readily and grow rapidly. This group of species are close to fool-proof choices for a low-maintenance garden and are also great if you need plants that will fill in your landscape (relatively) quickly while other shrubs are taking their time becoming established.
Bush Sunflower (aka California daisy aka Encelia californica) and San Diego sunflower (aka San Diego viguiera aka Bahiopsis laciniata) are two native shrubs popular for their bright yellow flowers that give your garden a splash of color through the summer and into fall.