Description

The Butterfly and Songbird Garden provides food sources and shelter for a variety of butterflies and small birds while providing you with a source of beauty and color. This all California native plant palette requires little water and is easy to maintain. This garden embraces the casual and colorful feel of a classic cottage garden, with a modern and eco-friendly plant palette that gives back to the local environment!

For maximum support to songbirds, be sure to have at least one elevated birdbath, and ideally change the water daily, especially in warm weather, to keep it clean and sanitary for the birds, and to prevent mosquitos. If you have room for more than one, baths of different sizes or depths will attract a wider range of birds. A more affordable way to provide this is to use ceramic saucers (like what would be underneath a potted plant) placed on top of large logs or anything else to elevate them approximately 2 or so above the ground.

A saucer filled with a combination of sand and gravel, and then filled with water will sometimes be used by butterflies for a drink. However, I have also had gardens where the butterflies never seem to use these when they can find a wet spot of mulch or garden soil for a small drink.

This plant palette is available as an option for the Waterwise Community Center's Landscape Design Assistance Program. Visit cbwcd.org/desgin for more details.

Plant List

Tree

Desert willow + cvs

Botanical Name: Chilopsis linearis
Plant Type: Tree, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 15 ft. - 30 ft. (rarely)   Width: 15 ft. - 20 ft.

Shrubs

Allen Chickering sage

Botanical Name: Salvia 'Allen Chickering'
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.   Width: 4 ft. - 7 ft.

California bush sunflower + cvs

Botanical Name: Encelia californica
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 6 ft.

Coffeeberry + cvs

Botanical Name: Rhamnus californica
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 8 ft. - 10 ft.   Width: 8 ft. - 10 ft.

Creeping barberry

Botanical Name: Berberis repens
Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade
Height: 1.5 ft. - 3 ft.   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft. then slowly spreading

Desert mallow

Botanical Name: Sphaeralcea ambigua
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 5 ft.

Golden currant

Botanical Name: Ribes aureum
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun
Height: 4 ft. - 6 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 7 ft.

Palmer’s mallow

Botanical Name: Abutilon palmeri
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 4 ft. - 5 ft.   Width: 4 ft. - 5 ft.

Santa Cruz Island buckwheat

Botanical Name: Eriogonum arborescens
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.   Width: 5 ft. - 6 ft.

Sunset manzanita

Botanical Name: Arctostaphylos 'Sunset'
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 5 ft. - 7 ft.   Width: 5 ft. - 7 ft.

Perennials

Common yarrow + cvs

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium
Plant Type: Ground cover, Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: Moderate shade, All day sun
Height: 18 in. - 30 in.   Width: 18 in. - 24 in. then slowly spreading

Hummingbird sage

Botanical Name: Salvia spathacea
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Partial sun
Height: 12 in. - 18 in.   Width: 18 in. - 24 in. then slowly spreading

Lilac verbena

Botanical Name: Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 2 ft. - 3 ft.   Width: 2 ft. - 4 ft.

Margarita foothill penstemon

Botanical Name: Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP'
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 1 ft. - 2 ft.   Width: 1 ft. - 2 ft.

Red buckwheat

Botanical Name: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 1 ft. - 3 ft. (with flowers)   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft.

Grass

Deer grass

Botanical Name: Muhlenbergia rigens
Plant Type: Grass, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 2 ft. - 4' (to 5' with flowers)   Width: 4 ft. - 5 ft. (to 6 ft. with flowers)

Horticultural Preferences

The plants in the Butterfly and Songbird Garden palette are easy to grow and are adapted to a wide range of soils, from sand to clay. Most of the plants require full sun, which means six or more hours of direct sunlight throughout the year. One of the plants, creeping barberry, prefers part-day sun or shade. Part shade areas can utilize some of the plants in the group: Lilac verbena, hummingbird sage, creeping barberry, and coffeeberry. North facing areas, up against houses and garages, will be shady much of the year, and full sun in the summer months. For these situations, coffeeberry, creeping barberry, and golden current will be particularly useful. Additional plants that can be added for shady or north-facing areas include yarrow and California strawberry.

The plants in this palette are easy to care for and generally do not require any pruning more than once or twice per year to keep them looking great in the garden, but it is important to do it at the right time of year for each plant. Refer to the “maintenance” entry for each individual plant.

Aesthetic Character

The Butterfly and Songbird garden provides a variety of flower and leaf colors and textures as well as colorful berries through a large portion of the year. While this palette focuses on providing resources, including nectar and berries, to wildlife this results in a long season of color for us humans to enjoy as well. Consider contrasting leaf color, leaf shape, and plant form in your design, and setting up views that layer trees and larger shrubs behind medium sized shrubs and grasses, behind the lower perennials from the main views from which you will look at your landscape.

Moisture Needs

All the plants in this palette have a low need for irrigation. In most inland valley garden situations, established plantings using this group of plants will thrive with a deep watering of 1 to 1.5 inches approximately once every three to four weeks, depending weather, soil type, and sun exposure, in the months when there is no or little rain. In most situations, young plantings will thrive with a deep watering of approximately one inch per week during dry weather, until they begin to become established, usually approximately one year after planting. Then, begin to increase the time between watering events, keeping an eye on how the plants are doing, until you reach your “established” irrigation schedule.

Some of the plants in this palette, even after establishment, will usually look better in the garden with a bit of extra water. The easiest way to do this is to apply it with a hose, in between the deep waterings of the entire garden. Plants that will respond well to an extra watering in between main irrigation events are: creeping barberry, golden currant, hummingbird sage, and, if your soil is very rocky, deergrass.

The chart shown below provides a baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth. Several winter months noted by an asterisk (*) indicate when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. It is important to note that these plants can successfully grow within a range of supplemental moisture each month; the actual irrigation schedule should be adjusted to reflect specific soil, slope and exposure conditions to achieve best plant performance.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 2

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
 
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"-14"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

 
0"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
1"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.