Description

The Pollinator Garden is a coordinated collection of California native plants focused on providing pollen and nectar for native bees and other pollinators throughout most of the year. With a long bloom season, this plant palette also provides beauty and color to enjoy in the garden every day.

For maximum use by native pollinators, locate pollinator-focused plantings in full sun, which is preferred by native bees, who are most active in warm conditions. Be sure to leave at least some soil un-mulched, because many native pollinators create their nests in open soil. For maximum pollinator support, leave some logs and/or branches around the planting, because other native bees will make their nests in old dry wood. Be careful with this last part if you live in an area with fire concerns. Termites may also be attracted to old dry wood, but neither I nor any of the other habitat gardeners I know have had an issue with this. If you are concerned, feel free to either omit the old wood from your landscape, or keep a close eye on things.

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

Trees

Blue elderberry

Botanical Name: Sambucus nigra ssp. mexicana
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 10 ft. - 25 ft.   Width: 10 ft. - 25 ft.

Catalina Cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 30 ft. - 45 ft.   Width: 20 ft. - 30 ft.

Desert Museum palo verde

Botanical Name: Parkinsonia x 'Desert Museum'
Plant Type: Tree, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 20 ft. - 30 ft.   Width: 20 ft. - 25 ft.

Western Redbud

Botanical Name: Cercis occidentalis
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 10 ft. - 15 ft.   Width: 10 ft. - 20 ft.

Shrubs

Black sage

Botanical Name: Salvia mellifera
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 6 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 6 ft.

California buckwheat

Botanical Name: Eriogonum fasciculatum
Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 2 ft. - 3 ft.   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft.

Catalina Cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 30 ft. - 45 ft.   Width: 20 ft. - 30 ft.

Concha wild lilac

Botanical Name: Ceanothus 'Concha'
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun
Height: 6 ft. - 9 ft.   Width: 6 ft. - 10 ft.

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.

Hollyleaf cherry

Botanical Name: Prunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifolia
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Moderate shade, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 15 ft. - 30 ft.   Width: 15 ft. - 30 ft.

Incienso, Brittlebush

Botanical Name: Encelia farinosa
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 5 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 5 ft.

McMinn manzanita

Botanical Name: Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn'
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun
Height: 6 ft. - 8 ft.   Width: 6 ft. - 8 ft.

Pozo Blue sage

Botanical Name: Salvia 'Pozo Blue'
Plant Type: Shrub
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.   Width: 3 ft. - 4 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.

White sage

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

Perennials

California fuchsia

Botanical Name: Epilobium canum
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 0.5 ft. - 4 ft. (in flower)   Width: 3 ft. - 3 ft. then slowly spreading

Desert mint

Botanical Name: Monardella odoratissima
Plant Type: Perennial
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 1 ft.   Width: 3 ft.

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

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.

Showy penstemon

Botanical Name: Penstemon spectabilis
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 1.5 ft. (3 ft. while flowering) - 2 ft. (5 ft. while flowering)   Width: 2 ft. - 4 ft.

Horticultural Preferences

The plants in the Pollinator 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. Part shade areas can utilize some of the plants in the group, so check the exposure requirements of each plant if you are planting in part shade. 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, McMinn manzanita, desert mint, red buckwheat, showy penstemon, and hummingbird sage 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 that at the right time of year for each plant. Refer to the “maintenance” entry for each individual plant.

Aesthetic Character

The Pollinator garden provides a variety of flower and leaf colors and textures through a large portion of the year. While this palette focuses on providing resources, including nectar and pollen, to pollinators, 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, 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.

Beyond this, bloom season and plant appearance may be improved with a bit of additional summer irrigation provided to some of the plants on this list, including desert mint, hummingbird sage, and red buckwheat, as well as the trees, blue elderberry, and western redbud. In many cases, these plants can survive perfectly well with the lower level of irrigation, but an occasional hose-watering by hand of just these mentioned plants, in between the less frequent deeper irrigations to the whole planting may provide for a longer flowering season for the pollinators and a more lush look for the humans enjoying the plants. It is important, in most cases however, that you do not increase the irrigation frequency to the entire garden, after it is established, to twice per month, because this will most likely result in overwatering of the other plants, which require dryer conditions between watering events in the summer.

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 1

  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 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 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" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

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

 
0"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
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.