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Description

The common buckwheat is one of our most common Southern California native plants across the Inland Empire. Many natural populations have been removed through urbanization, but this plant still has great value in residential gardens in wildlife plantings and among other native shrubs and perennials. The natural species grows 2-3 ft. high and 3-4 ft. across, has hard needle-like leaves and produces numerous flower head during the spring. Each flower head is covered with many small creamy white flowers that will turn reddish-brown during the summer.

Common buckwheat is a valued plant for wildlife gardens and with other sun and drought tolerant native plants. It is good for stabilizing slopes and banks and in mass or feature plantings around boulders and pathways. It grows best in warm, sunny locations and with low amounts of supplemental water. Several cultivars can be found in nurseries including: E. f. 'Theodore Payne' that is a prostrate plant 1-2 ft. tall and spreading 8-10 wide, and E. f. 'Warriner Lytle' is a coarse and robust selection that can reach 4 ft. tall.

Water Needs

The common buckwheat and its several cultivars are well adapted to sunny garden locations on well drained soils and with low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; more water in the spring will result in a more profuse flowering season.

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.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Mounding, Dense
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 6 in. - 12 in.
Width: 3 ft. - 6 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Pink, White
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Clay, Calcareous soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Banks, Background plant, Attracts bees, Attracts butterflies

Maintenance

For this selection, and other ground cover buckwheats, immediately after planting, pinch branches back and remove any early growing vertical branches to increase density and re-enforce sprawling ground cover form (3). To control size, cut back as much of the new-ish growth as desired while not in flower (April-ish). Do not prune in late spring as you will remove forming buds which will form this season's blooms. After flowering, leave spent flowers to dry into red / brown clusters. This is part of the desired look of native buckwheats. The seeds develop into valuable wildlife food and help shade the plant in the summer heat (1). "Deadheading" buckwheats would be tedious and time consuming and would take away much of what there is to love about this plant. Keep things easy and don't worry about it (S). If desired, remove dried seed heads beginning in mid-September and into the fall (1). Older plants that look like they need refreshing can be cut back hard into older wood in November, although there is always a possibility they will not regrow. Expect new growth to emerge within a few weeks (1). A more conservative option is to cut back hard, but only cut back above the lowest few sets of leaves. This may not be as satisfactory aesthetically, but may be less of a risk of plants dying (3, S). If desired, they can also be lightly headed back in fall just to clean up form and encourage denser growth (7).

References

Associations

Plant Lists