10 Easy Care Plants for San Diego Gardens

Easy care plants in San Diego manzanita

It doesn’t matter whether you are newbie gardener, void of a green thumb, or too busy to dead head flowers−easy care plants are for everyone.

These 10 options suggested by Armstrong Garden Centers are not only gorgeous, but very simple to grow in Southern California gardens. No plant is perfect without a little TLC, but these don’t need much once in the ground and established.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)

If you live in California, you can grow manzanita (pictured above). Over 40 species branch into a number of other cultivars, subspecies and hybrids. The pretty shrub is most recognizable via its dark red bark. Leaves remain evergreen even during the heat of summer and hummingbirds love their urn-shaped flowers. Be careful not to over water or over fertilize, otherwise they’ll grow with ease (though slowly). Manzanita prefer full sun, well-draining soil and not to be pruned. It grows in the wild around Southern California.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

Easy care plants in San Diego daylily

With graceful leaves that flop to the side—probably in order to make room for recurring flower blooms—daylilies are everywhere in Southern California. Once they’re established, there’s very little you need to do other than water them once a week (though they can handle dry spells). Deadhead them in order to promote quick reblooming. However, I know people who leave them be or rely on their gardeners to do periodic deadheading.

Most of the day lilies sold in local nurseries are the reblooming type, but it doesn’t hurt to ask just to be sure. Armstrong suggests opting for stunning purple, pink or white day lilies in addition to the standard yellow and orange. Also, some varieties have larger blooms than others. It’s advised to remove dead foliage and debris around the plants in the spring.

Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos)

 plants in San Diego kangaroo paw

Named for the kangaroo paw-shaped flower, these Western Australian natives grow extremely well in water-wise Southern California gardens.  There are twelve varieties ranging in height and flower color. Armstrong Garden suggests going for the statuesque, dramatic colors. Yellow kangaroo paw fits the bill with it’s bright color and tall growing habit of around 6′.

Kangaroo paws will struggle in boggy soil so make sure to amend clay soil properly and don’t overwater (drip irrigation is best), especially in summer months when they’re blooming. Plant in full or partial sunshine, though there are a few varieties that can handle partial shade. One of the largest threats to Kangaroo paws in San Diego is the common garden snail. Keep an eye on the leaves for damages and use natural pest control or Sluggo to minimize the snail population.

Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria)

Easy care plants in San Diego alstromeria

It used to be that alstroemeria were only offered as cut flowers. They still are–everywhere from Trader Joe’s to high-end florists–however, the Union Tribune reports that a man in Escondido is partially responsible for introducing the plant to San Diego gardens. He created a hybrid that wouldn’t reseed, making it easier to control in the garden while blooming for longer periods of time. They tend to thrive in container gardens or in the ground.

Near the coast, full sun is OK but inland temperatures reaching 90 degrees or above may mandate partial shade otherwise the plant will go dormant. Its large tubers store water and allow it to survive growing conditions that aren’t ideal. The plants are often revived by winter rains. Alstroemeria make excellent cut flowers with a vase life of over two weeks.

Pittosporum (Pittosporaceae)

Easy care plants in San Diego pittosporum

Of the over 200 varieties of pittosporum, most do well in Southern California with the pittosporum tenuifolium varieites performing the best. This fast-growing evergreen grows rapidly with little care to 30 feet tall and almost equally wide, depending on the exact variety. It can handle sandy soil, clay soil, shade and a variety of normally difficult growing conditions. The glossy leaves can be variegated, silver or purple.

Pittosporum is also referred to as mock orange (Causing confusion because plants in the Philadelphus genus also go under that name) because its tiny white flowers smell like orange blossoms. Its dense leaves make it an excellent choice for a privacy or wind screen. Pittosporum tenuifolium can grow as a shrub or tree up to 20′ tall.

Canna Lily

plants in San Diego canna

Canna lilies aren’t true lilies but they add a tropical look to Southern California gardens. Cannas can grow from 3 to 8 feet tall, depending on the variety, and they prefer full sunlight along with regular water. Flowers topping single stalks can be red, orange, fuchsia, pink or yellow and they don’t need to be deadheaded. Leaf colors range can be dark red, green or variegated in color. Hybrid cannas reach about 4′ tall though giant cannas grow as tall as 9′.

It’s important to hack cannas to the ground during winter as the plants will look pretty ragged if you don’t. They will re-grow as the weather warms up. Have a pond or boggy spot in the yard? Cannas are perfect low maintenance plants for these moist areas.

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Easy care plants in San Diego star jasmine

With its white fragrant flowers, star jasmine can be left to vine or spread like a shrub depending on your needs. Twining stems reach up to 18′ though the plant as a ground cover reaches up to 2′ tall.  Star jasmine can handle sun or light shade, but it does need regular water.

Star jasmine is a fantastic plant for covering trellises, unsightly fences or walls though some initial and easy training is required initially. It is as simple as using fishing wire as support (nail it into fencing) every 6-8 inches as it vines. Guide the vine on to the fishing wire manually as it grows. Either way, star jasmine will reward you and guests with beauty and fragrance for years to come.

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Easy care plants in San Diego heuchera plum

Though they bloom tall, coral bell flowers and stalks are so delicate that they don’t take away from plants growing behind them. Coral bells are grown primarily for their dramatic foliage of scalloped leaves. Due to a hybridizing frenzy with other species, the traditional green-leaved Coral Bells can now be found in shades of purple, rose, lime green, gold and variations in between.

Coral bells do well in dappled sun or dry shade but not in moist soil. The plant grows in a mound, up to 18″ tall and wide. Hummingbirds love the flowers. Plant coral bells in containers, along borders or in rock gardens.

Olive ‘Little Ollie’ (Olea europaea)

Easy care plants in San Diego olive

This non-fruiting dwarf olive tree performs extremely well in a number of circumstances. Train Little Ollie into a gorgeous topiary or leave it in the ground to form a compact single-trunk tree that will grow up to 6′. The evergreen leaves are a dark green on one side and a silvery-green on the other.

Little Ollie trees in container gardens require regular watering but those planted in the ground will need very little water—some say once a month is fine—after establishment.  It also tolerates salt, making it a great option for coastal homes.

Jupiter’s Beard (Red Valerian)

San Diego jupiters beard red valeria

This branching perennial will do well in neglected spots, growing pretty much anywhere other than moist shade. Jupiter’s Beard grows up to 3′ tall and wide with fragrant, star-shaped dark red or white flowers. It will re-seed, but not invasively so—just enough to be gorgeous. Jupiter’s Beard needs regular watering until established but then becomes a drought-tolerant plant.

Your Turn…

What is your favorite easy care plant? Need more guidance? Remember, Armstrong Garden Centers all over Southern California are offering free summer gardening classes.

*Photo credits: Armstrong Garden Centers