Plants that withstand the colder seasons

While many parts of the country need winter plants that can survive frost and sub-zero temperatures, gardens in California have fewer restrictions during the winter. Despite our warmer climate, many plants still go into hibernation during the winter; because of this, it is important to choose plants that can provide background color and structure to gardens when other annual and perennials are no longer growing. The following are plants that can withstand colder seasons in California.

  • Dwarf strawberry tree

Native to the Mediterranean coast, dwarf strawberry trees prefer dry summers and are very drought tolerant – making them ideal for California’s climate. Slow growing, the dwarf strawberry tree can be planted as either an evergreen shrub or multi-trunked tree and grow to six feet high or wide. Despite the name, the tree produces berries, not strawberries; the berries are tasteless but edible and are known to attract both bees and birds.

  • Valley Violet Ceanothus

This low-growing evergreen shrub is native to California and has been called “the best small ceanothus for central valley gardens” by the UC Davis Arboretum. The valley violet is ideal for winter gardens; from February to early spring, dark violet flowers bloom to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. While establishing the plant may take two to three years, it is resistant to wind, heat, and cold and tolerant of many soil types.

  • Valentine emu bush

The Valentine emu bush begins blooming in the fall and lasts through early spring – just in time for Valentine’s Day. Native to Australia, this mounding evergreen blooms with abundant rose-red, tubular, heart-shaped flowers that are known to attract hummingbirds. The Valentine emu bush is well-suited to low water use, full sun gardens; once established, it only needs to be deeply watered once or twice per month.

  • Coastal Gem

Another Australian native plant, Coastal Gem blooms from winter into spring. Drought tolerant and deer resistant, this evergreen spreading shrub is ideal for use as a border or ground cover plant.

  • Blue Oat Grass

Blue oat grass features steel-blue, spiky foliage. This cool-season evergreen grass requires very little maintenance; unlike other ornamental grasses it should not be shorn back in late winter and only needs to be divided about every three years. The fountain-shaped clumps can grow about two feet high and spread out the same width. Drought tolerant, blue oat grass can survive on bi-monthly deep watering– although it may turn brown during periods of extreme heat.

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