How to Care for a California Native Natural Garden

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Caring for a California Native Garden

You’ve put in the hard work to design and install your native garden. Congratulations! Now how do we keep it alive? There are 4 things you need to think about when caring for a California Native Garden: watering, pruning, weeding, and leaf litter.


For the first year or two after planting, your plants will want regular watering. For low water plants in fast draining soil types, this is typically once a week, whereas for slow draining soil you can water once every two weeks. In the third year, you can begin to water less frequently, like once a month. 

Watering frequency varies by plant. See our watering guide for more info on watering strategies. 


Most native plants do not need regular pruning, but you can always prune away dead branches, crispy leaves, or spent flowers that you see. Some plants like grasses and fuschias appreciate being cut back heavily once a year to get a fresh start. Other plants, like toyon, lemonade berry, and coyote bush, can be pruned to maintain a certain shape, like a hedge. When pruning most native shrubs, try not to cut back more than 1/3 of the plant so that you do not shock it too much.


Depending on where you live and what your mulch situation is, weeds will find their way into your garden. Weeding is a constant battle in any garden, but once your plants are more established, it can be harder for the weeds to find a way through. It is best to weed in the early spring before the roots grow too deep, but be careful not to confuse young weeds with young native wildflowers!

Leaf litter and mulch:

If you have installed deciduous plants or trees, you will have leaf litter during the dormancy period. You may have to clean up leaf litter if it is covering up understory plants or falling on walkways where you don’t want it. However, the leaf litter can also function as mulch to retain moisture and improve your soil’s microbiology. 

Caring for a California Native garden can look a lot different from a traditional garden! It is a long process of learning what your plants like and what your garden needs. But the journey will feel so fulfilling once you have a flourishing natural habitat garden!

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