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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - March 30, 2012

From: San Ramon, CA
Region: California
Topic: General Botany, Pruning, Seasonal Tasks, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Flowers for days on end in California
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

What are some plants or flowers that I can grow "all-year" in California?

ANSWER:

One of the many advantages of living in California, is the very long and forgiving growing season. Of course all plants have cycles of growth. They flower to produce seed or fruit, so technically no one flower could be in bloom all year long in California. However you can manipulate a plants growth and bloom cycle quite a lot. We will get into the tricks of the trade after some planting suggestions.

The best way to have blooms all year long is to plant a variety of species that bloom at different times. To  figure out which plants bloom when, take a look at our recommended species list for your area, here on our web site. Here you can sort by bloom time and it will produce a list of plants that you can brows and read all about, to see if they are the right plant for your situation.

From our recommended species selection we have chosen a variety of blooming perennials that are separated by seasons. 

For spring: Coreopsis gigantea (Giant coreopsis), Dicentra formosa (Pacific bleeding heart)Erigeron glaucus (Seaside fleabane)Gaultheria shallon (Salal)Rhododendron occidentale (Western azalea), and for a lovely blooming tree that really needs to be in every yard in California the  Cornus nuttallii (Pacific dogwood).

Summer through fall: Aquilegia formosa (Western columbine)Armeria maritima (Thrift seapink)Delphinium cardinale (Scarlet larkspur)Lilium humboldtii (Humboldt lily)Lilium pardalinum (Leopard lily)Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)Rhododendron macrophyllum (Pacific rhododendron)Rudbeckia californica (California coneflower)Lupinus grayi (Sierra lupine)Mahonia aquifolium (Holly-leaf oregon-grape)Mahonia repens (Creeping barberry)Spiraea splendens var. splendens (Rose meadowsweet)

There are plenty more to choose from so play around with the search options. You can fine tune your search with bloom colors and height and type of plant. 

In terms of keeping flowers blooming for a long time. You need to learn the art of dead-heading. A favorite pastime for the serious gardener and children who like to pull on flowers. All this is, is cutting off or pinching off the blooms when they are past their peak, preventing the development of fruit or seed. This frustrates the plant into producing another flower. At the end of the season you want to let the plant do it's thing and produce a fruit. 

Your lucky to have such a forgiving environment for planting. There are many lovely annuals that you could also use that reseed on their own so when looking at the your search take the time to check out the annuals as well.

 

From the Image Gallery


Giant coreopsis
Coreopsis gigantea

Salal
Gaultheria shallon

Silver lupine
Lupinus albifrons

Humboldt lily
Lilium humboldtii

Creeping barberry
Mahonia repens

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