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Defining Garden Conditions

We recommend answering these questions or at least 'thinking' about these questions before you come to the nursery.

Soil type?

If you dig a hole and fill it with water the drainage will probably not be what you think.

Approximate time a shovel hole takes to drain, in minutes

Hard-pan or sodic soils

days, if not weeks, if you can dig anything


3-12 hours

Clay Loam

30-120 minutes


20-60 minutes

Sandy Loam

10-30 minutes


can't fill the hole, drains to fast

Pure Rock

can't dig the hole, literally rock (not hard pan)

oh my back!

Soil pH

Stuff to look for (NOT exact, they really vary)

If your soil has this pH, or think that that it does, have a soil analysis done

Very acid(pH 4)

pines, firs and huckleberries growing in area. Usually high rainfall, rainfall 30+inches, fog drip(also blowing clouds) might add another 30 inches.

Acid (pH 5-6)

Oaks, pines, manzanitas, usually fast draining soils with 25+ inches of rain and fog(or cloud) drip

Most of the populated areas of California are


Neutral (pH 6.5-7.4)

A very mixed batch of vegetation, most of the 'scrub' communities are here. Rainfall usually 12-30 inches, some fog drip. Many of the desert areas, (because of the rainfall pattern, I'd guess) have neutral or even slightly acidic conditions. Joshua tree is one.

Alkaline (pH 7.5-8)

Usually the shadscale, creosote, salt marsh, coastal prairie/bluff communities. Where wet spots dry out the soil has white crusts. Drip emitters are covered in salt crusts. Occasionally, (Ramona, Creston, Paso Robles) chaparral and oak woodland communities can be this alkaline, you mess with them, they can't come back. Rainfall usually low, 6-12 inches, with equal fog drip.

If your soil has this pH, or think that that it does, have a soil analysis done

Very alkaline

(pH 7.8+)

Gardening from hell, pickleweed, Saltbushes, tumbleweeds, white salt showing everywhere. ALL your plants have brown or black margined leaves. You can grow pickles, just plant cucumbers from the store. Hot, dry, not much rainfall. Places like lower Taft, Kettleman City, and Soda Lake on the Carrizo come to mind. You can garden here, but very selectively. There's a reason why the plant community is so seasonal.


For how much of the day can you take a good photo with your cell phone of this spot?

Reflected sun with heat

A south facing wall that can break 130 F on a good day, not a warm alcove in San Francisco, but a south wall in Bakersfield or Barstow.

Full sun

This is where the reflective wall in Tahoe, Santa Monica or San Francisco goes, along with full sun everywhere else.

Afternoon sun

These walls can be a challenge in the interior, nice near coast.

Morning sun

Ribes, Heuchera and all shorts of other north slope plants tolerate this exposure.

High Shade

The most wonderful garden.


This garden can be a pain in some of the mountainous and coastal areas.

Dark shade

not much grows here, you have to use a flash in mid-day to take a picture, hope this isn't next to your front door, if it is, put a bench and hat rack there.

Normal winter cold?

How cold does it get each winter? What is the coldest it's been in the last 10 years?

No frost

Below 28 F

Below 20 F

Ground freezes to 2"

Ground freezes to 10"

Normal summer heat?

below 80 F

above 80 F

above 90 F

above 100 F

above 100 F with humid wind

above 100 F with dry wind)

Are there any native plants left in your yard/planting area? If you know the names of those plants left in your area look them up in our list, plant descriptions with pictures. Then when you have found the plant in our list look at the communities it grows in. This will tell you which plant communities are in your area. To find more about a plant community and which plants inhabit it go to the communities page

WITHIN THAT COMMUNITY WHAT PLANT FITS YOUR NEEDS? (Do you have more than one plant community on your site? Maybe that sunny corner should be desert and the north side of the house yellow pine.)

What do you really want out of the plant?

Plant Size




Water Requirements



winter deciduous

Foliage color



Do you have a problem?


summer deciduous

Berry Color





Flower Color

Bird Garden?




Bark Color

Insect Garden?


Armed with this website and mynativeplants.com hopefully you will be able to figure out which plant is best for you. A helping thought, work from the plant you want the most first, figure its community (look it up in plant descriptions with pictures) and work within that community.

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We tried to use kibble for the webmaster, he still can't type. He does bark the answers.
Copyright 1992-2014 Las Pilitas Nursery
Edited on Sep 22, 2013. Authors:
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