Las Pilitas Nursery

California Native Plants are all we grow!

Blog Contact Us Directions

3232 Las Pilitas Rd
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

Shop For Plants Cart Contents

This website is dedicated to Bert Wilson. His genius continues to inspire us.

Using Native Plants as Container plants

First, buy the biggest container (not plant) you can carry. The bigger the container the more flexible you can be with watering and care. Half wine barrel with extra holes in bottom is a good size. Or a pot like this one that is used for hiding your hose...
We usually use cactus mix for the filler. If you have a native area nearby a couple of handfuls of 'real' dirt in the middle would help make the mix more normal.
Before you plant, water the mix a couple of times. If it's muddy feeling add some perlite, if it seems too light, add some 'native dirt'. The mix should feel like dirt you want to grow stuff in. A moist, not wet, gallon pot of the stuff should weigh between 3-4 lbs.

Here is one of those hose roll up pots with about 5 plants stuffed into it. In pot is Zaischneria, Margaita BOP, Wayne Roderick, outside is Dipalcus longiflorus, Bert's Raspberry, Isocoma, and Mimulus cardinalis. - grid24_12
If you have a decent sized pot like this one you can cram in all the plants on the right.

Native plants that will grow in hot (normal day 95F or more in summer) full sun, inner Los Angeles, San Joaquin Valley, full reflected sun elsewhere, watered 3 times a week (for this large 30" pot)

The plant is a Salvia munzii, San Diego Sage - grid24_12
A hummingbird on a Salvis munzii, but there are plenty to choose from atthe Sage page
This was her best side? - grid24_6
Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow requires a large container.
This Quercus lobata,  White Oak, was one of the last remaining individuals  left in Riverdale, California. - grid24_6
Although Quercus lobata, Valley Oak used to be native in much of the San Joaquin Valley, you might be the only one in your town to have one. In a very large pot of course. In the ground they'll easily make a 70 ft. tree, in a 3 ft. pot they'll stop at about 15-18 ft.
Muhlenbergia rigens,  Deer Grass, is shown here with flowering stalks on the edge of a garden path. This native grass has all sorts of uses. - grid24_6
Muhlenbergia rigens, Deer Grass makes a big tuft of grass.
Eriogonum grande rubescens,  Red Buckwheat in a rock wall. - grid24_6
Eriogonum grande rubescens, Red Buckwheat can be showy in a planter.
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue Eyed Grass is a frequent resident of open areas from the coast inland to where the housing starts getting reasonable. In some places Blue Eyed grass is native, with no extra water, on hillsides as far 50 miles inland. In moist spots this iris can be found in much of California, even bordering the desert. It used to be all over the parking lot at the  Topanga  RCD, Los Angeles. - grid24_6
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue Eyed Grass can add color and texture to a container planting.
Cornus glabrata, Brown Twig Dogwood fall color. Native plants can be  very showy. - grid24_6
Cornus glabrata, Brown Twig Dogwood is big and rather columnar. Imagine a long planter with these it.
Erigeron Wayne Roderick works very well in a container or in a small garden. - grid24_6
With regular water Erigeron, 'Wayne Roderick' is very floriferous and showy. Native insects and butterflies love.
Sphaeralcea ambigua, Desert Mallow makes great flower. - grid24_6
Sphaeralcea ambigua, Desert Mallow can flower for months.

Cool (normal day 90F or less in summer) sun in a coastal area. (San Luis Obispo, San Jose, West Los Angeles, East Bay Area, San Diego)

Salvia brandegei, Brandegees Sage or  Island Black Sage - grid24_6
Salvia, Sage works if you use a cactus mix with some extra gravel.
Narrowleaf California fuchsia, Zauschneria cana 'Hollywood Flame'  in flower. California fuchsia works very well in a container or pot.  This narrow leaf form was around western Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica - grid24_6
Zauschneria cana Narrow Leaf California Fuchsia makes a very interesting plamt.
Achillea millefolium lanulosa,  Mountain Yarrow. flowers - grid24_12
Achillea lanulosa Mountain Yarrow makes a green mass with white flowers.
Pinus jefferyi, Jeffrey Pine - grid24_6
Pinus jeffreyi, Jeffery Pine is a slow growing pine with a vanilla cookie scent.
A closeup photo looking down on the inflorescence of Symphyotrichum ascendens, Western aster. This plant has been in a pot for 20 years. Container gardening can be fun. - grid24_6
Symphyotrichum ascendens Western aster and Purple Aster. does great in a pot. We had some here for more than 20 years.
Aster occidentalis. Western Aster - grid24_6
Aster occidentalis, Western Aster is a little perennial that makes nice sized flower.
Quercus durata as a mature bush-tree. - grid24_6
Quercus durata, Leather Oak is a very small tree that tolerates regular water.
Corethrogyne filaginifolia, Silver carpet, Common Corethrogyne with Metal Mark butterfly. - grid24_6
Corethrogyne filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' is a flat spill over conatiner with pink flowers.
Penstemon spectabilis, Showy Penstemon flower mass in a movie. - grid24_12
Penstemon spectabilis, Showy Penstemon is big and needs a large pot.
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue Eyed Grass is a frequent resident of open areas from the coast inland to where the housing starts getting reasonable. In some places Blue Eyed grass is native, with no extra water, on hillsides as far 50 miles inland. In moist spots this iris can be found in much of California, even bordering the desert. It used to be all over the parking lot at the  Topanga  RCD, Los Angeles. - grid24_6
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue Eyed Grass adds a vertical element to a a small pot.
A Pale Swallowtail butterfly on  the Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, the inset shows Golden Currant, Ribes aureum gracilentum flowered exactly right.  - grid24_6
Cercis occidentalis, Western Redbud will only work if you get frost. If you're frost free it will probably fail.
Erigeron glaucus, Cape Sebastian works well as a small ground cover or in a pot or container.  - grid24_12
Erigeron glaucus Cape Sebastian, Seaside Daisy makes a very showy  green perennial. The butterflies love this one.
Eriogonum parvifolium, Cliff Buckwheat in Shell Beach. - grid24_6
Eriogonum parvifolium, Cliff Buckwheat has proven to be very tolerant of Gulls and some people.

Cool full sun (normal summer day in 70's), morning sun and high filtered shade. Immediate coast areas in a medium or large container 12-50 gallons, and twice a week watering.

Aquilegia formosa Crimson Columbine, Western Columbine, or  Red Columbine flowers. - grid24_6
The native columbines are well liked by hummingbirds and just need some shade and water.
Erigeron Wayne Roderick Daisy with butterfly. This plant does well in containers. A pot with a butterfly. - grid24_6
Erigeron 'Wayne Roderick' is one of the few plants that will bring a butterfly to your balcony. You neighborers will not think bat in belfry.
Umbellularia californica, Bay Laurel flowers are pollinated by flies and gnats. - grid24_6
A Umbellularia californica, Bay can happily stay in a large pot for decades creating a 6-8 ft. evergreen bush. It even suppresses fleas. A twofer.
Rhamnus San Bruno can  reach 5 ft., but tends to be lower. - grid24_12
San Bruno is a small Coffeeberry.
Sisyrinchium californicum, Yellow-eyed Grass flower cluster. - grid24_6
Sisyrinchium californicum,Yellow Eyed Grass works well in a small wet pot.
Asclepias fascicularis, Narrow-leaf milkweed plant. - grid24_6
Asclepias fascicularisNarrow Leaf Milkweed can make a dramatic addition.
Horkelia californica in San Francisco - grid24_6
Horkelia cuneata, Coast Horkelia makes a little evergreen sub-shrub.
stachys chamissonis is quite the show stopper - grid24_6
Stachys chamissonis is a Hedge Nettle that is very showy.
Iris douglasiana, Douglas Iris. - grid24_12
Iris douglasiana, Douglas Iris does very well in pots.
Here in the Yellow Pine Forest, Libocedrus decurrens, Incense Cedar, grows in swales and moister spots, and looks like a traditional Christmas tree. - grid24_3
Libocedrus decurrens Incense Cedar makes a nice small tree when limited by a pot.
Juncus textilus, Basket Rush - grid24_6
Juncus spp., Basket Rush can look like fountain of green.
Carex praegracilis (clustered field sedge) - grid24_12
Carex praegracilis Sedge makes a tuft of dark green.

Container gardening in shade with regular water every other day or so. Little spot sprays work great. Most of California's desert areas and hot areas, require longer periods of water, or maybe every day for a small container.

A wasp working the flowers of Pycnanthemum californicum, Mountain Mint.  - grid24_12
Pycnanthemum californicum, Mountain Mint attracts all sorts of little insects.
Yerba Buena, Satureja douglasii is a beautiful green groundcover  in part shade with rocks. - grid24_6
Satureja douglasii, Yerba Buena can look like miniature ivy, but rats do not like it and it smells good.
Thimbleberry,  Rubus parviflorus in flower - grid24_6
Rubus parviflorus, Thimbleberry looks like a mountain glen.
Wood Strawberry, Fragaria californica, tastes pretty good. Can be used in a container or as a small groundcover. - grid24_6
Fragaria californica, Wood Strawberry can generate your own alpine like strawberries.
There are some pretty native plants growing in Southern California. - grid24_12
Keckiella cordifolia, Climbing Penstemon can be tied up onto a trellis. So pot and trellis to cover the ugly wall.
Lonicera hispidula, Chaparral Honeysuckle, is native in coastal California, seen here  ten feet up in a bush. - grid24_6
Lonicera hispidula, California Honeysuckle can be trained onto a lattice.
Aristolochia californica, California Pipevine, is the larval food plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail. - grid24_12
Aristolochia californica,Dutchman's Pipe like a dead stick, trellis or lattice.
An old picture Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird Sage - grid24_6
Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird Sage can make a show of leaves and flowers.
an old photo Amorpha californica - grid24_6
Amorpha californica, California False Indigo Bush is difficult but worth it in fragrance and flowers.
Cornus stolonifera, Red Stem Dogwood has red fall color. - grid24_12
Cornus stolonifera, Red Stem Dogwood makes a surprising container plant. Bring it in to the house for a showy winter addition to your decorations.
Cornus californica, California Dogwood.  - grid24_6
Cornus californica, California Dogwood is very similar to the Redstem Dogwood but the leaves are bigger.
The fall color on Cornus sessilis can be quite good. - grid24_12
Cornus sessilis, Blackfruit Dogwood is a little tighter, with even bigger leaves and glossy leaves.

I like to use at least 50% dirt in containers that you grow plants on your porch or deck in.