Adding native plants into your more traditional gardens


For home gardeners, the new decade brings a quickly emerging new garden trend — adding native plants into traditional gardens or transitioning gardens into a landscape of native plants.

Why natives?

Longtime Newhall resident Dianne Hellrigel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southern California, has spent a lifetime studying the native plants of Southern California and the Santa Clarita Valley.

Hellrigel said a native garden requires less water and is a more sustainable garden in the SCV than a garden planted with non-natives. 

“The plants are suited for your environment because they are native to the area, and will grow better than non-natives,” she said.

A bonus? Bees and butterflies love natives. In addition, many native plants have other uses, such as edibles and medicinals.

Surprisingly, a native garden can be just as beautiful as a traditional garden, if you know what to plant. 

How to start a native garden

The SCV’s heavy clay soil always can use the addition of soil amendments. However, it depends on your plants. Hellrigel said many natives are not accustomed to rich soils.

“Some native plants do better with very little in the way of amendments,” she said. “Take a walk on one of your local trails to see what is growing along the trail. Look at the soil. You’ll see that none of the soil has been enriched, except by years of natural leaf mulch in the fall.”

Expert help

There are hundreds of books about native plants and wildflowers. However, the best help is usually from garden experts in local nurseries or other professionals.

SCV Water offers a series of free monthly classes to help SCV residents grow healthy, sustainable, water-wise gardens.

In addition to books and SCV Water classes, Hellrigel recommends taking a hike with someone who knows about plants. 

“Often, hiking clubs will offer photography and plant ID hikes in the spring,” she said. “Go to the native nurseries and ask questions. The nurseries will often host classes in native plants.” 

For information on the SCV Community Hiking Club, visit community

Where to buy natives

You cannot walk into any open space area and just dig up a native plant and replant it in your garden, said Hellrigel.

“That is highly illegal. If you try, and you’re lucky enough not to get caught and fined, the plants won’t grow anyway,” she said.

“Almost all plants that are stolen from open spaces will die when transplanted into a home garden,” she said. “They don’t like their roots to be disturbed. Native plants from a nursery in pots will have enough soil around the roots to protect the plant from dying when you transplant.”

Native plants can be found at the following:

Green Thumb Nursery 3734 Newhall Ave, Santa Clarita

Matilija Nursery 225 Waters Road, Moorpark

Theodore Payne Nursery and Foundation 0459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley

Hellrigel said native seeds can also be purchased, and an experienced garden expert can help guide you in how to plant for success.

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