Q: These daisy-like plants sprout every year after the first rain and bloom through the summer. They are usually 4-6 inches tall; each plant sets 1-3 flowers but a few become small perennials up to 12 inches. This has been happening for about 10 years covering about 80 square feet of parkway. What do you think?
A: Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) is a charming groundcover that, despite its name, is not a California native. It is native to Mexico, which explains why it does so well in our climate. It is low-growing and bears little daisy-like flowers that have either pink or white petals.
It has a trailing growth habit, and one plant can spread to a width of 5 feet or more. It tolerates poor soil (as long as it drains well) and behaves itself if it doesn’t get too much water. If overwatered, it can get a bit out of hand. It benefits from occasional cutting back.
As of this writing, it is not on the invasive plant list, although it has naturalized in some coastal areas. I have not seen it for sale in the local nurseries or garden centers for at least ten years, and many growers have stopped producing it.
If you want to grow a similar flowering plant that is native to California, try seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus) or silver carpet beach aster (Corethrogyne filaginifolia). Both of these natives will grow well in southern California.
Q: Just curious why you don’t ever publish health tips regarding growing cacti and succulents? It’s the new trend for Southern California yet have never seen an article about them!
A: I rarely get questions about cacti, probably because they are hardy and aren’t bothered by many pests.
Replacing your thirsty front yard grass with an assortment of succulents can be a great way to save time and effort on maintenance and cut back on your water bills.
Many water districts in California offer rebates for lawn removal and replacement. Before you start relandscaping, check for rebate availability and requirements.
If you want to plant succulents, you should probably go all in. For instance, don’t plant a cactus in the middle of a thirsty lawn. (Yes, I have seen this done!) Cacti are tough, but they will not tolerate overwatering, especially in soil that’s not freely draining.
When considering installation of a waterwise or low-maintenance landscape, keep in mind that “low maintenance” does not mean “no maintenance”, especially in the first year or two. Deep-rooted, healthy plants are the result of regular, but infrequent and deep watering. Weeds will still appear, even in decomposed granite and gravel.
Some succulents are not terribly long-lived, so they may need replacement when they start to decline. Happily, many produce “pups” that can be separated from the dying mother plant and replanted.
Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.
Los Angeles County
[email protected]; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/
[email protected]; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/
[email protected]; 951-683-6491 ext. 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/
San Bernardino County
[email protected]; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/