20 Sun-Loving Native Plants for Zone 10 Gardens


Except for the southern tip of Florida and the islands of Hawaii and Puerto Rico (and a few isolated desert spots), Zone 10 is the hottest zone on the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Familiar zone 10 cities and their surrounding regions include Tampa, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Brownsville, and parts of Miami.

Zone 10 has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 35-40 degrees F, so a cold frost is a rarity in these climates. Zone 10 regions along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have a tropical or semi-tropical climate, with a rainy season from May through October and a dry season the rest of the year. Rainfall averages can range from 50 to 60 inches per year.

By contrast, western Zone 10 regions are divided into Mediterranean climates along the West Coast, with wet winters and dry summers, and hot desert climates in inland California and Arizona, characterized by long, hot summers and mild winters, with rainfall averages of less than one inch per month. Western regions are prime candidates for practicing xeriscaping.

Given the high levels of sunshine in Zone 10, most of the 20 plants suggested here are sun-loving native perennial flowers and shrubs, with a few shade-tolerant plants mixed in.

Tango Hummingbird Mint (Agastache aurantiaca)

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Agastache aurantiaca shares characteristics with its more widespread cousin, Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop), except that it can withstand warmer climates. Its orange-and-blue flower spikes, blooming throughout the summer, attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

  • Height: 12 to 18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Well-drained, fertile soil
  • Climate: Tropical

Shaw’s Agave (Agave shawii)

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Shaw’s agave lives on the edge. It is native to the sea cliffs of San Diego County and Mexico’s Baja California, where it is threatened by coastal development. Seedlings can be grown vegetatively and from viable seeds, but Shaw’s agave is a slow-growing succulent. Patience is paid off when flower stems emerge and reach 12 feet high, producing yellow flowers open from red-hued buds. Shaw’s agave is a great container plant.

  • Height: 3 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-tolerant; well-draining soil
  • Climate: Mediterranean

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

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Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub that lives up to its name. From August to October it produces show-stopping purple fruits that might be confused for grapes, except that they open on arching stems rather than vines. The late spring flowers are pollinator favorites, while the fruits are food for birds and small mammals. The crushed leaves are said to repel mosquitoes. Beautyberry is an excellent border plant for privacy.

  • Height: 3 to 8 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Moist, well-draining, average soil
  • Climate: Tropical

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

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Sometimes called tickseed, coreopsis are as low-maintenance as you can get. Drought-tolerant and heat-loving, coreopsis do best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Birds will feed on their seeds, while pollinators are attracted to their long-blooming flowers. Coreopsis come in a variety of colors, usually yellow or reddish-orange. Dead-head the flowers to stimulate a second bloom, but allow some to go to seed so that they self-sow.

  • Height: 2 to 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining soil
  • Climate: Tropical, Mediterranean

Button Brittlebush (Encelia frutescens)

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Button brittlebush is a perennial shrub that’s native to the Mojave Desert and Arizona, where it makes its home in disturbed areas, washes, lower mountain slopes, and creosote flats. It’s an aggressive spreader that produces yellow flowers in the spring and after summer rains, attracting bees, butterflies, and moths. The fruits are dispersed by the wind, providing food for the desert tortoise.

  • Height: 2 to 5 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought tolerant; average soil
  • Climate: Desert

California fuschia (Epilobium canum)

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California fuschia is not a true Fuchsia. It’s a shrub of the Epilobium genus that produces stunning vermilion pollinator- and hummingbird-friendly flowers. It forms mats of fuzzy, green leaves. Give the plant room, as it spreads easily by runners.

  • Height: 1 foot
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun for best blooms
  • Soil and Water Needs: Dry-tolerant; well-draining sandy or gritty soil
  • Mediterranean

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

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Not a true poppy of the genus Papaver, the California poppy is California’s state flower. It covers the state’s rolling hills as far south as Zone 10. It can be planted from seed in the late fall or winter for classic orange blossoms in early spring through late summer. The California poppy readily reseeds but is easy to control.

  • Height: 18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: drought-tolerant
  • Climate: Mediterranean, desert

Beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

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The beach sunflower (in the same genus as its better-known cousin) is an adaptable sun-lover that survives on beaches, dunes, grasslands, and disrupted landscapes. It’s a short-lived perennial that reseeds easily, flowering from June to October. While Helianthus debilis is native to the East Coast, other Helianthus will grow in West Coast zone 10 areas.

  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: average moisture; sandy, well-draining soil
  • Climate: Tropical

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

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Toyon is a large evergreen shrub with leathery leaves that produces small white flowers popular with butterflies that in winter turn into an abundance of red berries—food for robins, mockingbirds, finches, and other birds. Found naturally among coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and woodland oaks, Toyon works well as a privacy hedge and on slopes. Toyon is also known as the California holly, from which Hollywood gets its name.

  • Height: 8 to 15 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-tolerant; well-draining soil
  • Climate: Mediterranean, Desert

Blazing star (Liatris spicata)

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Also known as gayfeathers, blazing stars are native to just about the entirety of North America. Their long-blooming flower spikes are composed of multiple florets that bloom from top to bottom, and are popular with butterflies and bees. Great in mass plantings.

  • Height: 2 to 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: will tolerant most soil types and rainfall levels
  • Climate: Tropical, Mediterranean, desert

Powderpuff mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa)

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Powderduff mimosa is an excellent groundcover whose long-blooming pink flowers attracts butterflies and their larvae. Spreading very quickly, its deep roots serve as excellent erosion control on banks and slopes.

  • Height: 4 to 6 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-tolerant once established; wide range of soils
  • Climate: Tropical

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

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For a grass, Muhly grass is a showstopper in mass plantings. Late in the growing season, pink plumes appear atop dark green, needle-like foliage, creating a cloudy, hazy glow in the sun. The plant works well in rain gardens. Birds are attracted to its seeds and ladybugs can often be found foraging on its foliage.

  • Height: 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Well-draining soil; drought and salt tolerant
  • Climate: Tropical

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

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Also known as Maypop or Apricot vine, passionflower is a fast-growing vine with showy purple and white flowers, which are both edible and attractive to butterflies. Passionflower climbs and cascades on trellises, fences, and garden walls. It’s a short-lived perennial, but growing new plants from seed is easy.

  • Height: 6 to 8 feet long
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Well-draining sandy soils; drought-tolerant
  • Climate: Tropical

Desert Beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis)

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A shrub with many stems, beardtongue bears showy tubular flowers favored by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Blooms last from March to May, then give way to seeds that readily re-seed, allowing the plant to fill in empty spaces without being too aggressive.

  • Height: 1 to 3 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-resistant; sandy or rocky well-draining soil
  • Climate: Mediterranean, desert

Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia)

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A member of the sumac (Rhus) genus, lemonade berry is an evergreen shrub that works well as a privacy hedge or on slopes. In its native habitat it is found in chaparral and coastal sage shrub. Lemonade berry produces leathery leaves and sends out pink and white flowers in spring. The seeds which follow have a sour, lemony coating. California’s native Kumeyaay have brewed the seeds into a tea for centuries.

  • Height: 10 to 30 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: drought-tolerant, well-draining soil
  • Climate: Mediterranean, desert

Sage (Salvia coccinea)

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There are numerous sages that grow both in the Southeast and Southwest. California is home to 18 native sage species, while Salvia coccinea has a home in southern Florida. With their fragrant leaves and variously colored flowers, sages bloom in summer and attract hummingbirds.

  • Height: 1 to 4 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Well-draining soil
  • Climate: Tropical

Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)

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Among the hundreds of Salvia species, this one’s a hummingbird favorite. Hummingbird sage spreads slowly into a dense mat that makes an excellent groundcover of fragrant semi-evergreen leaves. Its pink flowers open in spring and last into summer, even in partial shade. The many sagebrush species of the desert Southwest are members of the Artemesia genus.

  • Height: 1 to 3 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: well-draining, drought-tolerant, needing little irrigation
  • Climate: Mediterranean, desert

Desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

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Desert mallow is an evergreen shrub, with silvery, crinkly leaves, and apricot-colored, cup-shaped flowers that open in early spring. While it is short-lived, it readily self-seeds. It is very adaptable to different soils, but won’t survive pooling water. An excellent plant for a pollinator garden.

  • Height: 3 to 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-tolerant; well-draining soil
  • Climate: Mediterranean, desert

Southern shield fern (Thelypteris kunthii)

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At home in the Everglades, Southern shield fern will surprisingly tolerate more sun and drier conditions than most ferns. It’s an aggressive spreader, so plant it in a spot where it has room to grow without disturbing other plants. Plants can be divided in spring to keep them healthy.

  • Height: 3 to 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: moist to wet soil
  • Climate: Tropical

Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)

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Native to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin Deserts of the Southwest, the Mojave aster grows in canyons and washes. Its lavender flowers bloom from late winter to early summer, attracting bees, butterflies, and birds.

  • Height: 12 to 18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil and Water Needs: Drought-tolerant; well-draining soil
  • Climate: Desert



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