Don’t Plant a Pest! Southern California

Invasive Ground Covers of Southern California

  • Hedera spp (ivies)

    Hedera helix
    Hedera helix English ivy

    Some ivy species in the Hedera genus are a problem in California. They can smother understory vegetation, kill trees, and harbor non-native rats and snails. It's difficult to distinguish problem species from less invasive ones. Do not plant ivy near natural areas, never dispose of ivy cuttings in natural areas, and maintain ivy so it never goes to fruit. Researchers hope to determine which ivies can be planted safely.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Carpobrotus edulis

    Carpobrotus edulis_hottentot fig_JM DiTomaso
    Carpobrotus edulis
    Carpobrotus edulis highway iceplant

    This vigorous groundcover forms impenetrable mats that compete directly with native vegetation, including several rare and threatened plants. Small mammals can carry seeds of iceplant from landscape settings to nearby natural areas. Pieces of the plant can be washed into storm drains and into natural areas where they become established.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Vinca major (periwinkle)

    Vinca major_big periwinkle_JM DiTomaso
    Vinca major
    Vinca major periwinkle; bigleaf periwinkle; greater periwinkle; blue periwinkle; myrtle

    This aggressive grower has trailing stems that root wherever they touch the soil. Their ability to resprout from stem fragments enables periwinkle to spread rapidly in shady creeks and drainages, smothering the native plant community.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Ground Covers for Southern California

  • Trachelospermum asiaticum Alternative Plant Group

    Trachelospermum asiaticum
    Trachelospermum asiaticum ivory star jasmine

    Evergreen, vining groundcover up to 20 feet across. Has glossy, dark green leaves and pale yellow, pinwheel-shaped flowers with a jasmine scent.

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  • Teucrium chamaedrys or lucidrys Alternative Plant Group

    Teucrium chamaedrys or T. x lucidrys
    Teucrium chamaedrys or T. x lucidrys germander or wall germander

    This plant can be sheared into a neat groundcover or allowed to grow to full height (about one foot), and produces lavender flowers in the spring. Compact cultivars are available. Deer resistant.

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  • Iva hayesiana Alternative Plant Group

    Iva hayesiana
    Iva hayesiana San Diego marsh elder

    This fast-growing native is widely used for slope coverage and erosion control. Grows one to two feet tall and four to six feet across with inconspicuous flowers. Summer watering will help maintain a more lush appearance. Prune annually to encourage new growth.

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    Southern California native
  • Fragaria Alternative Plant Group

    Fragaria californica
    Fragaria californica beach strawberry
    Fragaria chiloensis beach strawberry

    Forms lush compact mat 4 to 6 inches high. Glossy dark green leaves, white flowers. Mow or cut back annually to force new growth. Can be found growing along the coast from Monterey county and north to Alaska.

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    Southern California native

Invasive Ornamental Grasses of Southern California

  • Arundo

    Arundo donax_Giant reed_ JM Di Tomaso
    Arundo donax
    Arundo donax giant reed

    This grass grows along streamsides, where it can reach over 20 feet tall. It grows in dense thickets that clog waterways and is a fire hazard. When clumps of arundo are washed downstream during storms, they become trapped against bridges and create a maintenance problem where they land. Arundo creates less shade than the native trees it replaces, increasing water temperatures to a level that is dangerous for native fish.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Cortaderia subspecies

    Cortaderia jubata_jubata grass_ JM Di Tomaso
    Cortaderia jubata
    Cortaderia jubata jubatagrass; pampasgrass; pink pampasgrass
    Cortaderia selloana Pampasgrass
    Cortaderia selloana
    Cortaderia selloana pampasgrass; white pampasgrass

    Wind can carry the tiny seeds of these plants up to 20 miles. The massive size of each pampas grass plant with its accumulated litter reduces wildlife habitat, limits recreational opportunities in conservation areas, and creates a fire hazard.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Pennisetum setaceum (green fountain grass)

    Pennisetum setaceum_crimson fountaingrass_ JM Di Tomaso
    Pennisetum setaceum
    Pennisetum setaceum crimson fountain grass; purple fountain grass; tender fountain grass

    Spreads aggressively by seed into natural areas by wind, water, or vehicles. Fast grower; impedes the growth of locally native plant species and eventually takes over natural areas. Also raises fuel loads and fire frequency in natural areas. Is spreading rapidly in California. Existing research indicates that red varieties of fountain grass P. setaceum 'Rubrum' are not invasive.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Ornamental Grasses for Southern California

  • Muhlenbergia rigens Alternative Plant Group

    Muhlenbergia rigens
    Muhlenbergia rigens deer grass

    This large, perennial, California native has dense clusters of narrow, bright green leaf blades and tall, slender flower stalks. Bold enough to be used as a focal point of the garden, it also partners well with other perennials, flowers, and shrubs. Once established, deer grass is extremely drought tolerant and fits in well with a water-conscious California garden. Other Muhlenbergia species can also be good choices.

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    Southern California native
  • Nolina bigelovii Alternative Plant Group

    Nolina bigelovii Bigelow's bear grass

    This agave can be mistaken for a large bunchgrass. Grows up to six feet tall, producing large, striking, white flowers in summer.

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  • Lavendula Alternative Plant Group

    Lavandula species
    Lavandula species lavender

    With their purple flowers, lavenders can easily replace fountain grass. There are many species and varieties of lavender. Sweet lavender is able to tolerate a wide range of conditions including heat, humidity and cold. Other popular varieties of lavender are goodwin creek gray, French, and English lavender. They are fragrant and grow to about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and bloom with bright lavender flowers which can be dried for lavender fragrance.

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  • Leymus condensatus Alternative Plant Group

    Leymus condensatus
    Leymus condensatus giant wild rye

    Large clumping grass 4 to 5 feet across and reaches 6 to 8 feet tall in bloom. Distinct silver-gray foliage. Prune annually to encourage new growth.

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    Southern California native
  • Festuca californica Alternative Plant Group

    Festuca californica
    Festuca californica California fescue

    Flowering stalks rise to 5 feet above large clumped grass (2-3 feet tall) in late spring, early summer. Striking appearance, good adaptability, with clumps holding their shape well throughout the year.

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    Southern California native
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens Alternative Plant Group

    Helictotrichon sempervirens
    Helictotrichon sempervirens blue oat grass

    Evergreen, bright blue-gray, with narrow leaves in fountain-like clump. Grows 2 to 3 feet high and wide. Stems bear straw-colored flower clusters.

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  • Carex spissa Alternative Plant Group

    Carex spissa
    Carex spissa San Diego sedge

    This large sedge has a form similar to that of an ornamental grass. Produces gray leaves to five feet tall and yellow, grass-like flowers in the spring. Deer resistant.

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    Southern California native

Invasive Shrubs of Southern California

  • Acacias and wattles

    Acacia dealbata_silver wattle_JM DiTomaso
    Acacia dealbata
    Acacia dealbata silver wattle
    Acacia melanoxylon_black acacia_JM DiTomaso
    Acacia melanoxylon
    Acacia melanoxylon blackwood acacia

    Acacias grow along most of the coast and inland in the central portion of the state. They spread by seed, root, suckers, and stump sprouts, forming dense stands. In southern California, coastal wattle (Acacia cyclops) has invaded many natural areas incluing wetlands and dry hillsides.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Brooms

    Genista monosperma
    Genista monosperma bridal veil broom
    Genista monspessulana_French broom_JM DiTomaso
    Genista monspessulana
    Genista monspessulana French broom; soft broom; canary broom; Montepellier broom
    Cytisus striatus_Portuguese broom_JM DiTomaso
    Cytisus striatus
    Cytisus striatus Portugese broom; hairy-fruited broom
    Cytisus scoparius_scotch broom_flowers_JM DiTomaso
    Cytisus scoparius
    Cytisus scoparius Scotch broom; English broom; common broom
    Spartium junceum_Spanish broom_JM DiTomaso
    Spartium junceum
    Spartium junceum Spanish broom

    Brooms have invaded over one million acres in California. The flowers produce thousands of seeds that build up in the soil over time, creating dense thickets that obliterate entire plant and animal communities. Grows quickly, creating a fire hazard in residential landscapes. "Sterile" varieties haven't been independently verified or tested and are not recommended as substitutes.

    "Sweet broom" (Cytisus spachiamus or Genista racemosa) is not known to be invasive. However, because we lack information on its potential for invading wildlands, we do not recommend it as a substitute for other brooms.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Sesbania punicea (wisterias)

    Sesbania punicea
    Sesbania punicea scarlet wisteria; red sesbania; rattlebox; Chinese wisteria

    New to California, spreading along the American River in central California. Also found in the Delta and in northern California. A serious problem in South Africa and Florida. Grows and spreads rapidly along river and stream corridors. Pushing out native vegetation and wildlife. Seeds are moved by washing downstream or are carried by birds.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Shrubs for Southern California

  • Viburnum suspensum Alternative Plant Group

    Viburnum suspensum
    Viburnum suspensum sandankwa viburnum

    This evergreen shrub produces tight clusters of small, waxy, pinkish-white flowers that give way to bright red berries. Several compact varieties are available. Deer resistant.

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  • Rhamnus californica Alternative Plant Group

    Rhamnus californica
    Rhamnus californica coffeeberry

    Attractive native California shrub, 6 to 8 feet high. Bears black berries and tolerates all soil types. Ideal as a background or screen plant.

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    Southern California native
  • Rhamnus crocea Alternative Plant Group

    Rhamnus crocea
    Rhamnus crocea redberry

    Medium evergreen California native shrub. Grows 4 to 10 feet tall, as wide as it is tall. Tight clusters of small, waxy, pinkish-white flowers give way to beautiful red berries in springtime. Several compact varieties are available.

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    Southern California native
  • Rhus integrifolia Alternative Plant Group

    Rhus integrifolia
    Rhus integrifolia lemonade berry

    California native evergreen shrub with white to pink flowers and red berries. Makes a great hedge or screen. Areas with frost may have better luck with its sister plant, sugar bush (Rhus ovata).

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    Southern California native
  • Salvia clevelandii Alternative Plant Group

    Salvia clevelandii
    Salvia clevelandii Cleveland sage

    A California native with graceful silvery-green leaves, arching branches, and whorls of purple flowers in spring and summer. Grows up to 4 feet tall

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    Southern California native
  • Tagetes lemmonii Alternative Plant Group

    Tagetes lemmonii
    Tagetes lemmonii bush marigold

    Perennial shrub that can grow up to 6 feet tall. Evergreen leaves with yellow flowers that bloom in winter and spring

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  • Myrica californica Alternative Plant Group

    Myrica californica
    Myrica californica Pacific wax myrtle

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  • Dendromecon Alternative Plant Group

    Dendromecon rigida
    Dendromecon rigida Bush poppy
    D. harfordii Island bush poppy

    A native California shrub that is not yet widely available in nurseries. Evergreen shrub growing up to 6 feet tall or can be maintained at 3 feet. Leaves are blue-gray-green and the bush is covered in beautiful yellow blooms. Very drought tolerant once established. Needs pruning to maintain compact, landscape-friendly form. Deer resistant.

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    Southern California native
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia Alternative Plant Group

    Heteromeles arbutifolia
    Heteromeles arbutifolia toyon

    This California native is an evergreen shrub that produces delicate white flowers and large clusters of brilliant red berries that birds love. Can be pruned into a small tree. Deer resistant. Fire resistant.

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    Southern California native
  • Arbutus unedo Alternative Plant Group

    Arbutus unedo
    Arbutus unedo strawberry tree

    A gorgeous, evergreen tree available in compact, shrub-like varieties that are easy to grow. It produces masses of beautiful white flowers and textured, strawberry-like fruits. Can be managed as either a shrub, with screening ability if left unpruned, or a tree.

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Invasive Palms of Southern California

  • Phoenix and Washingtonia (Canary Island and Washington palms)

    Phoenix canariensis_young canary island date palm_JM DiTomaso
    Phoenix canariensis
    Phoenix canariensis Canary Island date palm
    Washingtonia robusta_Mexican fan palm_JM DiTomaso
    Washingtonia robusta
    Washingtonia robusta Mexican fan palm; Washington palm; skyduster; thread palm

    Most palms are good garden plants, but Mexican fan palm and Canary Island date palm are extremely invasive. In Southern California, they invade wetland areas, crowding out native vegetation. Canary Island date palm seeds are spread by birds. Dense groups of palms with untrimmed fronds harbor rats and snakes and can be a fire hazard.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Palms for Southern California

  • Jubaea chilensis Alternative Plant Group

    Jubaea chilensis
    Jubaea chilensis Chilean wine palm

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  • Butia capitata Alternative Plant Group

    Butia capitata
    Butia capitata Pindo palm

    Can grow up to 20 feet tall. Grey-green foliage with red flowers and edible fruits. Tolerates frost, heat, aridity, and poor soils.

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  • Chamaerops humilis Alternative Plant Group

    Chamaerops humilis
    Chamaerops humilis Mediterranean fan palm

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  • Archontophoenix cunninghamiana Alternative Plant Group

    Archontophoenix cunninghamiana
    Archontophoenix cunninghamiana King palm

    Can grow up to 50 feet tall, with beautiful clustered amethyst flowers. Recommended for frost free areas.

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Invasive Trees of Southern California

  • Ficus carica (edible fig)

    Ficus carica_Fig_ JM Di Tomaso
    Ficus carica
    Ficus carica edible fig

    Can be a problem in the San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley, and southern California. May be spread by birds and deer, as well as by vegetation fragments. Can dominate stream and riverside habitat.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Myoporum (false sandalwood)

    Myoporum laetum_JM DiTomaso
    Myoporum laetum
    Myoporum laetum ngaio tree; false sandalwood; mousehole tree

    Invades along the coast from Sonoma County to San Diego. Forms dense stands with no other vegetation. Can cover large areas. Spread by birds. Leaves and fruits are toxic to wildlife and livestock. Burns easily. Doesn't typically spread in interior areas.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Schinus spp (pepper trees)

    Schinus terebinthifolius_Brazilian peppertree_JM DiTomaso
    Schinus terebinthifolius
    Schinus terebinthifolius Brazilian pepper tree; Christmas-berry tree; Christmasberry; Florida holly
    Schinus molle_Peruvian peppertree_JM DiTomaso
    Schinus molle
    Schinus molle Peruvian pepper tree; California pepper tree

    Pepper trees are native to South America (despite the fact that Peruvian peppertree is sometimes called California peppertree). Seeds are transported by birds and mammals into natural areas. The aggressive growth of peppers enables them to displace native trees and form dense thickets in natural areas. They produce undesirable suckering and sprout unwanted seedlings. A serious problem in southern California. Less of a problem in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley, but care should be taken if planting near wildlands.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Ailanthus (tree of heaven)

    Ailanthus altissima
    Ailanthus altissima tree-of-heaven; Chinese sumac; paradise-tree; copal-tree

    Although not commonly sold in nurseries, this tree is sometimes "shared" among gardeners. Tree-of-heaven produces abundant root sprouts that create dense thickets and displace native vegetation. These root sprouts can be produced as far as 50 feet away from the parent tree. In California, it is most abundant along the coast and Sierra foothills, as well as along streams. A single tree can produce up to a million seeds per year.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Eucalyptus globulus

    Eucalyptus globulus_Tasmanium blue gum_JM DiTomaso
    Eucalyptus globulus
    Eucalyptus globulus blue gum; Tasmanian blue gum; blue gum eucalyptus; common eucalyptus; Southern blue gum; Victorian blue gum

    Found along the coast from Humboldt to San Diego and in the Central Valley. Most invasive in coastal locations. Easily invades native plant communities, causing declines in native plant and animal populations. Fire departments throughout Southern California recommend against using eucalyptus trees for landscaping because they are extremely flammable.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive)

    Elaeagnus angustifolia_ Russian olive_JM DiTomaso
    Elaeagnus angustifolia
    Elaeagnus angustifolia Russian olive; oleaster

    Found throughout California. Able to spread long distances with the help of birds and mammals. Invades river and stream corridors, pushing out native willows and cottonwoods. Reduces water levels. Provides poor wildlife habitat. Serious invader in other western states.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Tamarix (saltcedar)

    Tamarix aphylla_JM DiTomaso
    Tamarix aphylla
    Tamarix aphylla athel; athel pine; tamarisk; evergreen saltcedar
    Tamarix parviflora
    Tamarix parviflora smallflower tamarisk
    Tamarix ramosissima
    Tamarix ramosissima Chinese tamarisk; fivestamen tamarisk

    A serious invader throughout California and southwestern states. Uses excessive amounts of water, increases soil salinity, changes water courses. Diminishes wildlife habitat, and increases fire hazard. Not commonly sold but still occasionally available.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Crataegus monogyna

    Crataegus monogyna_English hawthorn_JM DiTomaso
    Crataegus monogyna
    Crataegus monogyna English hawthorn; common hawthorn; oneseed hawthorn; May tree; singleseed hawthorn; azzarola; neapolitan medlar; oneseed hawthorn; whitethorn;

    An established invader of the Pacific Northwest, now spreading through northern California. Capable of long-range dispersal by birds. Creates dense thickets, changing the structure of woodland understories. May hybridize with and threaten native hawthorn species.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Trees for Southern California

  • Tristaniopsis laurina Alternative Plant Group

    Formal plant; can be trained as a single or multistemmed tree. Mahogany-colored bark peels, revealing new, satiny white bark beneath. Yellow flowers produce a good show. Can be slow-growing. Damaged by very cold winters. Try cultivar 'Elegant'. Evergreen. Zones: 15-24. Height: To 45 ft. Width: 5-30 ft.

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  • XChitalpa Alternative Plant Group

    Chitalpa close up
    XChitalpa tashkentensis
    XChitalpa tashkentensis chitalpa

    Chitalpa makes a great street tree with its compact size and beautiful white or pink showy flowers. It is drought tolerant and sterile. No messy seed pods. Grows 20ft. to 30ft. tall.

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  • Quercus macrocarpa Alternative Plant Group

    Rugged-looking tree with flaky grayish bark. Long, deeply-lobed leaves are glossy green. Large, distinctive acorns covered in fringed cap. Tolerant of poor conditions. Acorns can be a trip hazard. Deciduous. Zones: 1-11, 14-23. Height: 60-75 ft., equally wide when mature.

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  • Styrax japonicus Alternative Plant Group

    Slender, graceful trunk. Broad crown. Leaves may turn red or yellow in fall. Delicate, fragrant, white flowers hang below leaves, creating a layered effect. Deciduous. Zones: 4-9, 14-21. Height: 30 ft., narrow in youth, wide in maturity.

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  • Taxodium distichum Alternative Plant Group

    Delicate, feathery foliage sprays turn reddish-brown before dropping in the fall. Tolerates drought or very wet conditions, and any but the most alkaline soil. Trunk can be buttressed at the base. No pests or diseases. Easy to plant and care for. Tolerates any amount of water. Deciduous. Zones: 2-10, 12-24. Height: 50-70 ft. Width: 20-30 ft.

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  • Michelia doltsopa Alternative Plant Group

    Prune to create a narrow, upright tree. Furry brown buds open to cream or white blossoms. Thin, leathery, dark green leaves are red underneath. Evergreen. Zones 15-24. Height: To 25 ft.

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  • Platanus racemosa Alternative Plant Group

    Platanus racemosa
    Platanus racemosa California sycamore

    Very attractive deciduous tree with smooth, pale bark. Fast growing up to 75 feet tall, California native tree. Requires water when young, but drought tolerant once established. Can be found growing wild throughout California in creeks, canyons and drainages. Makes a great tree for landscaping because it can tolerates excess water and grows well adjacent to or inside an irrigated lawn. Do not confuse this plant with its sister species London plane tree (Platanus acerifolia). Platanus acerifolia is intentionally NOT RECOMMENDED as an alternative because of its ability to hybridize with locally native California sycamores (Platanus racemosa) and negatively impact wild populations.

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    Southern California native
  • Podocarpus gracilor Alternative Plant Group

    Podocarpus gracilor
    Podocarpus gracilor fern pine

    Evergreen tree 20 to 60 feet tall. Makes an excellent street tree or individual specimen in a park setting. One of the most pest-free trees, able to tolerate a variety of soil conditions and temperatures. Can also be used as a hedge or screen plant. Many species and varieties are available at nurseries.

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  • Quercus agrifolia Alternative Plant Group

    Quercus agrifolia
    Quercus agrifolia coast live oak

    Evergreen tree that can reach 40 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide. Native to California, drought tolerant, and attracts many birds and butterflies to your garden.

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    Southern California native
  • Liriodendron tulipifera Alternative Plant Group

    Straight, columnar trunk with a tall, pyramidal crown. Unique lyre-shaped leaves. Foliage starts bright green, turns bright yellow in fall. Tulip-shaped flowers in late spring are interesting but not showy. Beautiful large shade or lawn tree. Likes slightly acidic, well-drained soil and plenty of room. Deciduous. Zones: 2-12, 14-24. Height: 60-80 ft. Width: To 40 ft.

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  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides Alternative Plant Group

    Soft, pale green needles turn reddish-brown before falling in autumn, leaving a beautiful winter silhouette. Grows very fast when young. Older trees have fluted trunks. Resistant to oak root fungus. Not suitable for very arid regions or the coast. Deciduous. Zones: 3-10, 14-24. Height: To 90 ft. Width: To 20 ft.

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  • Elaeocarpus decipiens Alternative Plant Group

    New leaves rusty and hairy, turning smooth and bright green. Old leaves turn red before dropping. Blooms with tiny, scented, white flowers in clusters followed by small, blue-black, edible fruits. Likes rich, well-drained soil. Needs little pruning. Evergreen. Zones: 8-9, 14-24. Height: 30-60 ft. Width: 20-30 ft.

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  • Eriobotrya deflexa Alternative Plant Group

    Fast-growing and easily trained. New leaves emerge bright copper before turning green. Bunches of creamy white flowers in spring. Easy to plant and care for. Requires well-drained soil. Can be subject to fireblight. Evergreen. Zones: 8-24. Height: 12-30 ft. Width: 15-30 ft.

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  • Eucalyptus nicholii Alternative Plant Group

    One of the cleanest, most graceful eucalyptus, with weeping branches and not too much litter. Crushed leaves smell a bit like peppermint. Furrowed, rich, reddish-brown bark. Damaged by very cold winters. Evergreen. Zones: 5, 6, 8-24. Height: 36-48 ft. Width: 15-36 ft.

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  • Geijera parvifolia Alternative Plant Group

    Geijera parvifolia
    Geijera parvifolia Australian willow

    Evergreen tree reaches a height of 25 to 30 feet tall, with 3 to 6 inch long, narrow, medium green colored leaves. Its main branches sweep up and out, while the smaller branches tend to hang down.

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  • California bay Alternative Plant Group

    Umbellularia californica
    Umbellularia californica California bay

    Grows up to 60 feet tall. Evergreen, aromatic, native from the California mountains into Oregon. Excellent as a screen, hedge, or background planting.

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    Southern California native
  • Chionanthus retusus Alternative Plant Group

    Blooms like clouds of the whitest, feathery flowers. Handsome bark provides winter interest. Will grow in most central California environments. The olive-like fruits can be a litter problem. May produce a significant amount of pollen. Deciduous. Zones: 3-9, 14-24. Height: To 20 ft., not quite as wide.

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Invasive Aquatic Plants of Southern California

  • Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth)

    Eichhornia_crassipes_ by By Wouter Hagens
    Eichhornia crassipes
    Eichhornia crassipes water hyacinth

    Reputed to be the fastest-growing plant in the world! Can double in size in a week during hot weather. Forms dense mats that impede water flow. Seeds can live 15-20 years. The State of California has spent $45 million over 15 years to control water hyacinth in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Hydrilla verticillata (water thyme)

    Hydrilla verticillata
    Hydrilla verticillata hydrilla; water thyme; Florida elodea

    Illegal to sell or possess in California. Has arrived in California mixed with shipments of water lilies and as a mislabeled aquatic plant. Fragments quickly start new colonies.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)

    Lythrum salicaria
    Lythrum salicaria purple loosestrife

    Invades streambanks and wetlands throughout the U.S. Persists year to year from root buds and from the root crown. Although not commonly sold in California, this plant is available for purchase on the internet. One plant can produce 2.7 million seeds. Has the potential to infest rice fields.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Ludwigia (waterprimrose)

    Ludwigia hexapetala
    Ludwigia hexapetala creeping waterprimrose; Uruguay waterprimrose
    Ludwigia peploides
    Ludwigia peploides floating water primrose; California waterprimrose

    Crowds out native plants and reduces water quality. Dense mats slow water movement and create habitat for mosquito larva, which can carry West Nile virus. Although there are native Ludwigia, do not collect them from the wild.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Iris pseudacorus (yellowflag iris)

    Iris pseudacorus_yellowflag iris flower_ JM Di Tomaso
    Iris pseudacorus
    Iris pseudacorus yellowflag iris; pale yellow iris

    Forms colonies along streambanks. Listed as a noxious weed in Nevada, Expanding in the Pacific Northwest. Uncommon in California, but causes serious problems in other regions with similar climates.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Salvinia molesta (giant salvinia)

    Salvinia_molesta_Issempa_Wikimedia Commons
    Salvinia molesta
    Salvinia molesta giant salvinia; karibaweed; water velvet; African pyle; aquarium watermoss; water fern; koi kandy

    Illegal to sell in the US. Floating mats up to 3 ft. thick reduce light and dissolved oxygen in the water so that few living things can survive. Common salvinia (Salvinia minima) may be sold, but species are difficult to tell apart.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Egeria densa

    Egeria densa
    Egeria densa Brazilian egeria; egeria

    Infests 7000 acres in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Aggressively invades natural waterways, displacing native aquatic plants and forming dense mats that impede water flow.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Myriophyllum spicatum (spike watermilfoil)

    Myriophyllum spicatum
    Myriophyllum spicatum spike watermilfoil

    The most widespread submerged invasive aquatic plant in California and a serious problem in Lake Tahoe. Stems are brittle and break easily, starting new infestations when spread by boats or water birds.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Myriophyllum aquaticum (watermilfoil)

    Myriophyllum_aquaticum_By André Karwath
    Myriophyllum aquaticum
    Myriophyllum aquaticum parrotfeather; Brazilian watermilfoil; parrotfeather watermilfoil; thread-of-life;

    Forms dense mats that impede water flow. Stems are brittle and break easily. Spread by boats or migrating water birds. Uncommon in California but has the potential to spread.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

  • Arundo (aquatic)

    Arundo donax_Giant reed_ JM Di Tomaso
    Arundo donax
    Arundo donax giant reed

    A serious problem in coastal streams. Dense growth damages habitat, while creating a fire and flood hazard. Variegated varieties are also problematic and are not recommended.

    Invasive: Do Not Plant

Recommended Aquatic Plants for Southern California

  • Sagittaria spp. Alternative Plant Group

    Sagittaria latifolia arrowhead
    Sagittaria montevidensis
    Sagittaria montevidensis arrowhead
    Sagittaria lancifolia white swan, red swan

    Pond Margin or Bog . Striking arrow-shaped leaves and white flowers. Grows in moist soil or water 6 inches or more deep. S. latifolia grows 12 to 20 inches; S. montevidensis to 4 feet. Also try S. lancifolia (white swan or red swan) for a specimen plant with green or red stems and a 7-foot flower spike.

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    Southern California native
  • Mimulus aquatics Alternative Plant Group

    Mimulus guttatus
    Mimulus guttatus common yellow monkeyflower

    Pond Margin or Bog. Annual or perennial. Fills out a 4 feet x 4 feet space in spring and summer. May die back then return the next year. Yellow flowers with reddish spots resemble snapdragons. Hummingbirds like it; deer don't. Also try M. cardinalis for red flowers.

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    Southern California native
  • Nuphar polysepalum Alternative Plant Group

    Nuphar polysepala
    Nuphar polysepala yellow pondlily

    Floating or Rooted Emergent Plants. A native plant with a dramatic yellow flower and round leaves up to a foot in diameter. Foliage is submerged in winter and emerges in spring. May take more effort to find for sale.

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    Southern California native
  • Polygonum amphibium Alternative Plant Group

    Polygonum amphibium var. stipulaceum
    Polygonum amphibium var. stipulaceum water smartweed

    Submerged Plants. A versatile, creeping plant that does well in water depths ranging from moist soil to 4 feet of water over the crown. Long, narrow, floating leaves, and bright-pink flowers.

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    Southern California native
  • Pontedaria cordata Alternative Plant Group

    Pontedaria cordata
    Pontedaria cordata pickerel weed

    Pond Margins. Heart-shaped leaves surround dramatic flower spikes. Excellent filtration ability. Place in containers in 1 foot of water. 3 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 2 1/2 feet wide.

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    Southern California native
  • Iris ensata Alternative Plant Group

    Iris ensata 'Variegata'
    Iris ensata 'Variegata' Japanese iris

    Pond Margin or Bog

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  • Iris laevigata Alternative Plant Group

    Iris laevigata and cultivars
    Iris laevigata and cultivars laevigata iris

    Pond Margin or Bog. A true water-loving iris that will do well in 6 inches of water. Flowers in white, purple, lavender, and pink. Yellow-blooming varieties are available, but rare. Leaves to 18 inches tall.

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  • Iris missouriensis Alternative Plant Group

    Iris missouriensis, I. longipetala
    Iris missouriensis, I. longipetala western blue flag iris

    Pond Margins. A native iris with flowers ranging from white to blue to lavender. Leaves to 2 feet tall. Likes open, sunny, moist areas. Smaller in scale than yellowflag iris.

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    Southern California native
  • Iris sibirica Alternative Plant Group

    Iris sibirica and hybrids
    Iris sibirica and hybrids Siberian iris

    Pond Margin or Bog.

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  • Juncus effusus Alternative Plant Group

    Juncus effusus common rush

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    Southern California native
  • Ligularia wilsoniana Alternative Plant Group

    Ligularia wilsoniana
    Ligularia wilsoniana Wilson's ligularia

    Pond Margin or Bog. A tall and showy wetland perennial with spikes of bright yellow, daisy-like flowers. Stems grow to six feet tall.

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  • Lobelia spp Alternative Plant Group

    Lobelia cardinalis
    Lobelia cardinalis lobelia
    Lobelia fulgens lobelia
    Lobelia siphilica lobelia

    Pond Margin Plants. A spectacular blooming bog plant. Tubular flowers resemble honeysuckle or salvia and attract hummingbirds. L. cardinalis and L. fulgens to 6 feet with red flowers; L. siphilica grows 2 to 3 feet with blue flowers.

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    Southern California native
  • Lysochiton americanum Alternative Plant Group

    Lysochiton americanum
    Lysochiton americanum yellow skunk cabbage

    Pond Margin or Bog

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    Southern California native
  • Marsilea spp. Alternative Plant Group

    Marsilea spp. water clover

    Floating or Rooted Emergent Plants.

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    Southern California native
  • Elodea canadensis Alternative Plant Group

    Elodea canadensis
    Elodea canadensis waterweed

    Submerged Plants. One of the best oxygenating plants. Has dark green leaves and provides food and shelter for fish. Dies back in winter. Grows best in fine sand but may need to be controlled in small ponds. (Sometimes also sold under the name anacharis.)

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    Southern California native
  • Brasenia schreberi Alternative Plant Group

    Brasenia schreberi
    Brasenia schreberi watershield

    Floating or Rooted Emergent Plants.

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    Southern California native
  • Ceratophyllum demersum Alternative Plant Group

    Ceratophyllum demersum
    Ceratophyllum demersum coontail

    Submerged Plants. A rootless, deciduous perennial with slender stems and forked leaves. Tolerates shade and hard water. Good oxygenator.

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    Southern California native
  • Chondropetalum aquatics Alternative Plant Group

    Chondropetalum tectorum
    Chondropetalum tectorum Cape thatching reed

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  • Cornus sericea Alternative Plant Group

    Cornus sericea
    Cornus sericea redtwig dogwood
    Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'
    Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' yellowtwig dogwood

    Pond Margin or Bog. Brilliant red or yellow foliage and colorful winter twigs. Provide good screens where water is present. to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Cut roots to control spread.

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    Southern California native
  • Alisma plantago-aquatica Alternative Plant Group

    Alisma plantago-aquatica
    Alisma plantago-aquatica common waterplantain

    Pond Margin or Bog. Herbaceous perennial with flowers heads arranged in whorls of white, pink, or lavender. Blooms form a pyramid-like shape. Suitable for medium to large ponds, but may overwhelm a small one. 12 to 36 inches tall and up to 18 inches spread.

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    Southern California native
  • Aponogeton distachyon Alternative Plant Group

    Aponogeton distachyon
    Aponogeton distachyon cape pondweed

    Floating or Rooted Emergent Plants. Crisp white flowers with a vanilla scent are held on the water surface. Prefers cool water. May overwhelm a small pond.

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  • Azolla filiculoides Alternative Plant Group

    Azolla filiculoides
    Azolla filiculoides Pacific mosquito fern, fairy fern

    Floating or Rooted Emergent Plants. Tiny, free-floating perennial fern. Excellent pond cover for fish and other wildlife. Turns reddish-purple in the fall. To 1/2 inch high, with a spreading habit. May overwhelm a small pond.

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    Southern California native
  • Baccharis salicifolia Alternative Plant Group

    Baccharis salicifolia mulefat

    Pond Margin or Bog.

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    Southern California native
  • Bambusa aquatics Alternative Plant Group

    Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonso-Karr'
    Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonso-Karr' 'Alphonso-Karr' bamboo
    Bambusa multiplex 'Golden Goddess'
    Bambusa multiplex 'Golden Goddess' 'Golden Goddess' bamboo
    Bambusa multiplex
    Bambusa multiplex bamboo (clumping species only)

    Pond Margin or Bog. Useful as a hedge or screen. Rhizomes of clumping species stay close to the plant and will not invade surrounding soil. Height varies by cultivar, up to 35 feet. Do not plant running bamboos, which spread aggressively.

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