California Native Plant Landscaping: Succulents 101

As California remains in the midst of a multi-year drought, it’s important to find ways to spruce up your garden without wasting water. One way to do this is by introducing a California native succulent garden.

What is a Succulent?

Succulents are characterized by their fat, fleshy leaves, which are perfect for storing and retaining water in a dry climate. The term succulent comes from the latin word sucus, which means juice, making the name perfect for juicy plants like Aloe vera. Succulents are native to areas all over the world, especially in desert or semi-desert climates. Because of their durability, they’re also great as indoor house plants.

California Native Succulent Plants

California has many native succulent plants coming from a variety of plant orders including dudleya, sedum, and more. We’ve chosen ten of our favorite succulents native to California to highlight below.



  • Sedum oreganum (generic stonecrop)


This succulent is great for growing near a sidewalk or at the edge of the yard because it doesn’t get very tall. It’s flowers are yellow in color.


  • Sedum laxum heckneri (Heckner’s stonecrop)


Its white and pink flowers allow it to stand out when planted in a pot or rock garden.


  • Sedum obtusatum (Sierra stonecrop)


Native to the rocky regions of the Sierras, this stonecrop is characterized by white flowers mixed with yellow, orange, and green that bloom between May and June each year.


  • Sedum spathulifolium (Broadleaf or Green stonecrop)


There’s nothing sweeter to look at than the bright yellow flowers of this creeping succulent on your porch each morning. They’re perfect for a potted garden or windowsill planter.


  • Sedum niveum (Davidson’s stonecrop)


This is another native succulent to California that is good for a potted garden or rocky landscaping area. It is characterized by white flowers and bright green coloring.



  • Dudleya edulis (Fingertips)


The fingertip succulent is usually found along the coast of Southern California, but its light yellow flowers will make a great addition to any native California landscaping project.


  • Dudleya lanceolata (Lanceleaf Liveforever)


Looking to start a container garden? It wouldn’t be complete without the Lanceleaf Liveforever. The red-orange flowers will brighten your mood all spring.


  • Dudleya brittonii (Britton’s dudleya or Giant Chalk dudleya)


This succulent looks almost like something out of a fairytale. The leaves are white and misty-colored, and it thrives excellently in a pot or container garden.


  • Dudleya pulverulenta (Chalk Lettuce)


Similar to the Giant Chalk dudleya, this species has chalky leaves that look almost dusted with snow, accompanied by orangey flowers. This native California plant can last for years if properly cared for.


  • Dudleya cymosa (Canyon Liveforever)


This little specimen also produces nice orange and red flowers, and does well in an area that allows for plenty of water drainage.

How to Plant Succulents

Succulents can be planted in containers, pots, or flower beds. While native California succulents are a durable, long-lasting plant variety, they also need adequate care in order to thrive. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Plant succulents in an area that gets full sun for part of the day.
  • Remove all grass, weeds, and unwanted plants before transferring your succulents.
  • Make sure that your succulents have adequate drainage.
  • Give your succulents enough space to grow.

Proper Succulent Care and Maintenance

Fertilize bi-annually. Plan to fertilize your native succulent garden once in the spring and once in the summer to ensure optimum plant health.

Weed often. By removing weeds, you are ensuring that your California natives get all the water, and not any unwanted weeds.

Water infrequently. Especially after transplanting your native succulents, you should wait a full week before watering. After that, you need to only water once a month – otherwise your plants will experience root rot.

Allow your succulents to drain. This can be done by adding gravel to your potting soil. If creating a native succulent pot garden, make sure the pot has at least one hole for water to escape.

Advantages of a Native Succulent Garden

We aren’t the only ones to preach the benefits of a succulent garden. If you’re just entering into the world of California native plant landscaping, then succulents are a great place to start your journey.


  • Drought tolerant. A native California succulent garden is a great way to ensure that your garden lives to see many more days, despite the current drought conditions. These babies are the stars of drought tolerant landscape design.


  1. Low maintenance. Did we mention that you only have to water your succulents once per month? This helps you conserve water and save money in the process.
  2. Beautiful to look at. Succulents aren’t just drought tolerant, they’re also gorgeous. With a proper irrigation and drainage system in place, your native California succulents can be the talk of the neighborhood, inspiring others to follow in your footsteps.
  3. Diverse. Succulent gardens can be planted in any number of creative locations, including old bathtubs, mason jars, wooden planter boxes, hanging containers, and more. Have fun with your succulent garden and make your yard fun again.

Do you have a native California succulent garden? Leave a comment below and share your story with us.