Donna Palmer

Donna Palmer

Days are growing shorter and temperatures are cooling between the hot days.

The calendar year is drawing to a close, but the November garden is still vibrant. This is an excellent time of year to plant perennials and the month many California Natives are most happily planted.

Like many living things, plants have a life expectancy. Annual plants germinate, develop, mature, and may reseed themselves within one season or one year. 

Plants like sunflowers, the California Poppy, and most garden vegetables are annuals. 

Biennial plants require two growing seasons/two years to complete their life cycle, the first year dedicated to growing shoots and leaves and the second year to growing flower/seed.

On the other hand, perennial plants grow over several years and may go through multiple cycles of flowering and seed producing. Or a perennial may grow for several years before producing any flowers/seed, if at all. 

Generally, the above ground parts of the perennial plant die back or are pruned back and the plant regrows over the next season/year. Geraniums, agave, and day lilies are perennials.

Most often the term perennial is given to non-woody ornamental plants that live more than two years, like Santa Barbara Daisies. But woody shrubs and trees are also technically perennials because of their life cycle length. (Such shrubs are labeled “woody perennials.”) Trees get their own category. 

Why plant a perennial? They’re beautiful, reliable, and some like Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) bloom through January, feeding hummingbirds. Why pay attention to an annual or multi-year life span? Apart from understanding plant care and setting expectations, identifying plant life cycle may influence plant placement and surrounding companion plants.

November is a great time to plant clay tolerant, low water perennials like Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Narrow leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Penstemon heterophyllus (‘Margarita BOP’ or ‘Blue Springs’), and many varieties of Salvia. 

These plants will thrive in Chino and grow well in Chino Hills. Planting in fall means a lower water requirement, but remember your “baby” plants will need regular watering to establish that first year.

Should your perennial choice be a California Native like California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)—you’ve really chosen a garden star. California Natives are plants native to one or more of California’s climate zones. 

We have multiple zones, each with particular precipitation, temperature, and soil. Choosing a zone appropriate native plant means choosing a plant specially adapted to our growing conditions here in Chino and Chino Hills: USDA Hardiness Zone 10a. 

Native plants do not require fertilizer or soil amendments. After the first establishment year, they require little summer irrigation, and attract birds and pollinators. 

The sound of hummingbirds zipping through the garden calling to one another at dusk is a treat. 

Well chosen, well placed natives almost care for themselves while providing essential wildlife habitat.  

Perhaps you’ll try California Natives like Ceanothus (‘Julia Phelps’ is nice), or Monkey flower Mimulus x aurantiacus ‘Cherry’, or Zauschneria Californica ‘Everett’s Choice.’

Donna Palmer is a San Bernardino County Master Gardener (class of 2021) who lives and gardens in Chino Hills. The University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners in San Bernardino County operate a free helpline to address your home gardening and landscaping questions: Visit: for a list of upcoming classes and events.

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