27 Native Wildflowers for California Gardens

Native gardening is all the rage these days, and it’s not hard to see why. Planting native wildflowers supports local pollinator populations and maintains native biodiversity, not to mention the savings on your water bill. Native plants typically require less care than non-natives because they are already adapted to thrive in your environment. 

If you garden in California, there is a chance that you’ve struggled with plants that are not drought-resistant or don’t tolerate salinity in the soil and air. If you long for a low-maintenance flower garden, there is hope in native wildflowers. There are so many wonderful flowering plants native to California. Here are 27 beautiful native wildflowers for your California garden

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California Poppy

The California poppies thrive in diverse conditions across the state.

This wildflower needs no introduction. The famous California poppy is probably the most well-known of California wildflowers, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’ve never observed a field covered in these stunning orange flowers, it is truly something to add to your bucket list and, most certainly, to your wildflower garden.

California poppies are tough little plants that tolerate poor soils and hot summer temperatures without skipping a beat. Blooming from late spring, often through the summer months, these plants are native to the entire state. They are perennial in zones 6-10 but readily self-seed annually in cooler climates. 

Cliff Maids

A close-up reveals a cluster of pink cliff maid flowers showcasing intricate yellow stamens. The gentle rays of the sun delicately illuminate the delicate petals, highlighting their soft texture and natural beauty against the backdrop.
Provide additional water when cliff maids are in bloom.

With the botanical name Lewisia in honor of the explorer Meriwether Lewis, this small, flowering succulent is native to northern California. It is related to purslane and has similar needs. The plant is small and unassuming when not in bloom. The fleshy leaves form an attractive rosette, not unlike an Echeveria in form. Cliff maids are the recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Cliff maids have a long, sturdy tap root, which adds to their drought tolerance. The plant itself does very well in hot, dry weather. However, when in bloom, it’s a good idea to give it a little extra water. The flowers are what make this plant great for the garden. It works well in containers or the ground as long as the soil is very well-draining. 

Appearing in a range of colors, including pink, white, purple, and coral, cliff maids flowers are small and cheerful and bloom in large clusters. The flower stems rise above the foliage, and the flower clusters can completely obscure the rest of the plant. 

Elegant Clarkia

A close-up of Elegant Clarkia flowers, boasting a vivid purple hue, capturing attention with their delicate allure. Within the blossoms, white fluffy stamens gracefully adorn, adding a soft contrast to the rich, captivating petals.
This endemic Californian wildflower blooms from April through summer.

For a butterfly garden, elegant clarkia is a wonderful addition. As a native wildflower, it is endemic to California and originally the central coast and Sierra foothills.

Now more widely distributed, the seeds can be found in many wildflower seed blends. It is a woodland understory plant by nature and prefers afternoon shade but is adaptable to full sun as long as it gets enough water. 

Elegant clarkia has attractive green foliage with deep red veining, making this a nice ornamental even when it isn’t in bloom. It does bloom for a significant part of the year, beginning in April and lasting throughout the summer. Tall inflorescences bear fuzzy pink buds that open to fancy purple flowers with showy white stamens. 

California Goldfields

A vast expanse of California goldfields fills the landscape, their green stems reaching upward towards the sun. Their golden blossoms create a striking contrast against the verdant backdrop, painting the field with a breathtaking tapestry of colors.These are bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that bloom in spring.

California goldfields is native to a significant portion of the state, where it grows in a wide variety of habitats. They provide an important nectar source for bees and butterflies, specifically attracting the Bay checkerspot butterfly. This plant makes a great ground cover, as it will out compete plants that are less well-adapted to poor soil types. 

In terms of flowers, California Goldfields are small, scarcely the size of a quarter. They are complex, though, and the center of the flower is actually made up of many small florets, which is why they contain such an abundance of nectar. These bright yellow, daisy-like flowers bloom throughout the spring and self-seed freely. 

Prairie Flax

Blue prairie flax flowers bloom gracefully among slender stems, their azure petals dancing in the wind. The lush greenery in the background provides a vivid contrast, accentuating the natural beauty of the scene.
The rare blue flowers of Prairie Flax attract bees with their ultraviolet visibility.

Blue is a rare color for flowers, and it’s a favorite among bees as they are able to see light on the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. Prairie flax is a wonderful little wildflower that produces flowers in this alluring hue, making it perfect for the pollinator garden. It is highly heat and drought-tolerant, and though the flowers only last for one day, it produces such an abundance that the plant will bloom constantly from late spring through midsummer. 

Prairie flax is a short-lived perennial, but it reseeds readily, so once it is established in the garden, it will stick around indefinitely. It can grow in full sun or partial shade and has no significant pest or disease issues. This flax tolerates a wide range of soil types, including sandy, rocky, and nutritionally deficient. 

Bush Monkey Flower

A close-up reveals sunlit yellow bush monkey flowers nestled among green foliage, their delicate petals glowing in the warm light. In the background, the scene blurs, offering glimpses of more of these vibrant plants.
This plant features tubular flowers in various hues attractive to hummingbirds.

Another winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit for its noteworthy qualities, bush monkey flower is a lovely shrub named for the appearance of its flowers, which look a bit like the face of a monkey. This evergreen has narrow, lanceolate foliage on vertically growing stems. Its shrubby habit makes this a good space filler, and it works great in a rock garden. 

This California native wildflower has wonderful tubular flowers that are very popular with hummingbirds. The flowers can be orange, yellow, salmon, or red and bloom for a long period, lasting from mid-spring throughout the summer. Deadheading spent blooms will keep this plant producing the maximum number of flowers for the longest period. 

Baby Blue Eyes

Delicate baby blue eyes flowers showcasing their ethereal beauty. The intricate white-to-blue blooms stand out against a backdrop of feathery green leaves, creating a captivating display of nature's elegance.
This trailing annual with sky-blue flowers thrives in cool weather.

Baby blue eyes has flowers in that most coveted of shades, and with such a sweet little name, who could resist these charming little flowering plants? This low-growing, trailing annual prefers cool weather and does its blooming in spring. In cooler climates, it can continue to bloom into the summer, but in warm areas, it will die back in the summer heat. 

The trailing habit makes baby blue eyes a nice plant for containers, rock gardens, and borders. It tolerates full sun or partial shade and is tolerant of urban pollution. This plant likes fertile soil that holds moisture well. The flowers are sky blue with glowing white centers and delicate, black-tipped stamens.

Blue Dicks

A close-up of a group of blue dick flowers with a purple hue. Bathed in the warm glow of the sun, the flowers exude a captivating allure, inviting closer inspection and admiration.
Plant Blue Dicks corms in well-drained soil under full sun during the fall.

I just can’t get enough of the beautiful blue wildflowers of California! Blue dicks is an early spring blooming plant that produces tight clusters of purple-blue flowers that pollinators flock to. Their grass-like foliage lies close to the ground, and slender flower stems tower two to three feet overhead. All parts of the plant are edible, making this a pet-friendly plant. 

Sow your corms in fall for early spring blooms. Blue dicks enjoy full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant once established and needs very little care. This is a beautiful addition to the wildflower or cottage garden. The tall, sturdy stems make this plant excellent for the cut flower garden, as well. 

White Sage

Numerous white sage flowers bloom elegantly along their sturdy green stems. The sun gently bathes them in its warm embrace, casting soft shadows amidst the verdant foliage, a serene scene of nature's beauty.
The flower spikes of white sage attract hummingbirds and bumblebees.

White sage is a gorgeous addition to the garden that looks amazing year-round. With striking, silvery-white, evergreen foliage, it’s no surprise that this is such a popular plant.

If the name white sage is familiar from outside of the gardening sphere, it’s likely because of the herb’s ceremonial use by Native Americans.

This plant’s allure doesn’t rest solely in its beautiful foliage. It flowers spectacularly, too. The flower spikes can be up to six feet tall and erupt into a mass of pretty white flowers that are very attractive to hummingbirds and bumble bees. White sage makes a wonderful addition to the moon garden and is very drought-tolerant once established. 

Five Spot

Two Five Spot flowers in close-up, showcasing their delicate beauty against a backdrop of green leaves. The petals, predominantly white, exhibit captivating purple spots, adding a vivid contrast to the overall floral composition.
The Five Spot plant thrives in containers and rock gardens.

Five spot is a close relative of baby blue eyes and shares many similar characteristics. This is a low-growing plant with a trailing habit, making it nice for containers and rock gardens. It can grow in full sun but prefers some shade in the afternoon, as this is a cool weather plant. Five Spot blooms from mid-spring until about midsummer when temperatures pick up.

This is not a drought-tolerant plant and needs to be planted in fertile soil that retains moisture but is well-draining. The flowers are small and white, and each of the five petals is tipped with a bright purple splotch, giving this plant its common name. Five spot looks great planted in a large grouping

Royal Lupine

A close-up of a deep purple royal lupine stem, its fuzzy texture accentuated, adorned with purple flowers in full bloom. In the background, tall grasses sway gently, creating a blurred, dreamy ambiance around the majestic lupine.
Clusters of violet Royal Lupine flowers are ideal for cut arrangements.

This California native wildflower does it all with looks, fragrance, and drought tolerance, all rolled into one pollinator-attracting package. It’s native to the Mojave desert and is also commonly referred to as Mojave lupine. It is a very drought-tolerant plant that tolerates sandy and gravelly soil and needs little to no watering throughout the summer. 

Royal lupine’s foliage is not noteworthy, but the flowers more than make up for it. Slender stems support clusters of rich, violet flowers with a single white spot in the center. The blooms have a pleasing fragrance and make excellent cut flowers.

Shasta Lupine

A tall Shasta lupine adorned with purple flowers, basks in the warm sunlight. The blurred backdrop reveals lush foliage, dotted with delicate white flowers, creating a picturesque scene of nature's tranquility under the golden sunrays.
The Shasta Lupine is popular in California mountain pollinator gardens.

If you are a butterfly enthusiast, you need Shasta lupine in your wildflower garden. This lupine variety attracts quite a few species of butterfly, including the Painted Lady and Silvery Blue, among many others.

It is native to mountainous areas of Northern California and Sierra Nevada. Shasta lupine is commonly used in pollinator gardening because of its popularity with butterflies and bees. 

Plant these California native wildflower seeds in full sun and make sure the soil is well-draining. It is a drought-tolerant plant that is vulnerable to wet soil types. With interesting starbursts of leaves and plum-colored flower racemes, this plant makes a great addition to the native garden.

Heartleaf Milkweed

Clusters of pinkish-purple heartleaf milkweed buds bask in the warm sunlight, preparing to unfurl their delicate petals. The blurred background reveals a lush tapestry of verdant greenery, enhancing the tranquil ambiance of the scene.
Pinkish-purple heartleaf milkweeds serve as an excellent nectar source for adult butterflies.

With so many species of native milkweed to choose from, it would be a shame not to mention the lovely heartleaf milkweed. This small, shrubby wildflower has leaves that are unique to the species and have a different structure than most other milkweed species. The leaves are large, broad, and flat with a vague heart shape and bright green.

Milkweeds are best known for their value to the Monarch butterfly population. Heartleaf is used as a larval food source for these popular pollinators, as all species of milkweed are. In late spring, umbels of pinkish-purple flowers hover over the attractive foliage. The flowers provide an excellent nectar source for adult butterflies.

Narrow-leaf Milkweed

A close-up reveals a bunch of narrow-leaf milkweed flowers, delicate in lavender and white hues, blooming gracefully. Adjacent, slender leaves complement the tiny blooms, completing the elegant botanical composition with their presence.
Plant Narrow-leaf Milkweed in a sunny spot for Monarch butterfly visits.

Another attractive species of milkweed that is native to California is narrow-leaf milkweed. As the name implies, the foliage on this species is delicate and lanceolate in shape. This is a long bloomer, with flowers appearing in early summer and blooming far into the fall months. Large umbels of lavender and white, star-shaped flowers top the tall stems and attract butterflies and other pollinators. 

MIlkweeds are very easy to grow and care for. They are drought tolerant and can grow in poor, gravelly soil with no problems. Plant your narrow-leaf milkweed in a sunny spot and watch the monarch butterflies visit regularly. In fall, collect the seed pods if you prefer not to let this plant reseed, as it will do so freely.

Red Maids

A single, delicate Red Maid flower, tinged with purple hues, rises proudly. Behind it, a blur of verdant greenery sets the stage, enhancing the flower's solitary beauty and highlighting its green center.
These boast magenta flowers and edible seeds rich in healthy fats.

Red maids is another relative of purslane, and its connection is evident in the form of its pretty little magenta flowers, which closely resemble those of the purslane plant. The blooms are small but very bright and cheerful against bright green lanceolate leaves. The entire plant is edible, and the seeds, in particular, are prized for their high content of healthy fats.

These sweet plants have been largely pushed out of their native habitats by aggressive grasses. However, they are classified as fire followers, and they are particularly fond of disturbance. Plant them near a walkway or in an area that regularly receives disturbances, and they will flourish. 

Chaparral False Bindweed

A fully bloomed white Chaparral False Bindweed flower stands tall. A slender stem supports it, while a solitary leaf adds to its natural elegance. In the blurred background, verdant plants create a lush, vibrant backdrop for the pristine bloom.
This native morning glory species offers easy containment due to its deciduous nature.

It can be challenging to find a native flowering vine that is easy to contain in a garden setting. Chaparral false bindweed is a species of morning glory native to most parts of California and Oregon. It has a climbing or rambling habit but is deciduous, so it’s very easy to control by cutting it back in winter. 

Chaparral false bindweed vines are often hairy, grow to about four feet long, and are nice climbers. The white, tubular flowers bloom in singles to groups of four along twisting branches. Plant this woody perennial in full sun in well-drained soil, and expect to see moths and butterflies visiting the garden.

Indian Paintbrush

A close-up reveals the intricate layers of red and soft pink petals in an Indian paintbrush flower, capturing its delicate beauty. In the blurred background, another Indian paintbrush flower adds depth to the vibrant floral scene.
The flowers of Indian Paintbrush are highly attractive to pollinators.

Indian paintbrush grows naturally in coastal areas along most of the West Coast, making it a great plant for coastal gardens with high salinity. It is a hemiparasite that requires other plants to live, so it is perfect for a wildflower or cottage garden where it has plenty of close neighbors.

Tall stems sport lanceolate leaves, all of which are pubescent, giving the entire plant a soft and fuzzy appearance. On top of the stems, large flower clusters appear with yellow flowers blooming from within bright red bracts. The flowers are very showy and attractive to pollinators. 

Miner’s Lettuce

 Two tiny Miner's Lettuce blooms, white and exquisite, captivate attention. A circular leaf complements their elegance. The slender leaves in the soft-focus background create a harmonious and visually appealing composition.
Proper care ensures Miner’s Lettuce leaves remain sweet and tender.

If you have a shaded area of the garden and want a multipurpose plant that is both ornamental and edible, miner’s lettuce is a great option. This California native wildflower is often grown for its culinary use, but it does flower and is quite lovely. This is another purslane relative, with succulent leaves that have a sweet and earthy flavor that is similar to spinach. 

Keeping your miner’s lettuce cool and shaded will keep the leaves sweet and tender, even while the plant is in flower. In mid to late spring, flower stems pop up above the foliage, and small, lacy clusters of white flowers bloom. 

Purple Chinese Houses

A cluster of Purple Chinese House flowers catch the sunlight's gentle rays, their petals shimmering with a vivid hue. They stand amidst a backdrop of luxuriant deep green leaves, forming a vibrant tableau of nature's splendor and tranquility.
These plants require less water and happily coexist with ferns.

Purple Chinese houses are every bit as interesting to look at as they sound. The tall stems are encircled with flowers descending in size as they ascend. The form resembles a pagoda, which is how this fun flowering annual got its name. These pretty flowers come in shades of soft purple, blue, and lavender, often with a white upper lip and delicate, deep purple markings. 

If planted in partial shade, this plant will be more tolerant of dry weather, but in full sun, it will need weekly watering. Under ideal conditions, Purple Chinese Houses will reseed themselves but are not aggressive and mix well with other partial shade-loving plants, such as ferns. 

Pacific Bleeding Heart

Pink flowers of Pacific bleeding hearts dangle gracefully in a delicate line from their slender stems. The warm, golden rays of the sun gently illuminate their soft petals, casting a serene glow upon the tranquil garden scene.
The Pacific bleeding heart features heart-shaped pink blossoms hanging from slender stems.

Another great plant for the more shaded areas of the garden is Pacific bleeding heart. This relative of the poppy grows from rhizomes, which spread and form colonies. If you want to fill in that space with less than optimal sun exposure, this plant is up for the task. The foliage is attractive and fernlike, making it a nice ornamental in and outside of its blooming season.  

The flowers hang downward from slender, curving stems in lines of up to ten blooms. The heart-shaped blossoms are pink with a hint of lavender. In cooler climates, this plant can grow in full sun, but it is likely to stop blooming in summer and then begin again in fall. This can happen in warmer climates as well, even when planted in partial sun.

Ground Iris

A blue ground iris flower stands in full bloom, showcasing its delicate petals and intricate patterns. Surrounding the flower, green leaves sprawl out, their elongated shapes adding a touch of elegance to the scene.
The California native Ground Iris boasts varied flower colors.

This dainty species of iris is a California native and another plant that prefers a more shaded spot. There is a lot of variation in Ground Iris’ flower color, ranging from pale shades of yellow, white, and lavender to deep blue and violet. The flowers have inward-curving sepals that add depth and interest to each bloom as they curl inward away from larger, convex petals. 

Ground Iris likes moist soil but doesn’t tolerate being watered often in the summer. This makes it important to give them afternoon shade, or they will wilt in the heat. You can find these plants growing wild in woodland areas and lightly shaded hillsides. They also tend to grow near streams and other bodies of water. 

Denseflower Willowherb

Tall denseflower willowherb plants reach for the sky, their slender stems adorned with purple flowers and needle-like leaves catching the sunlight's glow. In the background, tall trees stand against a clear blue sky.
This plant features tall stems densely packed with lavender florets.

This fascinating wildflower is great for disturbed areas and spots that may get a lot of seasonal rain with dry summers. It certainly is interesting to look at, with tall stems that are densely packed with leaves and lavender florets that bloom almost the entire length. The stems culminate with the largest flower cluster, which sits at the top.  

Denseflower willowherb is a fast grower that has adapted to fire and other disturbances. It colonizes quickly, so if you’re looking for a flowering plant to fill a significant space in the landscape, this plant does the trick expeditiously

Showy Milkweed

A group of pale purple showy milkweed buds stands amidst clusters of white and purple showy milkweed blossoms, forming a captivating botanical scene. Behind them, green leaves provide a verdant backdrop.
The entire showy milkweed plant is coated with a gentle, fluffy fuzz.

Showy milkweed is another great addition to the wildflower or pollinator garden, and let’s face it, every wildflower garden is also a pollinator garden. I just think that no pollinator garden is complete without at least one species of milkweed, and this is a beautiful one.

Similar to the heartleaf milkweed, this species has larger leaves that are broad compared with most milkweeds. The entire plant, including the unopened buds, is covered in a soft, downy fuzz. The fuzzy pink buds open to reveal white, star-shaped flowers with their pink sepals thrown backward. As milkweeds go, this is one of my favorites.

Silvery Lupine

Silvery lupine plants with purple blossoms stand tall, adding a touch of elegance to the landscape. They are accompanied by tall grasses swaying gently in the breeze, creating a harmonious natural scene.
Highly versatile Silvery Lupine with blue and purple flowers attracts pollinators.

Our last lovely lupine is an undeniably pretty plant that draws pollinators from far and wide with its blue and purple flowers. Silvery lupine is a highly versatile plant that works in most spaces. It tolerates full sun or partial shade and can thrive in dry or moist soil conditions as long as it has proper drainage. 

Tall spikes of lavender and cornflower blue blooms rise above the palmate foliage. Several species of butterflies are drawn to this plant, including the gray hairstreak and silvery blue. Lupines have a long tap root, which makes them more drought tolerant, but as a result, they prefer not to be transplanted and are best grown from seeds. 

Golden Yarrow

A golden yarrow shrub stands proudly in a lush garden, showcasing its stunning yellow flowers. Surrounded by a harmonious mix of greenery, it contributes to the overall tapestry of nature's beauty.
The shrubby Golden Yarrow boasts attractive yellow flowers.

This shrubby wildflower is native to California from San Francisco to San Diego. It grows in large clumps which can reach heights of four to five feet but typically stay closer to two feet tall. The large umbels of yellow flowers are very attractive to pollinators and have an extra long blooming season which lasts from mid-spring through late summer. 

Golden yarrow is very low maintenance and drought tolerant. You will rarely have to pay attention to this plant except to admire it and perhaps snip a few stems for a cheerful cut flower arrangement. 

California Bluebells

A close-up of three vivid California bluebells basking in the warm sunlight. In the background, blurred tall grasses provide a serene and natural backdrop, enhancing the beauty of the bluebells' delicate hues.
Plant California bluebells anywhere for vibrant splashes of color.

This pretty little annual is native to the deserts of California. California bluebells are very drought-tolerant and surprisingly cold-tolerant as well. Their upturned, cobalt blue flowers are bell-shaped, and if you guess that these are popular with local bees, you would be right!

Plant these wildflowers between pavers, in containers, or anywhere you want some splashes of color. They don’t mind poor or sandy soil types and are happy planted in full sun. 

Tidy Tips

A close-up captures vibrant Tidy Tips flowers, bathed in warm sunlight. Each petal boasts a brilliant yellow hue accented by delicate white tips, creating a striking contrast that captivates the eye in nature's exquisite display.
Yellow Tidy Tips require protection from birds for better growth.

My final wildflower is called tidy tips. With a name that cute, you should prepare for a flower that will absolutely make you smile. These blooms are yellow and daisy-like, with a ring of bright white at the tips of the petals. These plants are fantastic for areas that don’t get watered often, as they are very drought tolerant and require little of the gardener. 

In addition to being a lovely, colorful accent in the garden, tidy tips are salt tolerant, and the flowers are fragrant, as well. Broadcast these seeds and press them lightly into the soil. They need light to germinate. Protecting them with a screen to keep birds out will give them a better chance at germination, as birds love to snack on these seeds. 

Final Thoughts

The climate in California varies widely with some areas similar to the Mediterranean region, with mild winters and warm, dry summers. Other parts of the state, coastal areas in particular, can experience more extreme climate shifts, and let’s not forget about the desert. Finding plants that thrive in these environments can be challenging, but planting native wildflowers is a great idea in any part of the country

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