Choosing Native Plants

You might be surprised to learn just how showy many native shrubs and perennials can be. If you have never seen the native western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), wait for June and head for Bassi Falls or Loon Lake where these roadside plants are gorgeous. If you love snapdragons, investigate the penstemons for a more native approach to a similar flower. For other good places to see natives growing naturally, check out Plant Places and Gardens to Visit.

When choosing natives plants for your garden, it is best to choose plants that are native not only to California, but native to El Dorado County. Even better is to choose plants native to your specific area of the county!

Native plant online resources

Three excellent resources are:

  • – See what plants grow in your area.
  • – Learn what native plants would be good for gardens in your area. You can actually input your address, receiving valuable information on finding native plants good for your particular area, as well information on growing the plants once you have them.
  • WUCOLS (Water Use Classification Of Landscape Species) – Choose native plants that will need very little water. On this site, you will find our foothill communities listed individually under “Central Valley.” Be sure and select the “N (California Native)” box to get California natives.
  • CNPLX (California Native Plant Link Exchange) – Select local native plants for any location in the state, and find out who sells them. Visit these pages: Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, and Ferns

Note: Another thing you can do with CNPLX is to pick a particular El Dorado County tree (Fraxinus latifolia for instance), and ask to see what other plants have been observed growing nearby.

Plant lists

Specific lists of plants for some of the various gardening situations on the West Slope of our county:

Wildlife friendly gardening choices

For more on choosing native plant especially beneficial to wildlife click here, visit our Attracting Wildlife page.


Another helpful approach is to just look and see what grows nearby naturally. Observing plants growing in wild areas near you, however small, at various times of year can be very helpful.

So where do you find these plants to buy?

The good news is that there are loads of great looking flowers, shrubs, and trees that will augment your natural vegetation. The bad news is that it can be hard to find these plants in El Dorado County. Part of the problem is that native plants do not always do well in pots. Visit our Nurseries page for suggestions on where to purchase native plants in and around our area.