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California Native Plants for Slopes

In southern California, it seems, the majority of homeowners, landscapers and gardeners have some sort of slope to deal with. In most cases graded slopes are extremely difficult to plant, often with poor, compacted soil and steep grades. There are several variables to consider when choosing plant material for a slope: the location and microclimate involved (inland, coastal, high winds, extreme temperature…), the direction or exposure of the slope, erosion factors, soil type and the stability of the slope and soil conditions.

Suitable low water and low maintenance choices for a slope, to replace traditional generally sterile plantings of ivy and ice plant, include an assortment of regionally appropriate grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. These plants are naturally adapted to our environment and require fewer resources and less labor to care for them. By using a variety of plants on your slope, you can achieve a refreshing, diverse and visually stimulating slope landscape. Proper spacing and plant selection will cut down on pruning maintenance and competition for moisture. The diversity in the landscape will bring back the pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds and songbirds. For more information on slope planting, watering and other slope questions please call us or stop in at our retail store, Casa la Paz.

Slope Staples

Large and Medium Shrubs

Sunny and Hot
Botanical Name Common NameType/Shape
Baccharis speciesCoyote bushLarge shrubs
Ceanothus speciesCalifornia lilacLarge shrubs
Cercocarpus speciesMountain mahoganyTree
Heteromeles arbutifoliaToyonLarge shrub
Sambucus nigra ssp. caeruleaElderberrySmall tree/ large shrub
Rhus ovataSugarbushLarge shrub
Sunny and Cooler
Arctostaphylos species and varietiesManzanitaTree, shrub and groundcover options
Artemisia californicaCoastal sagebrushMedium shrub
Atriplex lentiformisCoastal quail bushMedium shrub
Rhus integrifoliaLemonade berryLarge shrub

Partial Shade
Rhamnus speciesCoffeeberryMedium shrub


Aristida purpureaPurple three-awnFountain shape
Leymus speciesWild ryeLarge fountain
Muhlenbergia rigensDeer grassMedium fountain
Stipa speciesNeedlegrassFountain & mounding

Small Shrubs and Ground Covers

Sunny and Hot
Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’Prostrate coyote bushGroundcover
Ceanothus species and varieties California lilacGroundcover to upright forms
Peritoma arboreaBladderpodMedium shrub
Encelia farinosaBrittlebushSmall shrub
Eriogonum speciesBuckwheatSmall shrub
Salvia species and varietiesSageSmall to medium shrubs
Hesperoyucca whippleiChaparral yuccaLarge succulent
Sunny and Cooler
Arctostaphylos species and
ManzanitaMany forms
Encelia californicaCoast sunflowerMedium shrub
Iva hayesianaSan Diego marsh elderGroundcover
Corethrogyne “Silver Carpet’Silver carpet asterGroundcover
Partial Shade
Ribes viburnifoliumEvergreen currantGroundcover
Salvia ‘Tera Seca’Tera seca sageGroundcover
Symphoricarpos mollisCreeping snowberryGroundcover

*In most cases “Sunny and Hot” plants would work for “Sunny and Cool” locations as well.