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Tips For Winter Gardening In California

Nan Sterman's garden is filled with California native plants.

Credit: Nan Sterman

Above: Nan Sterman's garden is filled with California native plants.

Nan Sterman, garden journalist and host of the KPBS show "A Growing Passion"


Gardening Tips From Nan Sterman

  • Frame views with two tall plants
  • Don't place spiky plants along walkways
  • Don't put anything that will grow tall in front of a window
  • Layer plants from the largest to the smallest

The lack of water in California may cause some people to think twice about the plants they add to their garden.

But just because a plant is identified as drought-resilient doesn’t mean it won’t need water.

Gardening expert Nan Sterman, who has written three books on gardening with native and low-water plant species, said drought-tolerant plants will need water until their roots have been established.

“All plants need an establishment period and they need to be kept damp, not wet, but damp so they have the chance to root,” Sterman told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “You have to water them until they are established and then you can cut back.”

Sterman said it can take more than a year for a plant to establish its roots.

Another common mistake people make when buying plants is not taking the size of the plant into consideration, she said.

When plants are too large, they will require more pruning, which leads to more green waste. Sterman said picking smaller plants will result in less work for gardeners.

She said the best variety of plants to have this time of year are those suited for California's Mediterranean climate and plants native to the four other Mediterranean climates of the world. She recommended chaparral, sage and liacs.

"Because it's cool, the plants don't get heat stressed," Sterman said. "[Plants] don't go through so much transplant shock when the weather cools."

Her best tip: pay attention to the plant.

“It's really more trial and error,” she said.

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