Revel in Hot-Winter


Dormant isn’t dead! Here’s how to get through LA’s Plant-Winter

August 8, 2023. By JT Wilkinson: Where the four seasons change, people see and expect plant cycles. Falling leaves. Bulbs sleeping under snow. In the last couple of years, I’ve come to see the heat of late summer as LA’s winter. Some plants lose leaves. Some need rest. Here’s what it takes to thrive through LA’s distinctive dormancy period.

Deadhead: Cleveland Sage, Buckwheats, Lilac Verbena

As these blooms go to seed, we cut them back to produce more blooms through summer. We leave some seeds for the birds, and work to keep nectar available as long as we can.

In late summer, deadheading won’t really spark more blooms, and birds have usually taken most of the seeds. Cleveland Sage (Salvia Clevelandii), Lilac Verbena (Verbena lilacina) and the Buckwheat sisters (Eriogonum grande rubescens,Eriogonum umbellatum, Eriogonum fasciculatum polifolium, and yes even Eriogonum latifolium) will noticeably slow down bloom production and may even seem to die back.

They are not dead! They do tend to have some dry material. We deadhead to remove dry blooms, stalks and even some foliage. It’s a good practice in any garden. It’s important where there is high sensitivity to fire.

Cut Back Foliage: White Sage, Deer Grass, Some IdealMow Meadows

Like a tree losing its leaves in preparation for a Wisconsin winter, some California native foliage will appear to completely dry out. It isn’t dead!

Some the grasses that form IdealMow meadows will need sleep, and we may cut them back to help. This may mean a normally lush meadow may look more like a traditional lawn for some portion of fall and again in early spring.

It may also look like Deer Grass and White Sage are no longer with us. Don’t give up on them! Rather than watch our friends wilt, we cut them back to a level appropriate to the energy they have to give. In the case of Deer Grass and White Sage, this is to the ground. The deep prune will help ensure they maintain a form appropriate to your design and keep your outdoor space free of dry material.


Enjoy: Of course we still have blooms!

Just because some of our spring and summer favorites need a little rest doesn’t mean LA’s native gardens go into full hibernation. With many show-stoppers sleeping, it’s easier to notice consistent performers, like Indian Mallow, Bladderpod, Seaside Daisy and the Yarrows. Check out who is Blooming Now in August.

More Information

Give It a Rest (Dormancy)
Keep Your Garden Party Lit Year Round
Vote for Autumn
We discussed dormancy and autumn maintenance during Theodore Payne Foundation’s innovative 2021 Native Plant Garden Tour.