California Native Shade Garden

3 California Natives that Thrive Under Oak Trees

Planting under oaks can be a challenge – a challenge many LA residents address by placing rock under the tree canopy. This seemingly elegant solution can lead to oaks dying of thirst, even in an El Nino year.

Help our oaks make the most of expected rain by planting shade-loving California natives under oak canopies. A shade garden adds color, fragrance and vitality while letting water permeate to the tree’s roots.


Power pink Hummingbird Sage propagating in the California native shade garden at the La Canada drought tolerant Gardens of the World.

Salvia spathacea, aka Hummingbird Sage, California native: We frequently sing the praises of these succulent blooms and their intoxicating fragrance.

Hummingbird Sage

Let’s face it – everyone likes LA’s it girl. Even picky oaks seem to create a stage for her magic-wand blooms.  While others might be crushed by fall leaf litter, she propagates bringing more and more blooms as years go by.  If you don’t like the marsala flowers featured here, try power pink or apricot.  By any name, Hummingbird Sage smells just as sweet.


Festuca 'Siskiyou Blue'Idaho Fescue in the California Native Garden of La Canada's drought tolerant Gardens of the World shows only light wear and tear after nearly five years of drought.

Blue IdealMow Meadows

Pair oaks with blue IdealMow meadows for a glitzy fall glow.  Mow the fescues for a lawn-like look or let them grow into ornamental mounds.  The charming grey-blue of Idaho Fescue appears silver when contrasted with the golden leaves of oak in autumn and winter.  While traditional turf fails, California Native Fescues like Idaho Fescue thrive in the shade provided by oaks and can withstand natural levels of litter.



Photo courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundationformla2016_highres_ribesbattChaparral Currant

Pink flowers in spring, golden fruit in the fall, Chaparral currant feeds the native birds, butterflies and beneficials that make California native oaks their home.

Chaparral Current photos courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundation. Hummingbird Sage (right) and Blue Meadow (left) photos courtesy of Las Pilitas Nursery