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 A lush animation of intertwined California native plants and flowers
(Maggie Enterrios / For The Times)

12 can’t-miss nurseries for people who love SoCal’s fragrant native plants

Slowly, but as surely as the sun will rise, our Southern California landscape is changing. Recent rains notwithstanding, water is becoming too precious a commodity to use on irrigating huge swaths of thirsty shrubs and residential lawns, especially when those lawns get very little use.

Still, no one wants to see a Southern California covered in gravel or artificial turf. If anything, we need more cooling shade in our urban neighborhoods, as well as flowering shrubs and perennials to provide shelter and food for the insects who pollinate our food and the birds who need those bugs and plants to survive. We want fragrance in our yards, a diversity of plants and, of course, of course, we must have beauty. (Cue the eye-popping dance of California wildflowers.)

Which is why interest in drought-tolerant native plants has been picking up steam over the last decade. Native trees like oaks, elderberry, sycamores and Desert Museum palo verde (Cercidium ‘Desert Museum’) provide abundant shade as well as beauty. Native shrubs like toyon and coffeeberry create beautiful green hedges that shelter and feed birds. Buckwheat and ceanothus provide gorgeous blooms that nourish pollinators. Salvias like white sage and the thick magenta spires of hummingbird sage are factories of fragrance.

With their diversity of flowers, seeds and smells, native plants can be just as beautiful — and far more wildlife-friendly — than the imported ornamentals we’ve grown so used to in Southern California. If you need a living privacy screen, why plant a nonnative species when you can have a dense, fragrant, evergreen laurel sumac hedge whose flowers and berries will attract and feed a multitude of critters?

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Nov. 15, 2022

Clearly, though, there’s a lot to learn with this new way of landscaping, which is why we’ve compiled this list of nurseries that focus on native plants. These are the places where you can explore, learn and eventually buy the plants you need. Even if you’re starting small and just want to create a little native plant habitat on your side yard or patio, these are the nurseries that can best help you achieve your goal.


Most of the nurseries listed here are retail shops, devoted to residential landscapes, but if you have a big project coming up, there are wholesale nurseries that can provide the native plants developers need for parks, for instance, or commercial landscapes — as long as they get adequate notice.

Most wholesale native plant nurseries are focused on supplying retail nurseries or restoration work, so they don’t keep a large inventory of plants that would allow them to quickly supply a big commercial or government project, said Evan Meyer, executive director of the Theodore Payne Foundation, which recently partnered with the Audubon Center at Debs Park to expand its wholesale Los Nogales Native Plant Nursery.

Theodore Payne already grows native plants for its retail nursery and for habitat restoration projects, but the foundation wants to see more resources available for contractors and designers who typically create landscapes based on whatever plants are easiest and cheapest to find.

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April 11, 2023

It’s going to be a learning process, Meyer said. Landscapers and contractors need to start working with native plant growers at the beginning stages of their projects, so the nurseries will have time to grow the quantity of plants needed when they’re ready to plant.


“Our goal is to shore up the availability of [native] plants that work well in landscapes,” Meyer said, “but we also need landscapers to realize the impact they can have by choosing the right plants and coming to us early, so we can create habitat for all our urban landscapes, using the plants [that] birds and other wildlife need to survive.”

Los Nogales Native Plant Nursery won’t be selling to homeowners or other retail customers, but it may occasionally have enough native plants to sell or give away during special events, Meyer said.

Fremontia Horticultural in Ontario has 75 acres of mostly native plants and is entirely focused on large wholesale projects. But other wholesale nurseries offer some guidance to retail customers who seek them out online. El Nativo Growers in Azusa, for instance, doesn’t sell to individuals, but its website lists the dozen or so retail nurseries that do sell its plants and encourages people to order what they want through them. Moosa Creek Nursery in Valley Center has similar recommendations, but it also permits people to order small quantities of plants online and then pick them up and pay for them at a participating nursery.

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April 11, 2023

A few nonprofits, such as the Mojave Desert Land Trust, devote most of their energy to collecting seeds and growing plants native to their regions for restoration work, but once or twice a year they open their doors to the public for popular plant sales. If you’re interested in the plants these organizations grow, you can become a member to support their work, or at least get on their mailing list for notifications about upcoming events.


Luckily there are at least a dozen options in Southern California for people who don’t want to wait for those relatively rare events. Check our list of native plant retail nurseries below, where you should be able to find a wide selection of the plants you need for an entire turf removal project at home or for just filling some pots on your patio to nourish the hummingbirds.

One caveat: Native plant nurseries tend to have a limited number of choices during the hottest months of the year — typically May through September — and some even close down during that time. That’s because many native plants go dormant in the heat of summer. A few, like milkweed, can be planted during the warm months, but typically it’s best to plan your plantings for the late fall or winter, so the plants can slowly develop strong roots during SoCal’s cool and historically rainy season.

Note too that many native plant nurseries have demonstration gardens where you can see what those nondescript plants in 4-inch pots or gallon containers will look like when they’re grown. Take a few minutes to wander the grounds and get acquainted with the aromatic diversity and beauty of California’s original plants — then start your own little habitat oasis and revel in the birds and butterflies that come to call.

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July 7, 2022

And a final insider tip: Many nonprofit retail and wholesale native plant nurseries rely heavily on volunteers, so inquire about whether they need help. At a minimum, a few hours of volunteer work can give you deeper insights into how to grow and maintain native plants. And some places, like the Santa Monica Mountains Fund‘s Rancho Sierra Vista native plant nursery in Newbury Park, go a step farther and “pay” volunteers by giving them three nursery plants in exchange for working at least two hours between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays tending to native plants that will help restore habitat in the fire-ravaged Santa Monica Mountains.


Fresh air, new knowledge, free plants and making a difference? That’s a combo that’s hard to beat.

For the record:

2:02 p.m. April 14, 2023The opening days for all three Plant Material shops are Tuesday through Sunday, not Thursday through Sunday as originally reported.

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A cluster of green plants flanking a gate with an overhead sign that reads Artemisia Nursery
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Artemisia Nursery

El Sereno Plant Shop
This compact, mostly outside nursery in Northeast Los Angeles specializes in California native plants but also sells a selection of vegetable seedlings, herbs, succulents and houseplants. It’s located in a heavily industrial area, between a tire store and an auto repair shop, and parking out front is full of camper-type vehicles that look like they haven’t moved in a while, but there is usually plenty of parking across the street, and Artemisia is definitely worth a visit. Look for its distinctive salmon-pink building, where you’ll also find gardening supplies and a small but interesting collection of pots. The day I went it was pouring rain, but the canopies allowed me to shop without getting too wet, and they provide welcome shade in the summer. This nursery is small, but it packs in a lot of diverse choices (such as five varieties of ceanothus during my soggy visit) with a helpful and knowledgeable staff.
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A long view of plants in a greenhouse
(California Botanic Garden)

Grow Native Nursery at California Botanic Garden

Claremont Native plants, drought-tolerant plants
The Grow Native Nursery is a nonprofit retail nursery that “supports the conservation, education, horticulture and research efforts” of the California Botanic Garden, the state’s largest botanic garden of California native plants. It’s also a great place to find a wide selection of native plants for your garden. The website features an inventory list, and the nursery is open only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Walk through the botanic garden — especially in the spring, when most plants are blooming — to get inspiration for what you want to plant in your yard, then browse the nursery to see if your favorites are available.
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Plants in pots on a gravel driveway with more plants in the background
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Growing Works Nursery

Nursery / Garden Center
Growing Works Nursery is an arm of the nonprofit Turning Point Foundation, which provides support and job training for people with mental health issues. The nursery primarily grows native plants and succulents for wholesale buyers but opens to the public twice a month, on the second and fourth Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The nursery also offers free or low-cost gardening workshops at 10 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of each month. Look for a good selection of native plants in 4-inch and gallon containers, and find more information about the workshops on its website.
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A shed with a large hummingbird painted on it and a "Hahamongna Gardens" sign
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Hahamongna Native Plant Nursery

Pasadena Native plants
This small, mostly volunteer-operated nursery was created to raise plants native to the Pasadena area for habitat restoration in the Arroyo Seco but increasingly, Hahamongna sells to the public too, and has expanded from its weekend-only hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to also be open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. The surrounding grounds have plenty of mature native plants, so visitors can see what those seedlings in the pots will look like once they grow to maturity. Plus, getting to the nursery is a lovely adventure that requires driving through the oak-strewn Hahamongna Watershed Park in the Arroyo Seco, past a youth camp and surrounding stables and into a serene little spot full of birdsong, equestrian whinnies and the constant scuttle of lizards and busy ground squirrels.
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Two people and a dog next to some plants and in front of a van that reads Kill Your Lawn!
(Jensen Hallstrom)

Hardy Californians

Sierra Madre Nursery / Garden Center
Longtime native plant growers and landscapers Portia Besocke and Parker Davis left another nursery to open their own seasonal, pop-up native plant nursery in tony Sierra Madre in late 2022, filling it with a big selection of plants as well as pots, books and their signature L.A. Plants caps. They’re closing their small, lot-sized nursery at the end of May but plan to reopen again in November, during prime native planting time. During the summer and early fall, they’ll still be available for plant sales and landscaping work at Davis’ family home in Arcadia, by appointment only (call or text your request). In the meantime, their pop-up nursery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday under the friendly gaze of Lion the retired service dog. Parking is a bit of a challenge — the small adjoining lot is reserved for another business — but there are usually a few spots of street parking nearby. Look for the nursery’s big white van with its KILL YOUR LAWN! slogan scrawled in red across the side.
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A large tree in the middle of a lush garden with two stone pillars in the distance
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

LA Native Plant Source

Highland Park Nursery / Garden Center
Owner Bruce Schwartz calls LA Native Plant Source a residential micro-nursery dedicated to the growth and protection of hyperlocal native plants, i.e., plants that grow natively in Northeast L.A. Aside from a tiny vegetable garden, Schwartz’s steep, magical property is filled almost entirely with hyperlocal plants, from the sprawling coastal live oaks and fruit-heavy elderberry to light-catching wild grasses and the miraculous orange and red blooms of the spotted Humboldt’s lily (Lilium humboldtii).

Schwartz collects seeds and bulbs from the more than 150 species of native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and wildflowers that grow around his Highland Park home and sells both seeds and plants online for curbside pickup between October and May. All the proceeds from his sales are donated to the Theodore Payne Foundation, which featured his garden in its annual Native Plant Garden Tour in 2022. Insider tip: Schwartz is also a marvelous writer whose regular blog weaves tips for growing native plants into humorous and thoughtful prose, so do yourself a favor and subscribe to his newsletter.
Island mallow hybrid blooming in the foreground with rows of potted plants in the background
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Matilija Nursery

Nursery / Garden Center
A visit to Matilija Nursery is part browsing for native plants and part glorious outing to an open-air nursery in a small, sunny canyon surrounded by mature trees, crowing roosters and plenty of birdsong. Owner Bob Sussman sells a large variety of native plants, but he’s also well known for breeding more heat-tolerant varieties of Pacific irises that grow natively from Santa Barbara to western Washington, as well as non-native tall bearded reblooming irises, so named because they bloom in the spring and fall in a riot of sumptuous colors. Try to visit in the spring, when the nursery is awash in fragrance and color. Open 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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A butterfly alighting on a plant
(Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy)

Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy Native Plant Nursery

Rolling Hills Estates Nursery / Garden Center
Like many nonprofit native plant nurseries, Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy’s nursery is focused on growing native plants for habitat restoration on its more than 1,600 acres of preserved open space in Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and San Pedro, with the goal of supporting both human enjoyment and endangered creatures such as the El Segundo blue butterfly (pictured above resting on its host plant, seacliff buckwheat). But the nursery also offers online sales of more than two dozen plants native to the peninsula for pickup at its offices in Rolling Hills Estates. Conservation Director Cris Sarabia says the conservancy also hopes to start selling a few plants at its nature centers later this year.
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A patio filled with plants, with a shelf of terracotta pots at left
(Plant Material )

Plant Material

Glassell Park Edible, native, drought-tolerant plants
Terremoto landscape architect David Godshall, who co-founded Plant Material with business partner Matt Burrows, likens this nursery’s aesthetic and spirit to a “punk-rock plant shop.” You’ll find indoor and outdoor plants at their three L.A. nurseries, with a heavy focus on native plants and seeds, along with certified organic vegetable and herb seedlings and regionally appropriate drought-tolerant plants. They also offer a small selection of garden tools, soils and amendments and useful accessories. The Glassell Park location is a little oasis of birdsong and greenery on traffic-heavy Eagle Rock Boulevard, and there are two additional locations, one at 3081 Lincoln Ave. in a repurposed Altadena gas station and another at 3024 La Paz Drive in Silver Lake. All three locations are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
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A person pulls a red cart full of green plants past a sign for the Theodore Payne Foundation.
(Marie Astrid Gonzalez)

Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery

Shadow Hills Native plants
The Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to researching and preserving native plants, restoring native habitat and propagating and growing a huge selection of native shrubs, trees, wildflowers, bulbs and seeds, is the center of SoCal’s native plant universe. Visit the nursery and demonstration garden Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for inspiration, and pop into its store for collections of seeds for wildflower displays and pollinators, as well as related books, art and other items. TPF also maintains the Wild Flower Hotline, providing regular updates in the spring about the best wildflower-viewing spots, and puts on the Native Plant Garden Tour, a self-directed walking tour of more than 30 Los Angeles-area yards where at least 50% of the landscaping involves native plants.
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Tall redwood trees and a winding staircase at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

The Nursery at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Nursery / Garden Center
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a gorgeous day-trip destination, with hundreds of California native plants to enjoy in their maturity, many of which can be purchased (in their infancy) at the garden’s nursery. You can see the prices and selection of available plants online and order for pickup. Or you can shop the offerings in person without plunking down the $20 general admission fee. But if you’re making the trip anyway, give yourself a terrific gift and spend some time wandering this lovely garden to see how beautiful and diverse native plantings can be.
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A path lined with pots of plants
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Tree of Life Nursery

Native plants
In the late 1970s, Mike Evans started a nursery dedicated to growing and selling California native plants on 40 acres in the hills outside San Juan Capistrano. In those days, the location was remote and other nursery owners thought he was nuts — who wanted to landscape with plants many regarded as weeds? But, some 40 years later, Tree of Life Nursery is thriving when many of its competitors have closed their doors. Visit this nursery Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. just to savor the fragrant plants, marvel at the rustic buildings made from straw bales covered with adobe plaster, and browse the selection of books, gifts and an exceptional collection of containers. Just try leaving without buying at least one of the more than 500 species of California native plants — one of the largest collections in Southern California.
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