Why aren’t wildflowers bursting everywhere? Don’t expect a superbloom

California native flowers with bees and a butterfly.
(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

We have lots of plant-related activities to tell you about this month, but first, a few words about California’s favorite blooms: They’re late.

We are starting to see some wildflowers popping in Southern California, but the eagerly anticipated displays have been sparse so far, likely due to the rain and chilly temperatures we had in March, including last weekend’s storm, said botanist Naomi Fraga, director of conservation programs at the California Botanic Garden, the state’s largest botanic garden devoted to California native plants.

She’s still optimistic we’ll see a nice wildflower bloom but probably not before mid April, she said in a text. “I think temperatures need to start being consistently in the 80s for things to perk up, and I expect we’ll have a really nice wildflower year once it warms up, but I don’t think we will have what qualifies as a ‘Superbloom,’” where flowers carpet entire hillsides or canyons.


The recent rains have made 2024 a fabulous year for flowers — just in time for spring garden tours around Southern California. Here’s a list of intriguing tours.

March 19, 2024

“Some people say that if we get two years in a row with lots of rain, it tends to favor the weeds the second year,” she added, a prediction that appears to be coming true in my yard at least.

A woman stands in a field of purple, yellow and white wildflowers in Borrego Springs.
Julie Szmyd of San Diego is surrounded by a field of wildflowers including desert sunflower, purple sand verbena and white dune evening primrose on Henderson Canyon Road east of Borrego Valley Road in Borrego Springs on March 10, 2024.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

While wildflowers can be seen, at least for a while longer, in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, they’re sparse elsewhere at popular spots like Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve (lots of wavy grass, very few blooms) and Chino Hills State Park (ditto). Flowers are starting to appear around the Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County, but many are racing against fast-growing grasses to be seen, according to the Carrizo Plain Conservancy’s 2024 Carrizo Wildflower Alert. You can also check out the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s Flower Bloom Updates to stay informed.

However, wildflowers aren’t the only wild flora show in SoCal. Both Fraga and Theodore Payne Foundation Executive Director Evan Meyer say there are many shrubs blooming beautifully in the hills around Los Angeles. Ceanothus — a.k.a. California lilac — have been coloring hills in white and purple, and Meyer said there’s also lots of sunny canyon sunflowers and bush poppies in flower along with a variety of glossy-leaved ribes commonly known as currants.

Savvy L.A. gardeners usually start planting before April, but after weeks of rain, is it OK to plant in the mud? Expert Yvonne Savio offers tips, plus April garden events.

March 31, 2023

Meyer recommends checking the foundation’s Wild Flower Hotline every Friday online or by calling (818) 768-1802 ext. 7 to read or hear the latest reports of wildflower blooms, and keep your fingers crossed, “I still think it’s going to be a very good year!” he said in a text. “Probably not as good as last year but still pretty great.”

And just remember, like Fraga says, “All blooms are super.”

Tidy tips grow among California poppies on a hillside.
Tidy tips grow among California poppies on a hillside near Angeles Forest Highway and Sierra Highway, in Palmdale on March 19, 2024.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of which, April is now National Native Plant Month. And all those tiny cheers you hear are from our nation’s indigenous animals, especially the birds, bees and butterflies threatened by waning sources for food and shelter.

OK, some of those cheers are coming from humans as well, such as members of the Garden Club of America, who have been lobbying since 2022 to get the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives along with all 50 states to approve this declaration, and March 20, 2024, was the first year it all came together. (In case you didn’t know, the California State Assembly declared the third week of April as Native Plant Week in 2010, and in 2023, passed Concurrent Resolution No. 49 making April California Native Plant Month a permanent annual event, to encourage “community groups, schools, and citizens to undertake appropriate activities to promote the conservation, restoration, and appreciation of California’s native plants.”)

Tearing out your lawn but still want a swath of green? Try planting water-saving (and labor-reducing!) California native grasses instead.

Jan. 30, 2024

You’ll note there’s no money tied to that appreciation, but hey, recognition is a good start and there are oodles of opportunities to celebrate plants this month — native and otherwise — which I’ve listed below. It doesn’t hurt that April 22 is also Earth Day, the perfect time to work on restoring natural areas damaged or destroyed by human activities, and April is generally prime time for all things blooming, from roses in botanic gardens to our state treasure — California wildflowers.

L.A. Times Plants is doing its bit on April 20-21 by partnering with the Theodore Payne Foundation and the California Native Plant Society to promote native plants at booth 404 at the L.A. Times’ annual Festival of Books at USC’s main campus in University Park. We’ll be handing out our special blend of California wildflower seeds — in frame-able packets designed by L.A. Times illustrator Patrick Hruby — in a booth filled with pots of fragrant California native plants, supplied by the Theodore Payne Foundation. The native plant nonprofit will have their experts and other displays on hand to answer your questions and folks from the California Native Plant Society — the people who give us the Calscape database of native plants — will be helping visitors create lists of the best native plants for their landscape based on their ZIP Code and growing conditions.

People visit the L.A. Times Plants booth at the 2023 Festival of Books.
Festival of Books attendees learn about native plants and seeds at the 2023 L.A. Times Plants booth.
(Varon Panganiban / Festival of Books)
A woman in a hat sniffs a plant at the 2023 L.A. Times Plants booth at the Festival of Books.
A Festival of Books attendee sniffs a sweetly fragrant hummingbird sage at the 2023 L.A. Times Plants booth.
(Varon Panganiban / Festival of Books)

The booths are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and you’ll find me there both days, along with Features Editor Brittany Levine Beckman, passing out free seeds, copies of a special native plant print package and stickers, as well as selling enamel plant pins. If you want a quieter scene, Brittany and I will also be talking about the best native plants to grow for beautiful long-lasting bouquets from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 (look for my story about this online tomorrow). You can stand in line to get into this and other Meet the Reporter talks, but if you want a guaranteed seat, reservations are $6 and will be available starting April 14. Download the free Festival of Books app to stay up to date about this and other events.

By the way, the California Native Plant Society is planning a big reveal at the end of the month, said Public Affairs Director Liv O’Keeffe, with an updated version of Calscape that provides more landscape designs as well as lists of native plant landscape designers, photos of native plants in landscapes and containers, and an easier way to find all the plants native to your area. The goal is to make the site feel less like a sometimes clunky database and more like “a useful tool for people and policy makers,” she said, “so everyday people can do something to make a difference.”

If you’ve removed your lawn and want native plants in your new landscape, check out these ground covers recommended by pros, plus a list of October plant events.

Oct. 1, 2023

The goal is for the new site to go live on Earth Day, April 22, O’Keeffe said. Which might be around the same time our wildflowers finally start blooming en masse.

In other plant news...

If you’re inspired by other people’s gardens, be sure to check our list of SoCal garden tours that extend into May. There are several options involving native plants, including the Prisk Native Plant Garden Open House in Long Beach on April 7 and 14, which is free, and the Theodore Payne Foundation’s annual Native Plant Garden Tour of some 40 landscapes around Los Angeles on Aug. 13 and 14. Note that Theodore Payne’s garden tour tickets are sold out online but still available if you purchase them in person at the foundation’s office Tuesdays through Saturdays for $55.

And native plants aren’t the only things blooming. Tom Carruth, curator of the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanic Gardens’ extensive rose garden, posted a sweet video on Instagram in late March, explaining that the roses are only now leafing out, in a lovely variety of leaf colors and styles. In a text exchange later, Carruth said he generally tells people “to pay their taxes on April 15, and then come to admire the roses,” because peak bloom usually happens in the middle of April. But with our cool, wet spring this year he said that bloom could be pushed to late in April.


Other botanic gardens are reporting lots of blooms too, including South Coast Botanic Garden in Rolling Hills Estates, which planted more than 21,000 bulbs last fall for its Bloom! project and expects a gorgeous display of all kinds of flowers (think freesias, daffodils and gladiolus, not tulips) starting today. And if you love colorful floral displays, there’s a sweet pea maze for children and fields of blooming ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad.

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Upcoming events

If you’d like to include events in our monthly garden calendar, email information by the third week of the preceding month to

April 5 & 12
Spring Plant Sale sponsored by Orange Coast College Horticulture, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the college in Costa Mesa features ornamental plants, herbs and vegetable seedlings propagated by horticulture students. Admission is free.

April 6
Orange County Master Gardeners Pop-Up Plant Giveaway, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Rancho Santa Margarita offers free instruction in hydroponics, composting, vermiculture, bee tending and growing tomatoes, peppers, herbs, succulents and houseplants, as well as a plant giveaway (one per person) and sale of 26 tomato varieties, seven pepper varieties, California native plants and other plants, with a free native milkweed plant to each visitor who takes a guided garden tour at the site. Plant prices start at $2, cash only.

Heavy winter rains have wakened the fungal spores in our soil. Tomatomania owner Scott Daigre explains how to keep tomatoes fungus free, plus Southern California plant events.

May 1, 2023

Monarch Nature Trail Volunteer Day, 9 to 11 a.m. in Huntington Beach. Volunteers (including children accompanied by adults) will pull weeds, mulch, plant and water native plants as part of the ongoing work to create a pollinator-friendly trail. Volunteers should bring drinking water and are encouraged to wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and sunscreen. There are no toilets on site.

A garden at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert.
(The Living Desert)

For the record:

2:34 p.m. April 1, 2024An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Living Desert & Zoo is in Palm Springs. It is located in Palm Desert.

April 6-7
First Xerophilous Celebration at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert, with guided tours, presentations and the sale of xerophilous native plants (i.e., plants adapted to a very dry climate) propagated from the zoo’s 52 botanical gardens and 1,200 plant species, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day. The gardens are expected to be in full bloom. Adult tickets for both days are $69.90; otherwise daily admission costs are $39.95 for adults and $29.95 for ages 3-17. Children under 3 enter free.

April 10
Tomatoes A-Z, a presentation by the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County and Surf City Gardeners, is a free, comprehensive look at all things tomato, from the plant’s history to the best varieties and growing practices, 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Community Center in Huntington Beach.

April 13
San Clemente Garden Club Garden Fest, in partnership with the city of San Clemente’s parks department, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the San Clemente Community Center, is billed as “San Clemente’s biggest, best plant sale and garden/household goods flea market.” The annual event also includes a Funky Container Contest (containers for plants), craft and gardening activity centers for children, free garden tool sharpening (two per person) and information about master gardening, composting, tool cleaning and water conservation. Admission is free.

Nature Education Walk through the Taft Gardens Nature Preserve with naturalist author Lanny Kaufer, who will identify native plants and wildlife on trails not normally open to the public, 10 a.m. to noon. Tickets are $40.

April 14
Kokedama Creation Workshop taught by visual artist JiaHao Peng involves the ancient Japanese tradition of creating self-contained moss ball gardens. The workshop is in Downtown L.A. from 9 to 11 a.m. and all materials are provided. Tickets are $125.

A  simply furnished room in Hollyhock House, with a padded arm chair, side table and abstract ikebana floral dislay
An exhibit of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, by Los Angeles architect Ravi GuneWardena at the Hollyhock House.
(Hiroshi Clark)

April 18-21 and 25-28
Ikebana for Hollyhock House a fresh-flower exhibition of more than 30 arrangements using the Japanese art of flower arranging by Los Angeles architect and ikebana artist Ravi GuneWardena. Tours of the extraordinary house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are available Thursdays through Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Last entry at 3:30 p.m.) and advance reservations are suggested. Tickets are $7 or $3 for students 18+ with ID and seniors 65+, children under 18 enter free with paying adult. On April 20, four ikebana masters from the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, where GuneWardena studied, will give free ikebana demonstrations at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

April 20-21
Earth Day Celebration and Habitat Restoration at Hopkins Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, sponsored by the South Bay Parkland Conservancy. Restoration work is set for April 20 from 10 a.m. to noon and noon to 2 p.m. Participants will dig holes, plant and water native trees and plants and weed invasive plants. Volunteers must sign a waiver to participate. Expect vendors, music, crafting activities, education seminars and a luncheon on April 21 Go to to sign up for restoration work. Luncheon tickets are $20.

Friends of the L.A. River Habitat Restoration at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve and Extravaganza at Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park in Elysian Valley. The restoration work on April 20 from 8 a.m. to noon includes removing invasive plant species, creating native plant seedballs and learning about the plants and birds in the reserve. On April 21, expect music, food trucks, an “eco-friendly marketplace,” inflatable obstacle course, hands-on workshops and art activities and informational vendors at the park named after the founder of Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) from noon to 4 p.m. Sponsors include Niagara Bottlings, M20 Inc., REI, the city of Long Beach and the Metropolitan Water District. Admission is free but pre-registration is required for the April 20 restoration work.

April 20
Foraging & Cooking Class with herbalist and naturalist Jaskrit Bhalla, learn how to identify medicinal and nutritional weedy plants that grow in wild and urban spaces around Los Angeles and then create — and eat! — a pesto, green soup and herby ricotta stuffed with nasturtiums, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Griffith Park. Tickets are $75.

April 21
California Botanic Garden presents Arrange Wild: Wildflower Floral Design taught by horticulturist Jennifer Chebahtah and members of the garden’s Native Designs volunteer group. Learn how to make beautiful bouquets from native flowers. All materials provided with $70 registration, ($60 for members).

Urban Farms of L.A. Third Spring Plant Sale in Silver Lake includes summer vegetable starts (including unusual varieties and classics), native plants and baked goods, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Admission is free but you must reserve a spot.


Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy Earth Day Beauty of Nature Film Presentation of “Giants Rising,” a film produced in partnership with the Redford Center about the mysteries and safeguarding of redwood trees, 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Dana Middle School in San Pedro. Tickets are $10 online, $15 at the door.

Foraging Hike in Temescal Canyon with permaculture farmer and forager Ethan DeLorenzo includes lessons in how to identify edible native and invasive plants growing in the West L.A. canyon, and a picnic using those plants afterward from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are $40.

April 25-28
34th Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, includes eight outdoor living spaces designed by Southern California landscape designers, dozens of plant and garden-related vendors, guided tours of the plaza’s collection of rare palm trees and a 25-foot tall floral centerpiece. The show is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 25-27 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 28. Admission is free.

April 25
Propagating California Native Plants From Cuttings with Tim Becker, horticulture director of the Theodore Payne Foundation, from 9 a.m. to noon at the foundation nursery in Sun Valley. Tickets are $85 ($75 for members) and include all materials. Each participant will leave with a flat of 50 starts for their own garden.

April 26
Fire-Resilient Gardens: A Maintenance Walk and Talk with Theodore Payne Foundation native plant nurseryman Erik Blank, 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the foundation’s demonstration garden in Sun Valley. The class is free but advance registration is required.

April 27
Gardening Practices & Techniques, a class with farmer and educator Francis River about the basics of starting and maintaining an organic and regenerative farm or garden, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Avenue 33 Farm in Lincoln Heights. Tickets are $30 and all proceeds go Los Angeles Leadership High School garden programs.


What we’re reading

Gardening is one of my tried and true ways to relieve stress, but on days when I’m chained to my desk, this 20-second technique sounds pretty appealing too.

I’m a big recycling fan, and Kim Dakota’s delightful story about mending instead of tossing old clothes makes me nostalgic for the good old days, when you weren’t anybody if your jeans didn’t have hand-sewn patches.

California is my home, and I love it here, but to be honest, a big part of my heart is still in the Northwest (shout-out Wenatchee!), so my colleague Christopher Reynolds’ delicious, inspiring and sometimes exasperating adventures in Vancouver, B.C. — the “California of Canada” — were a must-read.

And lastly, my colleague Adam Tschorn has a real knack for making life fun, and his deep dive into how he creates his weekly L.A. Times News Quiz is no exception.