While our mild Mediterranean climate makes it possible to plant year-round, with the soil still warm and the rainy season ahead of us, now to the end of January is Southern California’s prime planting season.
The reason is simple; the weather has cooled enough to make life less stressful not only for us, but for our new plants. Plants need time to grow roots so they can find necessary moisture and nutrients and with the sun low in the sky, moisture doesn’t transpire as quickly from leaves or evaporate from the ground.
But don’t expect to see a lot of action because most of the growth is below ground. While cooling days may shut down top growth, roots will grow in a soil still warm from summer. In spring, you’ll see dramatic results as the leafy growth explodes, thanks to all those new roots. It’s a hard-to-beat combo: less stress, root growth and rain.
What to plant
It’s easier to list what NOT to plant:
- Subtropical and tropical plants such as avocados, bananas, citrus, gingers and hibiscus will do better planted in warming, rather than cooling, weather because they do most of their growing then.
- Roses and deciduous fruit trees, such as apples and peaches, are more available during the January-February bare-root season
Just about everything else in the landscape benefits from fall planting: trees, shrubs and ground covers, especially those from similar Mediterranean climates. And California natives, which are often difficult to get going at any other time of the year, are a natural for fall planting.
Some annual flowers and vegetables grow only in late fall, winter and early spring, so they need to be planted sometime soon. Good choices in cool-season bedding plants include annual African daisy, sweet alyssum, calendula, Canterbury bell, English daisy, Iceland poppy, larkspur, lobelia, pansy, annual phlox, ranunculus, stock, sweet pea, sweet William and viola. Ornamental cabbage and kale are two bedding plants grown for foliage, not flowers. In shady spots, try primroses and florist’s cyclamen.
It is also time to plant spring flowering bulbs. (See September’s Thought’s & Fancies.)