23 Flowering Perennials for California Garden Spaces

Looking for some flowering perennials to brighten up your California garden? There are many different perennial options to choose from, depending on what part of the state you are gardening in. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at some of the top perennial flowers you can plant this season in the Golden State.

Flowering Perennials For California Gardens

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California gardeners are fortunate to live in a place with immensely rich gardening possibilities. Regardless of whether you have sun or shade, wet or dry soil, warm or more temperate climate, you will have a plethora of beautiful flowering perennial plants to choose from.

California is a highly diverse state. You will find local climates ranging from cool and moist to hot and dry. From the north to the south, from coastal to mountains to desert, California encompasses more USDA hardiness zones than any other state, including zones 5 through 11.

Because California is so geographically diverse, gardeners in each region will have their own unique plants to grow. Starting perennial plants from seed can be rewarding, can save money, and offers the adventurous gardener a wide range of interesting options. Young greenhouse-grown flowering perennials can also be found at nurseries, garden centers, and online specialty merchants.

Whether you have a single container-grown perennial, or an entire landscape full of flowering plants, gardening is a very rewarding activity. In this article, take a deeper look at some of our favorite flowering perennials that can be grown in California gardens.

Anise Hyssop

Several tall flower stalks with small purple, spiky flowers clustered up each flower stalk.
This perennial has long bloom times and is great for attracting pollinators to your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Agastache foeniculum
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 8

Anise hyssop is an easy-to-grow herbaceous perennial with fragrant leaves and flowers. The pale lavender flowers attract numerous beneficial insects, including butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, making this an excellent plant for a pollinator garden. With a long bloom season, you can enjoy these anise hyssop flowers throughout the summer and into fall.

Anise hyssop prefers a location with full sun but also tolerates partial shade. This plant needs well-drained soil and once established, is drought tolerant.

Plants will spread by seeds and rhizomes, so be prepared to give them plenty of space to roam or divide larger clusters as necessary to control sprawl.

Astilbe ‘Astary Pink’

Clusters of flowers with big, bright, light pink, plumes of feathery petals and small, pointy, green leaves with jagged edges.
The Astilbe ‘Astary Pink’ will thrive best in an area with consistent shade and moist soil.
botanical-name botanical name Astilbe x arendsii ‘Astary Pink’
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 0.75 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Astilbe is a consistent winner in the home garden. This beautiful perennial flower has big, bright plumes of feathery flowers that bloom in late spring. The spent flowerheads are long-standing and may remain on the plant through the rest of summer and into fall. A multitude of pollinators come to visit the flowers, making this plant a great option for a butterfly garden.

Astilbe likes moist soil and consistent shade. In very hot, dry areas, the foliage will die back soon after flowering. Given enough shade and moisture, however, you can enjoy the coarsely fern-like foliage for most of the growing season.

Astilbe is a low-maintenance plant that will slowly grow into a large clump. Clumps can be divided every few years to prevent overcrowding.

Bear’s Breeches

Thick tall flower stalks, lined with showy, hooded, pinkish-maroon and white flowers.
This perennial is a vigorous grower that can reach a height of 3 to 5 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Acanthus mollis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3 to 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 10

Bear’s Breeches is a tall and bold perennial. Large, sturdy, dark green, palmate leaves grow into a dense clump. Thick flower stalks emerge, fully lined with showy, hooded, pinkish-maroon, and white flowers.

Beware of sharp spiny bracts along the flower heads, as these can be rather painful if carelessly grabbed. Flowers are long-standing, and foliage may remain evergreen in warmer climates.

Bear’s breeches can grow rather aggressively by vigorous root sprouts, so take care as you decide where to plant it. One way to control the spread is to plant it in a container.

Another way to control growth is to install a physical barrier to prevent the plant from growing outside of a pre-determined boundary. Plants can also spread by seed but can be controlled by the attentive removal of extra plants.

Bird of Paradise

Tall thick green flower stalks that gradually fan out into bright orange, spiky petals at the top that resembles a birds head.
These tropical flowers can be grown inside or out, depending on the climate and weather conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Strelitzia reginae
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3.5 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10 to 12

If you live in the warmest regions of southern California, you can grow this very tropical-looking plant. Bird of paradise is easily recognized by its massive bright orange flower.

These flowers are quite unique and dramatically colorful, seeming to burst out of an otherwise simple green stalk. The leaves of this plant are broad and palmlike. Bird of Paradise would make a bold statement in any tropical-themed garden.

If you can’t grow bird of paradise outdoors, you can grow it inside as a brightly colored houseplant. Bring it out in the summer months, and if temperatures become too cold, you can bring it in and grow it in a sunny window. Leaves are evergreen, and flowers are long-standing, allowing bird of paradise to dazzle you throughout the year with its showy growth.

Blue Passionflower

Close up of a two white with blue flowers that have white oval shaped petals, layered by smaller, long skinny petals that fade from dark blue to a dark red, and a light greenish-yellow detailed center.
These exotic-looking flowers will attract many butterflies to your garden with their sweet fragrance.
botanical-name botanical name Passiflora caerulea
plant-type plant type Vine
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 10 to 25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 9

Blue passionflower is a hardy vine that likes loose, well-drained soil. Give it a location with full sun or partial shade. Because passionflower is a vigorously growing vine, you can offer it a trellis, fence, or arbor to grow on or allow it to sprawl unsupported as a ground cover.

Blue passionflower has large flowers that bloom in the summertime. Flowers are extremely showy and colorful, including a mix of white, purple, green, and burgundy red.

Flowers are also sweetly fragrant and attractive to butterflies. Passionflower is welcome in a butterfly garden because it is the host plant for several beautiful butterfly species.

Delphinium

Field of tall flower stalks lined with fluffy, purple flowers with white centers.
Delphiniums thrive best in full sun with medium moisture and well-drained soil conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Delphinium var.
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 7

Delphinium, or larkspur, is a very showy perennial. It can also be easily grown from seed as an annual. Flowers are large and colorful, typically purple, blooming in mid-summer.

Flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The flower spikes, however, are large and heavy. They will benefit from staking, so they don’t fall over.

Delphinium grows best in full sun with medium-moisture, well-drained soil. It prefers cooler climates, and when grown in warmer climates, it prefers some afternoon shade. Plants may self-seed but be aware that cultivars rarely come true from seed, although you may be pleasantly surprised with other color variations.

Fuchsia

Several bright pink flowers hanging down from long skinny stems off of a  bush. Each flower has a row of pointed petals curled upwards and four rounded petals cupped downwards with tall stamen shooting out rom the center.
These flowers come in a variety of different colors to choose from, as well as a few bicolor options.
botanical-name botanical name Fuchsia var.
plant-type plant type Broadleaf evergreen
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10 to 11

Fuchsia is a beautiful tropical plant native to the rainforests of South America. It can be grown in the warmest California locations, where you can enjoy its evergreen foliage and showy blooms.

The flowers bloom periodically and come in a range of bright colors, primarily bold reds, pinks, and purples, as well as bicolor varieties. Plants can be propagated by seed and by stem cuttings.

Fuchsia grows best in moist soil. They like high humidity and do not like their roots to dry out. These plants make a bold statement in a garden arrangement. They make interesting cut flowers and also are very attractive to hummingbirds.

Hens and Chicks

Close up of a cement pot filled with low growing, thick, green rosettes that have tall, thick, reddish stems lined with thick small red leaves and a pink star shaped flower on top.
These hardy, drought-tolerant plants make perfect ground covers for rock gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Sempervivum ‘Black’
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.25 to 0.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Hens and Chicks is an excellent plant for a ground cover, rock garden, or desert garden. There are a wide variety of hens and chicks cultivars with various sizes and colors. The cultivar ‘Black’ forms dense, leafy, ground-hugging rosettes with dark red leaf tips and edges. It will flower periodically with pinkish-red floral clusters atop tall stems.

Grow hens and chicks in any loose, well-drained soil. They do need periodic watering but are fairly drought-tolerant.

Larger rosettes (the hens) multiply by sending off runners with smaller rosettes (the chicks), eventually spreading into a dense mat of vegetation. Plants can be easily divided if desired or left to grow and fill in the available space.

Hosta

Close up of a plant with large, light green, oval shaped leaves with a pointed tip and two tall flower stalks with light purple flowers clustered at the top.
These shade-loving perennials are perfect for the areas in your yard that don’t get a lot of sun.
botanical-name botanical name Hosta plantaginea
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 1 to 1.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

Hosta is an ideal plant for a shade garden. Growing best in partial to full shade, hosta also benefits from rich, moist, well-drained soil. These plants grow as a large leafy cluster but will spread over time to make an effective ground cover.

Unfortunately, hostas are a favorite of browsing herbivores, so it’s best to plant them in a fenced or protected area, or other location with no herbivores.

Hosta blooms in late summer and the leaves stay green throughout the growing season. Flowers are trumpet-shaped and light purple and grow on upright spikes. The flowers are frequented by pollinators and will help attract hummingbirds to your garden.

Hummingbird Sage

Close up of a tall, fuzzy flower stalk with tiny, bright pink flowers growing up the stalk.
This perennial grows to be around 3 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia spathacea
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun, part shade, full shade
height height 1 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 11

Hummingbird sage is a beautiful native wildflower found along coastal southern California. This is a versatile and easy-to-grow perennial that will grow readily from seed. Plant it in a native garden, naturalized area, or hummingbird garden.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the reddish-pink tubular flowers. Clusters of flowers open a few at a time for a long-lasting blooming period.

This plant grows well in dry areas with plenty of shade. Leaves and stems of the hummingbird sage are covered with fine soft hairs, making the plant somewhat soft to the touch.

Indian Paintbrush

Several tall flower stalks with spiky pink flower clusters on top.
The Indian paintbrush is the perfect flower if you’re looking to attract more hummingbirds into your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Castilleja affinis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 9

Indian paintbrush is a native wildflower that can be grown from seed. This plant is a bit picky about its growing requirements but is a very worthwhile addition to a hummingbird or butterfly garden. Tubular flowers bloom in the summer with bright red, orange, and yellow clusters atop tall stems.

Indian paintbrush does best in full sun with dryish, well-drained soil. This plant actually prefers to grow in rocky or sandy soil and is found growing naturally along bluffs, hillsides, and other dry places. Indian paintbrush is the larval host plant for several species of butterflies and moths.

Island Pink Yarrow

Close up of a cluster of tiny, bright pink flowers with bright white centers.
The Island Pink Yarrow is an easy, low-maintenance flower that will attract a variety of pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Achillea millefolium ‘Island Pink’
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 0.5 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 to 9

‘Island Pink’ yarrow is a pink-flowering yarrow cultivar. Like other yarrows, ‘Island Pink’ is very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Flowers bloom throughout the spring and summer, with flowerheads standing in the fall. Yarrow is not picky about soil quality, making it very easy for most gardeners to grow.

Yarrow is a very versatile plant. It can be grown as a ground cover, in a naturalized area, in a pollinator garden, or in virtually any other perennial arrangement. Plants are easily grown from seeds and can be divided every few years to help keep plants growing vigorously.

Jade Plant

Close up of tiny, white, star shaped flowers growing on a red stem with thick, round, waxy leaves.
Jade plants can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
botanical-name botanical name Crassula ovata
plant-type plant type Broadleaf evergreen
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 11 to 12

If you live in a part of California that doesn’t experience frost, you can grow some pretty interesting plants. The jade plant is one of many varieties of Crassula that are thick-leaved succulents that you can grow in arid, semi-tropical climates.

Jade plants are popular indoor houseplants, but growing a jade plant in an outdoor garden allows this plant to reach its full height, like a small, stout shrub!

They will bloom in ideal conditions with clusters of tiny, star-shaped white flowers. Leaves grown in full sun will tend to be tinged with red around the edges. Plants grow in full sun but also do well with some dappled afternoon shade. They must have well-drained soil, or they can quickly succumb to root rot.

Ladybells

lose up of several, purple, bell shaped flowers growing up a skinny, green stem.
Ladybells will not only add a splash of color to your garden but a wonderful fragrance as well.
botanical-name botanical name Adenophora liliifolia
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 1.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 to 9

This is a spring-blooming perennial with showy purple-blue flowers. The flowers are fragrant, broadly tubular, and have 5 gently curving petals. Plants are best started from seed.

Grow ladybells in a sunny or partially shaded location. They need medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

Plants will slowly spread by runners, but established plants may be difficult to divide and move to new locations. Large clusters of ladybells are beautiful when blooming each spring.

Lily of the Nile

Tall, thick, green flower stalk with a ball shaped cluster of purple star shaped flowers with long petals on top.
These flowers start as bulbs and will grow to be around 1 to 2 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Agapanthus africanus
plant-type plant type Bulb
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 1.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8 to 10

If you are in a warmer location in California, you can enjoy growing lily of the Nile. In colder climates, you can try growing this plant outside for the warmer months, then digging the bulb and storing it in a cool dark place until the following spring.

This interesting bulb has dense clusters of slender lily-like leaves that stay green the entire growing season. In mid-summer, showy rounded flower clusters emerge atop tall, erect, tubular stems. The purple, trumpet-like flowers attract hummingbirds.

Parrot Lily

Tall, thick, green flower stalk with sprays of orange speckled flowers on top.
The Parrot Lily is a tropical flower that will thrive best in warm, humid climates.
botanical-name botanical name Alstroemeria psittacina
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 2 to 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9 to 11

Parrot lily is a tuberous perennial grown from a bulb. This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil and does well in warm, humid climates.

The flowers bloom in mid to late summer, forming a loose cluster of long tubular flowers atop a thick hollow stalk. Flowers attract hummingbirds and make a very showy cut flower display. The flowers are colorful, and include green, white, and red, with dark maroon speckles inside.

Parrot lily grows best in full sun to partial shade and needs moist, well-drained soil. Plants will multiply by forming new tubers and will gradually form a colony of parrot lilies. When blooming en masse, they are quite stunning!

Purple Milkweed

Tall flower stalk with a ball of tiny purple flowers on top and long ova; shaped leaves.
Also known as ‘heart-leaf milkweed’, these flowers are native to central and northern California.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias cordifolia
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 10

Purple milkweed, also called heart-leaf milkweed, is a purple-flowered native wildflower. This plant can be found growing naturally throughout northern and central California. It does well in a partially shaded location with rocky, well-drained soil.

Purple milkweed blooms in spring and summer. The loose pinkish-purple flower clusters attract numerous butterflies and other pollinators. Leaves are large and heart-shaped. Milkweeds are the perfect addition to a butterfly garden because they are the host plants for the endangered Monarch butterfly caterpillar.

Red-flowered Buckwheat

Red Flowered Buckwheat growing in garden with reddish pink flowers. The plants have green leaves on the tips, and the blooms are small and pink at the top of the plant.
This beautiful perennial can adapt to many soil types in full-sun conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.75 to 1.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8 to 10

The red-flowered buckwheat is endemic to just a few islands off the coast of California, but it can be easily grown throughout the rest of the state as well. Grow red-flowered buckwheat in full sun and with dry to moist soil. Plants can be used as ground covers or incorporated into a native wildflower garden.

Dense and prolific clusters of bright reddish-pink flowers bloom from spring through fall. The long blooming period makes this an excellent plant for butterflies and pollinators that come to visit the flowers. Leaves are evergreen, dark green on the top, and pale underneath.

Rock Rose

Close up of a bright pink flower that has five, flat, rounded, paper-like petals and a spiky, bright yellow center.
Also referred to as ‘rose mallow’, these flowers will attract all kinds if birds and pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Parvonia lasiopetala
plant-type plant type Shrub
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 9

Rock rose, or rose mallow, is a small deciduous shrub. It grows well in rocky, well-drained soil and grows naturally on dry hillsides, open woodlands, and pastures. Plants do best in full sun but also tolerate partial shade. They are quite hardy and are tolerant of both drought and poor soil quality.

Rock rose blooms anywhere from spring through fall. The flowers are large and showy. THey are also strikingly deep pink in color. Flowers attract hummingbirds and an abundance of butterflies and other pollinators. Plants are easily grown from seed and can also be propagated by stem cuttings.

Showy Penstemon

Penstemon spectabilis growing in the garden with light purple flowers and silvery green foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon spectabilis
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 to 10

Showy Penstemon is a prolifically-blooming wildflower native to southern California. An abundance of showy pinkish-purple flowers bloom in the winter and spring.

The flowers are very attractive to bees and hummingbirds, making this an excellent addition to a pollinator garden. Penstemon is also a host plant for several butterfly species.

Grow showy penstemon in full sun. Soil should be low-moisture and very well-drained. Plants grow quickly into somewhat sprawling mounds. In ideal conditions, plants will spread by self-seeding. These low-maintenance plants are an excellent choice for naturalizing in a dry area.

Spider Flower

Tall flower stalk with skinny, long spider-like leaves growing up the stem and a cluster of spiky, pink flowers on top.
This perennial self-seeds and will reach a height of 3 to 4 feet tall.
botanical-name botanical name Cleome serrulata
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 to 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9 to 11

Spider flower, also sometimes called Cleome or Rocky Mountain bee-plant, is a beautiful flowering perennial with some noteworthy characteristics. This plant has a rather distinctive smell that many people find unpleasantly pungent.

For this reason, however, Cleome isn’t bothered by browsing herbivores. It also has small, sharp spines lining the stem, so handle this plant carefully!

Spider flower is popular with pollinators and hummingbirds, so this plant would be a good addition for a naturalized meadow garden or butterfly garden. Plants grow readily from seed and will freely reseed themselves in hardiness zones 6 to 11. In cooler climates, it can be grown as a recurring annual. In zones 9 to 11, Spider Flower will grow as a perennial.

Sunburst Coreopsis

Close up of a bright yellow flower with layers of overlapping fan shaped petals with a jagged edge and a yellow center.
The Sunburst coreopsis are long bloomers and will attract many different pollinators to your garden.
botanical-name botanical name Coreopsis grandiflora
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1.5 to 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 to 9

Sunburst coreopsis, also known as large-flowered tickseed, is an easy-to-grow perennial with beautiful golden yellow flowers. Flowers attract butterflies and bees and have a long blooming season, particularly if routinely deadheaded. Leaves are thin and delicate-looking and by mid-summer, plants may look a bit unkempt. Prune foliage as needed to keep plants looking tidy.

Although native to the eastern United States, Sunburst coreopsis will also grow well in California. It is easily grown from seed in any sunny area.

Coreopsis prefers dry to medium moisture soil and is resistant to drought. Plants will freely self-seed and may become weedy. Deadhead spent flowers to prevent seed production and pull unwanted seedlings to keep populations of this plant in check.

Yellow-eyed Grass

Tall flower stalks with clusters of small yellow, six petaled flowers on it.
This flowering perennial grows best in full sun with medium to moist soil.
botanical-name botanical name Sisyrinchium californicum
plant-type plant type Herbaceous perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.5 to 1 foot
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8 to 10

Yellow-eyed grass is not actually a grass but rather an herbaceous perennial related to the iris. It has long, narrow, grass-like leaves that stay green throughout the growing season. The yellow, 6-petaled flowers bloom through the springtime. Flowers open each morning and close again by midday.

Yellow-eyed grass grows well in full sun with medium to moist soil. Plants can withstand moist sites but do not require soil to stay wet throughout the summer.

Yellow-eyed grass would be an ideal plant for a rain garden or streamside planting. In ideal conditions, plants will spread slowly by rhizomes and also self-seed, eventually creating large clusters.

Final Thoughts

California gardeners have a vast array of beautiful plants to choose from. You can choose a colorful selection of flowering perennials that bloom throughout the entire growing season. Grow several flowering plants to attract butterflies and birds or grow your own long-lasting cut flowers.

Whether you are new to gardening or have maintained a flower garden for many years, you can enjoy planning, selecting, planting, and growing your own fabulous flower garden featuring an abundance of uniquely blooming plants.

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