20 Best Outdoor Potted Plants for Southern California

As you probably know, Southern California has a warm-Mediterranean climate that often welcomes you with sunny weather. It is also a place where many drought-resistant native plants grow happily outside where they can have full sun exposure. Since they are quickly adaptable to the local climate and only require low maintenance, people are starting to look at the possibility of planting them in their container garden. They believe these plants will make the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California that are worth the effort.

Luckily, several species can do well in medium to large outdoor pots, making excellent patio plants. Hence, we have listed some of the best outdoor potted plants for the Southern California garden you can choose.

Each of them has unique and stunning characteristics that will surely add seasonal beauty to your home.

1. Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium Bellum)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium Bellum)

The green color with petite blue flowers from Blue-Eyed Grass provides a beautiful view of container gardens that is pleasing to the eye. It is undoubtedly called Blue-Eyed since the beautiful flowers are just like slender eyes.

Additionally, this patio plant is actually fire-tolerant and thrives best under full sun and low moisture. It will do well in medium to large pots. And to let it grow healthy, do summer watering occasionally.

2. Bright Green Dudleya (Dudleya Virens Ssp. Hassei)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Bright Green Dudleya (Dudleya Virens Ssp. Hassei)

This succulent plant is a perfect container plant because Bright Green Dudleya spreads slowly; thus, it doesn’t take much space. Though it grows upward, this perennial plant will remain low. In addition, Bright Green Dudleya has flattened with bright to pale green foliage like other succulents. The surface of the leaves is also water-resistant as it has a kind of wax layer on them.

Moreover, it only requires low maintenance once established. You just need to do watering once a month to keep it well-drained. As it favors shade areas, this plant will also be great as patio plants.

3. Canyon Dudleya (Dudleya Cymosa)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Canyon Dudleya (Dudleya Cymosa)

All the plants have their own beauty, but Canyon Dudleya will mesmerize you with its exquisite bright red flowers atop orange stems that grow from between the leaves. Since the flowers emit pleasant fragrances, hummingbirds and butterflies frequently visit to drink off the nectar.

Compared to the previous Dudleya, Dudleya cymosa has pale green leaves with red edges, creating an appealing color array. If you want to plant them, make sure to buy a medium to large pot because it grows fast. Nonetheless, Canyon Dudleya belongs to very easy plants that you don’t need watering once it adapts to its environment.

4. California Fuchsia (Epilobium Canum)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
California Fuchsia (Epilobium Canum)

Hanging baskets are the most excellent pot for California Fuchsia as they will grow arc gracefully. The bright red flowers are so eye-catching to liven up your garden. They are also attractive to many pollinators, thanks to their appealing colors. 

Furthermore, this California native flowering plant is easy to maintain. You can save water by watering the plant once a month during summer. But keep in mind the soil moisture as it loves humid soil. To allow new growth, cutting to the base in fall or early winter is suggested.

5. California Lilacs (Ceanothus Thyrsiflorus)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
California Lilacs (Ceanothus Thyrsiflorus)

True to its name, California Lilacs is eager to show its exquisite lilac flowers that make the best outdoor potted plant for Southern California. Its round-shaped flower cluster blooms to the fullest in spring, offering you a breath-taking view in your medium to a very large pot.

Additionally, one of few plants has wonderful scents that attract pollinators, like hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and moths, to perch and enjoy the nectar. And just like other plants mentioned above, California Lilacs love full sun yet prefer to stay in the shade if they are growing in scorching areas.

6. Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya Pulverulenta)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya Pulverulenta)

Container plants can enhance your patio, especially if you grow plants with distinctive features like Chalk Dudleya. The leaves are roses in bloom, with tubular flowers erect from around its foliage. Like Bright Green Dudleya, the leaves are pale green, contrasting its beautiful flowers. And because of its alluring appeal, hummingbirds love to suck on the flowers’ nectar.

Furthermore, it thrives best in very low moisture under partial shade to full sun exposure. It is also a handy patio plant as it only requires once a month watering once it is established. To plant Chalk Dudleya, you may need a medium pot to allow the flowers and leaves to grow properly.

7. Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca Whipplei)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca Whipplei)

Long and rigid leaves with sharp tips are the significant characteristics of Chaparral Yucca. This native Southern California plant also has white flower clusters that grow tall. It makes an excellent symbiosis mutualism with the California yucca moth, where it pollinates the flowers while sucking the nectars.

Since it is a desert plant, its tolerance to extreme climates is very high. It prefers full sun with extremely low moisture. Additionally, this flowering plant is also well-adapted to cold, making it an easy plant to grow in your outdoor garden. Considering its huge shape, placing them in a very large container is the best possible option.

8. Cliff Maids (Lewisia Cotyledon)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Cliff Maids (Lewisia Cotyledon)

The beauty of Cliff Maids will surely make it a garden center in the spring and summer. It has stems bearing a wide variety of flower clusters, and each of them carries up to 50 flowers. Even more remarkable, a broad mixture of yellow, orange, white, and pink can be seen on the flowers, creating a magical art of nature.

Another great quality of this perennial herb is it can stand the heat in the summer. Cliff Maids thrives in full sun yet is also cold-tolerant. It favors good drainage; thus, watering them once a month is necessary. Since it belongs to small plants, you can grow Cliff Maids in small pots and place them in your container gardens.

9. Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea Ambigua)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea Ambigua)

Sphaeralcea ambigua, popular as Apricot Mallow or Desert Mallow, is a drought-tolerant native California plant that grows best in the dry desert climate. It bears striking orange flowers that provide nectar for bees and butterflies.

Moreover, the plant is self-propagated with seeds; thus, it will occur naturally in their pots. Like other heat-tolerant plants, it does well in full sun and extremely low moisture, just like in the desert. Hence, the summer watering is only needed a maximum of once a month. To rejuvenate the plant, cut it off after flowering terms.

10. Douglas Iris (Iris Douglasiana)

Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana)
Douglas Iris (Iris Douglasiana)

Those gorgeous purple flowers with strappy tropical leaves make Douglas Iris an ideal potted plant for your native garden. The color looks eccentric amid greeneries that spread out as the background. This wildflower optimally blooms in early spring to the end of the season.

As of their best maintenance, keep the soil moisture by watering them every two or four weeks, especially during dry summers. Don’t forget to place their containers under full sun to partial shade. In addition, soil with high organic matter will support its best growth rate.

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11. Fairy Duster (Calliandra Eriophylla)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Fairy Duster (Calliandra Eriophylla)

No one will wonder that this native plant, which has pink flowers with stamens like fairy wings, lives in deserts and arid grasslands. The flowers that show their best blooms between late spring and late winter will surely look like a diamond in your outdoor garden. 

Like a native desert shrub, Fairy duster is cold-tolerant. It does well under full sun and low moisture. In addition, sandy and decomposed granite soil are the shrub’s favorite. This low-spreading shrub only needs three times a month watering, making it pretty handy to care for.

12. Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon Heterophyllus)

best outdoor potted plants for southern california
Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon Heterophyllus)

Growing plants in Southern California is a bit tricky since the region has dry and sunny weather. Nonetheless, Foothill Penstemon can adapt to the local climate very well. Despite being showy plants with beautiful pink and purple flowers, it is pretty drought-resistant and thrives in cold weather.

Even though not necessarily constant moisture, well-drainage is preferable when you decide to keep this native plant in your garden. Unlike most, it needs a maximum of three times watering a month. In addition, pruning is suggested to encourage new flowers. It will also do well in small to medium containers.

13. Hedge Nettle (Stachys Chamissonis)

Hedge Nettle (Stachys chamissonis)
Hedge Nettle (Stachys Chamissonis)

Besides Hedge Nettle, Stachys chamissonis is also known as Coastal Hedge Nettle that belongs to the mint family. Because of this, it emits fresh scents just like mint leaves. This native plant features magenta flowers with purple, hairy sepals that add to its enchanting look. Thanks to these wonderful aspects, it is one of the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California you need to consider planting.

To grow them as patio plants, you will need a medium to a large container. Don’t forget to regularly water around twice a week to keep its moisture. Additionally, it doesn’t favor direct sun like its fellow native plants but instead loves shade areas.

14. Queen Victoria Agave (Agave Victoriae-reginae)

Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)
Queen Victoria Agave (Agave Victoriae-reginae)

Thick, rigid, dark-green leaves forming a spherical blooming rosette are the hallmarks of Queen Victoria Agave. There is also white shade on the edges, making extraordinary outlines for each leaf. Nonetheless, even though the leaves themselves display flower shapes, this perennial plant grows creamy white flowers once in a lifetime after maturing for ten years.

Like other succulent plants, Agave victoriae-reginae likes sunny weather with dry to medium moisture in its large container. Rather than neutral pH, it prefers slightly acidic soil to perform well. Moreover, it is drought tolerant, making it worth including the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California, famous for its hot climate.

15. Red Monardella (Monardella Macrantha)

Red Monardella (Monardella macrantha)
Source: Pinterest (@anniesannuals.com)

Another mint family joins the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California. Red Monardella displays its bright yellow to red flower clusters shaped like trumpets. They emit nice scents that attract pollinators, like birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and other insects.

Unluckily, this flowering plant is also notorious for being difficult to cultivate. Nevertheless, the beauty of the plant is worth the challenge you will face while trying to grow them. When you have managed to establish the plant, water them once a month at max. Either put in hanging baskets or containers, ensuring the full sun or shade lighting conditions is a must if you want them to thrive.

16. Seaside Petunia (Petunia Parviflora)

Seaside Petunia (Petunia parviflora)
Seaside Petunia (Petunia Parviflora)

As beautiful as its name, Seaside Petunia is an ideal choice for the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California. It highlights stunning purple bell-shaped flowers with a striking yellow center that will brighten up your container garden. They showcase their beauty in late spring to fall.

Despite being a wildflower, Seaside Petunia can be planted in small to medium pots. Furthermore, place the containers under the sun as it resembles the plant’s natural habitat. It also tolerates high temperatures, so you don’t have to worry about putting it in your outdoor garden.

17. Sticky Monkey Flower (Diplacus Aurantiacus)

Sticky Monkey Flower (Diplacus aurantiacus)
Sticky Monkey Flower (Diplacus Aurantiacus)

Diplacus aurantiacus has several different names, like Sticky Monkey Flower, Bush Monkey Flower, and Orange Bush Monkey Flower. But, do not be confused. They all have striking orange to red flowers with dark green-sticky leaves where the native plant obtains its namesake.

This container plant favors full sun and partial shade with meager moisture in terms of growing conditions. Nonetheless, watering them twice a month during dry seasons is suggested. To encourage fresh blooms, cut the dead flowers. In addition, to maintain its compact shape, pinch back the new growth in spring.

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18. West Indian Lantana (Lantana Camara)

West Indian Lantana (Lantana camara)
West Indian Lantana (Lantana Camara)

Lantana plants are well-known for their striking colorful flowers, including West Indian Lantana or Lantana camara. It showcases distinctive flower clusters with various color combinations, such as orange-yellow, pink-yellow, and pink-purple. Not to mention its fragrant leaves that increasingly attract people to plant them as potted plants.

Caring for this flowering plant is simple. It thrives in sunny weather, performing best in the hot summer. Nonetheless, you must pay attention to the soil moisture since Lantana camara loves well-draining soil. Moreover, it prefers acidic soil; thus, mulching with pine needles is recommended to lower the soil pH.

19. Western Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa)

Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)
Western Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa)

Because of its red petals, Aquilegia formosa or Western Columbine is also popular as Crimson Columbine. Not only red shade, but the vibrant yellow color center is also featured on the flower, creating a distinctive look. Its erecting bright stamens attract birds to perch and pollinate.

In nature, Western Columbine tends to grow in humid places, such as river banks. Hence, planting them in well-draining soil with regular summer watering is highly recommended. Unlike other native plants to California, it prefers shade light rather than full sun exposure, especially in the afternoon. Considering its beautiful blooms, we can safely say that it is one of the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California for your front yard.

20. White Globe Lily (Calochortus Albus)

White Globe Lily (Calochortus albus)
White Globe Lily (Calochortus Albus)

White flowers resembling tulips are the first impression of White Globe Lily. Because of this beauty, this flowering plant is better known by the common name White Fairy Lantern. Unfortunately, it will switch into dormant mode once the flowering season ends.

Nonetheless, the White Globe Lily is still worth being awarded as one of the best outdoor potted plants for Southern California. It requires little to no maintenance since you don’t need to water them once established. Moreover, this native plant can grow happily under various lighting conditions, such as full sun, full shade, and partial shade.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are the best plants for pots in full sun?

Most plants from our list can thrive under the full sun since they are native plants to California and adaptable to the dry and sunny climate. For example, Blue-Eyed Grass, Chalk Dudleya, California Lilacs, Cliff Maids, and Fairyduster.

What flowers bloom all year long in Southern California?

You can take note of these enchanting flowering plants that offer you beautiful blooms all year long, such as the Fairyduster, Bush Poppy, California Lilacs, Cliff Maids, and Foothill Penstemon.

To discover more about the Southern California native plants, you can visit the California Native Plant Society.

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