Christiane Holmquist's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Shrubs for Southern California.
Baja Fairy Duster - Calliandra californica
Baja Fairy Duster. This evergreen shrub has been in bloom in my garden in Ramona without any real "down-time" for the past 5 or 6 years! Naturally vase shaped, it is a very attractive shrub in the dry (or "Native") border producing an almost continuous show of light to deep pink inch-long stamens that look like mini dusters. Full sun, size 1-3 ft tall x 3 to 4 ft spread. All zones except Northern coastal, high mountains, and high desert. Water : drought tolerant to infrequent.
Anacahuita - Cordia boissieri
Texas Olive. Evergreen shrub with grey-green rough-surfaced foliage and brilliant white flowers (2 1/2 in) in mid spring; flowering can repeat in fall. Size 6-8 ft, in perfect conditions and trained as a small tree it can reach 8-12 ft. Not picky about soil, but needs good drainage. Loves heat and sun and needs only moderate water.
Lingaro - Elaeagnus philippinensis
This naturally graceful shrub laces out beautifully and can be trained into a small tree to 10-12' whose branches will arch across a path or flower bed to provide welcome shade to more heat sensitive perennials beneath. It is a fairly fast growing shrub but never overwhelms its space. It is evergreen and has the added benefit of pale pink edible berries reminiscent of Red Currant.
California Flannel Bush - Fremontodendron californicum
California Fremontia or Common Flannel Bush. A fast growing evergreen shrub with typically irregular form, reaching 20 ft by to 12' wide. Spectacular when yellow-orangey blossoms almost smother the shrub at bloom. Completely drought tolerant and sensitive to moisture (in the root zone) in summer. In windy areas stake when young to prevent being blown ove. Short lived but easily (fast) replaced and absolutely worth growing. Many attractive cultivars available. (Contact with leaves can cause skin irrition so approach with care.) All zones except low deserts.
Mutabilis Rose - Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis'
Cupped single flowers of light yellow changing to coppery pink and then pink/crimson, hanging like brightly colored "butterflies" on the plant. Fairly drought tolerant, doing well in shade. Needs some yearly pruning to maintain its form (can get 5-6 ft x 5-6' or more if allowed)
Feathery Cassia - Senna artemisoides
Feathery Cassia. A rounded shrub to 7', lacey grey-green foliage, fragrant yellow flowers from early spring into fall, very drought resistant. Needs good drainage and full sun.