Pat Welsh's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Background Shrubs for Southern California.
Camellia japonica 'Debutante'
Many camellias fail to open in coastal zones but Debutante is a trouble-free variety with clean glossy foliage and pink flowers that open up in winter reliably ever year even if grown close to the coast. Fertilize three times a year about a month apart in the warm months.
Boxleaf Euonymus - Euonymus japonica var. microphyllus
Best plant to use if you live in Southern California and need the look of a dwarf box hedge for surrounding flower beds. Adapted to sun or shade, more sun along the coast, less inland.
New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium 'Red Damask'
Wide range of choices in height and color make these drought-resistant shrubs among the most attractive of garden shrubs. Small double or single flowers drench the plants with color from fall through spring and make excellent cut flowers. Worst sin is when people shear these plants into blobs. Prune and shape them during and after bloom, never before.
Lehua - Metrosideros collina 'Springfire'
A profusion of bright rose-pink flowers in late spring and early summer makes this one of the best choices for a delightful flowering hedge that's 6 to 8 feet tall. Moderate water needs and handsome, gray-green foliage add to its virtues.
Spingtime India Hawthorne - Rhapliolepia indica 'Monme'
This is the variety to use if you want a screen. There are many imitations out there. The real 'Springtime' is available from Monrovia Nursery. One great advantage is that despite its vigor it just grows to 4 or 5 feet in height and stops. That's it, so if you put it in the right place, why prune? Lovely pink flowers provide reliable spring color. Many varieties are more dwarf but won't give you the height or vigor needed for a screen.
Shiny Xylosma - Xylosma congestum
Neat and clean looking green foliage year round. Easy and durable screen plant or green background in sun or light shade that can be used as a clipped or unclipped hedge. Looks rather like a camellia without flowers. Unattractive in nursery can and a little slow to start, easily damaged by frost, but largely trouble-free along the coast.