Just like people, some plants love the Southern California sun, and some find that it is just too much. When you’re choosing plants for your rooftop, the last thing you want is to have to battle the sun to keep them healthy and green. You can avoid the tragedy of browning and yellowing plants by choosing only those species that can handle the heat and the direct sun they will be exposed to on your rooftop. Of course, they also need to be stylish. Here is a list of some of our favorite plant options that will work on your Southern California rooftop.
1. Pink Muhly Grass
This fall favorite defines “showy.” It’s an ornamental grass which produces white tufts through the year and then turns a stunning pink in the fall. The plant will remind you of cotton candy. Use this in containers to add pops of color in the cooler season when many of your other sun-loving plants have stopped flowering.
2. Island Morning Glory
This is a California native plant. In the nurseries and gardening centers you will find mostly just the version “Ancapa Pink,” with round pink flowers which love morning sun. Depending on how humid your climate is, you may need to give it afternoon sun. Otherwise, grow this vine to cover privacy screens or pergolas with delicate pink flowers.
3. California Lilac
Why have a rooftop garden if you’re not going to enjoy some flowery fragrance? California lilac, much like its colder-climate namesake, can add all of the flowery scent you need in late spring and early summer. You can plant California lilac in large containers or, if you have a green roof, right in the soil.
4. Silver Lupine
Another California native, this is a smaller plant that prefers sandier soil but still adds a ton of color and style to your rooftop. It produces very tall blue flowers which attract butterflies and other pollinator species to your rooftop. However, silver lupine is a toxic plant and should only be used in circumstances where cats, dogs, horses and children will not have access to it.
5. Western Redbud
You can train this small tree to act as a shrub in your largest plant containers. It blooms once in the spring but then adds purple seed pods during the summer, which makes it seem like it blooms twice. Even when not in bloom or seed, this is a beautiful tree with dark leaves that adds interest in all seasons.
6. Blanket Flower
Do you need a groundcover for your rooftop garden? Blanket flower is a very stylish choice. Not only do they produce vibrant flowers in yellow and orange shades, but many varieties are also perennial. Once established, they require very little care. Ensure that the version you’ve chosen can tolerate full sun, as not all can.
7. Hawaii Blue Ageratum
This small annual is also known as the floss flower. It relishes full sun and high heat, and we relish the thick blue blossoms it produces. If you like hydrangeas, this plant is a good replacement that can actually handle the Southern California sun.