10 Southern California Landscaping Ideas | Inspiration & FAQ

With its warm summers and mild winters, Southern California is undoubtedly one of the most ideal regions in the world for luxurious outdoor living. From backyard gardens to outdoor kitchens and swimming pools, the possibilities for creating a beautiful oasis on your property are endless.

However, landscaping in Southern California can present some unique challenges. Frequent droughts, as well as the high salinity levels of the soil, make it necessary to work with the dry environment rather than against it in order to create a stunning landscape that will last.

By utilizing the four basic elements of landscape design – lines, form, texture, and color – and incorporating native plants that grow well in arid conditions, you can create an impressive garden display that will promote a sense of well-being in anyone who steps foot on your Southern California property, whether that’s in Santa Barbara, Hollywood, or Los Angeles!

What are the growing conditions like in California?

In Southern California, you can expect hot, dry summers followed by mild, rainy winters. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing, so these conditions make this region perfect for year-round garden displays. However, you will want to choose a hardy plant that can tolerate hot, dry conditions during the summer.

Which regions in Southern California have tricky landscapes?

Southern California landscaping can have its challenges. The main areas of focus for this article are popular regions such as San Diego, Santa Barbara, Orange County, and Los Angeles. These coastal areas have a nice climate that balances dry heat from the east and the cool moist air from the ocean.

As gardens head eastward towards Arizona, landscapers will find the climate gets much drier and arid. Landscaping in arid areas has its own unique challenges.

Related article: Desert landscaping ideas and advice for planting in dry conditions.

10 Best Southern California landscape design ideas

1. Start small with a succulent container garden

Selenge Low Rectangle Planter
Selenge Low Rectangle Planters are perfect for inside California apartment buildings, on balconies, and on rooftops.

If you are new to gardening, low on space, or not quite ready to commit to a big landscaping project, you can always begin by accentuating your backyard with a minimalist container garden – even when your backyard is limited in space!

While many California native plants grow well in containers, succulents are perfect for a low-maintenance garden. Their small, simple root systems allow them to grow in very little soil, and their low water requirements are naturally forgiving of the dry Southern California climate. With a huge variety of textures and colors, they are sure to add life to any garden without adding landscaping chores to your to-do list.

Related article: Best Succulents For The Bathroom

Best planters for a succulent container garden

2. Add layers of texture with a pop of color

There is no doubt that garden design is a delicate balance of science and art. In order to maximize the curb appeal of your Southern California landscape, you should not only consider the dry climate and growing conditions, but your ideas should also think about the four elements of landscape design: lines, colors, texture, and form.

Plant texture is extremely important and fun to play with!


This modern California landscape designed by Robert Trachtenberg is an excellent example of how to use the four elements of garden design in a way that creates lively energy in your yard. With plants of different textures layered to complement the fencing and a pop of yellow to draw your eyes upward, this garden generates movement that expertly enhances the look and feel of this home.

Related article: How to choose the best color combinations for planters.

Best planters for adding layers of color

3. Use strongly rooted plants to hold dry hillsides

Down to Earth landscaping
Down to Earth landscaping // ©Katarina Eriksson

The mountainous nature of Southern California means that you may have a slope in need of some landscaping. Hillsides can present their own set of challenges, especially if they are particularly rocky. Erosion control and providing adequate drainage for the plants that you choose are essential to creating a garden that is not only attractive but also practical.

Hillsides are a perfect opportunity to implement a diverse assortment of native plants that can hold the ground in place while discouraging loss of habitat and biodiversity. Shrubs are the ideal solution for a barren slope because they retain less water than succulents, and their deep roots allow for more soil stabilization.

When paired with grass and perennials that are compatible with the sun and shade conditions of your hillside, your patchwork hillside will not only attract pollinators but also compliments from neighbors and guests of your property.

4. Opt for a contemporary plant wall

design for inside and outdoor
Design for inside and outdoor // ©Ryan W.

Modern California gardens have been described as informal outdoor dining spaces with patio chairs, tables, and swinging structures, forgoing a cultural composition for an atmosphere centered around social gatherings. But in areas of high traffic, such as restaurants and cafes, it may be difficult to find space for floor planters.

If you want to add a splash of green but don’t have ground space to spare, consider building a beautiful plant display directly into the walls of your establishment! This unique and modern garden design is the ideal serene setting for customers to enjoy a latte while chatting with friends or colleagues.

Best planters for adding a plant wall

5. Get creative with swimming pools

Planter in front of pool

Swimming pools are a must during a hot California summer. They are the perfect place to cool down, enjoy the summer sun, and socialize with friends. And no swimming pool is complete without a beautiful display of plants and trees to accent the space.

There are so many options for creating an attractive landscape on the surrounding patio. You can plant grass or flowers directly into the ground next to your swimming pool, but one of my favorite design ideas is adding your plants to containers.

It creates a simple but modern look to your garden design, and you are less likely to cause health problems for your plants by exposing them to the chlorinated pool water. In fact, using planters is much healthier for your plants in general.

Best planters for around swimming pools

6. Replace your front lawn with hardscaping features

Montroy cube planter on stones
Montroy cube planter on stones // ©DKoliha

Since Southern California is subject to prolonged droughts, it can be difficult and environmentally inefficient to keep a lush, green lawn. Sure, installing artificial grass may sound like an attractive option, but the plasticizers are prone to breaking down in the sun, which can leach toxic chemicals into the ground and release airborne particles that are harmful to humans when ingested for long periods of time.

One natural alternative is to substitute your front yard for hardscaping features such as gravel, planters, or even a Japanese-inspired rock garden. A layer of gravel or small rocks will naturally suppress weeds, keeping maintenance to a minimum and Zen to a maximum. And don’t worry, the versatility of these landscapes means you can still intersperse any variety of native plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees to add a pop of color and texture to your home garden or commercial space.

Related article: Zen Planter Ideas

Best planters for hardscaping features

7. Build water features

Waterfalls koi ponds aquatic gardens
Waterfalls, koi ponds and aquatic gardens // ©Design Rulz

Water features are especially attractive, especially in the landscaping for hospitality. A koi pond, for example, could be the perfect addition to a park or resort. Koi fish are simply stunning in their various colors and sizes. Many people find their movement to be quite captivating and guests on your property will love watching them swim around.

When it comes to designing your water features, the possibilities for planting are endless. Water lilies are perfect for providing shade for your fish while naturally purifying the water. Rock waterfalls add a lovely touch and will also move and oxygenate the water, keeping your pond water clear and your fish happy and healthy.

But your design ideas are not limited to the pond itself. You can also customize your garden by planting trees and flowers around your pond to add more texture and interest to the landscape.

8. Create some tasteful privacy

https://instagram.com/davidbondst?igshid=moasrpq4k69d https://instagram.com/christinaccollins?igshid=1hu6w7eysakja
Linear Planters make this garden an oasis // ©davidbondst // christinaccollins

There is nothing more unnerving than a bare balcony. Not only is it a missed opportunity to create an aesthetic that matches the vibe of your property, but it can also make guests feel uncomfortable. They may feel like passers-by are looking right into their private lives.

Creating a beautiful sanctuary for your guests can be easily achieved by placing some plants along the rails of your balconies and patios. Whether you want a long row of rectangular planters filled with tall grass to completely obscure the view, or a few trees to just add a touch of green to the outdoor patio, adding a container garden to your resort or apartment building is essential for beauty and comfort.

Related article: Tips For Creating Rooftop Privacy With Commercial Planters

Best planters for creating privacy

9. Take advantage of permeable paving

Pavement // ©Stephanie Lee

In the past, installing a huge slab of concrete pavement in the front yard has been the main feature of Southern California landscape design. While it is convenient for parking our cars and keeping our lawns low-maintenance, it certainly doesn’t add much curb appeal. After all, your front yard is the first thing you and your guests will notice about your house, so it should create a welcoming environment to come home to every day.

Traditional asphalt and cement parking areas do not allow water to absorb into the ground. Although Southern California tends to be quite dry, when the time does come for heavy rain, water will collect debris as it travels to storm drains, creating more chances for flooding. Permeable paving is a healthier option that will add some green to your space while creating a landscape that is more beneficial for the environment.

10. Embrace groundcovers and pavers

Groundcovers and pavers
Groundcovers and pavers // ©Laurie Mann Johnson

When considering ideas for permeable paving, it is important to be mindful of the space between your pavers, as they can create a hotbed for weeds. But don’t worry – with a few careful choices of plants, you can turn your yard into a real garden landscape that outshines any ordinary lawn.

Perhaps the best choice for these yards is to surround your pavers with creeping groundcovers. These plants fill most of the areas between your pathway that are not big enough for proper plants and flowers. This will create a striking structure that will save you time and energy on landscaping maintenance. It will also help to reduce stormwater run-off that pollutes local water systems.

Luckily, Southern California is home to various heat-resistant plants with low water requirements, which are ideal for ground cover. For example, Creeping Thyme is low-maintenance and can handle a good trample from feet or paws. This plant also thrives in the hot summer sun, making it perfect for yards with little shade cover.

Southern California Landscaping Design FAQs

What plants grow best in California?

Whether you are looking to add colorful flowers or simple bushes to your landscape, there are plenty of options that will suit the growing conditions of the area. Here are a few popular plant choices that can handle full sun and have low water requirements:

  • California poppy
  • Blue-eyed grass
  • Coastal prickly pear
  • Sage
  • Deergrass

Learn more about how choosing the correct shape and size of planters improves plant health.

What California Landscaping Social Media Groups Are There?

California Native Plant Society

This non-profit organization is committed to the conservation of California native plants and their natural habitats. With its 35 chapters throughout the state, you can get involved with your local CNPS chapter and help them in their mission to preserve California’s horticultural heritage for generations to come.

Tree of Life Nursery

Established over 40 years ago, this nursery began planting California native plants with the state’s unique climate and terrain in mind. Today, they have expanded to provide plant education services to help the region return to its natural landscape.

American Society of Landscape Architects

The Southern California chapter of ASLA serves the counties of Los Angeles, Orange County, and neighboring regions. Through advocacy, education, and fellowship, this organization is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and skill of landscape art and science.

Get Inspired

Southern California landscaping can be a bit tricky due to the dry subtropical climate, but if you are familiar with the conditions in which native plants grow best, the ideas for your garden are endless.

Whether you are looking to start small by adding a few perennials to your yard or designing an entire landscape from scratch, you can explore online and find countless design ideas and inspiration online.

Start by checking out local Southern Californian plant societies and nurseries, then head over to our inspiration gallery to get some more ideas for how to use our high-quality fiberglass planters in your garden.

Planters Etc Fiberglass Planters – Unique Backyard And Lawn Management For California Landscaping

©Planters Etc planters

Whether your property is in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Beverly Hills, it’s likely that your gardens are at the mercy of Southern California’s dry landscaping conditions.

Using fiberglass planters to contain your plants not only keeps your yard tidy but also maintains the health of your plants.

In addition, fiberglass is an incredible material that excels in outdoor and indoor environments, is effortless to maintain, and is an advantage to your commercial business.

Find out why our customers demand fiberglass products.

Implement Your California Landscaping Ideas with Planters Etc

Large planter next to a house
Our Fluted planter collection is breathtakingly large and impressive // ©Blu Bambu Home and Garden/ John Hooper/ Planters Etc

Now that you have read our guide to elevating your Southern California landscape design, you must be brimming with ideas and eager to get started.

Let us help you with your landscaping needs – our high-quality fiberglass planters are made of durable, tough, and delightful fiberglass material. Choose from a variety of 18 stunning colors and as many as four textures to suit your design goals.

All our planters come with an industry-leading warranty emphasizing the commitment and value of our fiberglass planters.

Feel free to contact us and our sales consultants will be more than happy to walk you through any outstanding questions or requests you might have.

However, if you’re ready to transform your California garden into a garden of Eden, then get shopping!

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