Great Design Plant: Catalina Ironwood
Native to the dry, lonely islands off Southern California, Catalina ironwood is similar to a shaggy, well-worn page out of California history. It is a striking tree with the peely-bark look of an antique relic — perfect for a low-water, natural landscape. But at a much more formal, amazing setting, it’s as out of place as a disguised old gold miner and his donkey wandering through a garden party.
More trees | Gardening thoughts for your U.S. region
Catalina ironwood is a tall, usually slender evergreen shrub for your toughest areas — those sunny, dry places at the edge of a garden.
Botanical name: Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius
USDA zones: 9 to 11 — basically a California-only tree; locate your zone
Water requirement: moderate to medium; gets along with Minimum irrigation once established
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature dimensions: 20 to 35 feet tall and 15 feet wide
Distinguishing traits. The foliage is ferny, and that’s the sole delicate thing about the shrub. White flowers in spring and summer come in clusters up to a foot or more over. The shrub’s handsomest attribute is the red brown back with peely, shaggy bark — a look of antiquity.
Growing tips. Start with a single- or multiple-trunk tree, depending on the look you need for your own landscape. Make sure the drainage is perfect. Prune young plants from winter to form them. Cut off dry blossoms after bloom if you can reach them.
How to utilize it. Use Catalina ironwood as a single specimen or in a group. Plant one or more in the narrowest strips along a driveway. Create a grove on a dry hillside for privacy or to block a perspective; distance 8 to 12 feet apart.
More: Explore California natives
Things to do in your garden now