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Life After Lawn: Go wild over Payne’s buckwheat

Payne’s wild buckwheat is a California native that bees love. Gardeners like it, too.
Payne’s wild buckwheat is a California native that bees love. Gardeners like it, too.

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Life After Lawn” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well-adapted to our region and ideal for drought-tolerant landscapes.

Payne’s wild buckwheat

Eriogonum fasciculatum “Theodore Payne”

Size: Grows to 1 foot tall and 3 to 5 feet wide at maturity.

Bloom season: In summer, creamy white flowers on branched stalks produce condensed balls of blooms.

Exposure: Full sun preferred; will tolerate afternoon shade.

Pruning needs: Little or none; pinch tips of stems when young to encourage branching; remove dead flower stalks in winter.

Water needs: Low to very low water use; once established, needs irrigation once a month in summer – if at all.

Snapshot: Several cultivars of California native plants are named for Theodore Payne, a pioneering botanist and nurseryman who “tamed” many of the state’s wildflowers for home gardeners more than a century ago. This buckwheat is one of Payne’s real winners for today’s drought-minded gardeners. A tough, evergreen, creeping groundcover, Payne’s wild buckwheat is covered with apple-green, needlelike foliage. Excellent for slopes and dry gardens, this buckwheat will tolerate some shade if necessary. As it grows and spreads, it stays compact to create a nice tight mat of foliage. Its rounded clusters of white flowers attract smaller butterflies as well as bees and other beneficial insects. The big bonus: Buckwheat needs very little irrigation in summer. That makes it ideal for dry gardens.

For more on “Life After Lawn,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

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