The Reveg Edge Technologies:
16 Basic California Native Seeding Rules plus Details
"Success the First Time and Every Time

Copyright © 2001 by Craig Dremann, The Reveg Edge Technologies,
P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064 (650) 325-7333 -
All right reserved. Links may be made to this page, but no transmittal of this information either in a written or electronic form shall be made, nor any of this information put on any other web site(s) without written permission from the author plus the payment of a license fee.
The sole purpose of the Reveg Edge Technologies, as a company, is to develop, patent and license innovative ecological restoration technologies; and to educate and consult with agencies and individuals who have a desire in achieving success every time when planting native plants.

This web site is an example of the technology we have developed. You will not see this information suggested by any other restoration group, seed company, consultant, or anyone else involved with ecological restoration or planting native plants. That's what sets our company apart----we have developed technologies that work the first time, every time. Our technologies may seem controversial at first, until you try them and you begin to have success.

Ecological restoration or even planting a small stand of wildflowers in California is a big challenge due to the introduced exotic species, which now cover 99.99% of the State. When planting roadside wildflowers, for example, you must follow each and every step outlined below exactly, or your planting will risk failure within 3 months.

The sixteen basic rules are listed first, with the details thereafter. The fifteen basic seeding rules listed below will bring your planting successes just above the 50:50 threshold, and closer attention to certain details listed at the end may be necessary to achieve 100% success every time.


RULE 1 - If you are planting on public land including highway roadsides, make sure your project has all the proper environmental reports completed prior to starting. For example, there may be a listed Threatened or Endangered plant in the area, and your clearing, herbiciding or seeding could extinguish the population. Make sure your project will have no negative environmental consequences or impacts.

RULE 2 - Have a qualified native plant botanist survey your planting site prior to conducting your project, and confirm that your planting will not disrupt an already existing California native habitat. For example, existing native plants can be accidentally destroyed when native grasses are not recognized when they are dormant.

RULE 3 - If your project is near or within a National Park, US National Forest, or Bureau of Land Management area, genetic material from the site may be required by the agency, and you will probably not find that material commercially available. You may need to get a seed collecting permit from the agency who manages the land, and hire a professional seed collector to harvest seed for you at least six months in advance of your project.

RULE 4 - Only plant seeds or plants which are native to California. Those are the species shown in bold-faced type in the Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, edited by James C. Hickman, published by the University of California Press.

RULE 5 - Only plant California native seeds or plants within Counties where those species have known to have originally occurred, and at the same elevation. Caltrans helped fund a database of the plants of California at You can type in the species name and a map is created to show where it occurred. You can also view the data by County, to see at what elevation the species has been found within that county.

RULE 6 - Ask for "Yellow Tag Certified Seed" This is seed whose origin is known. The closer the origin of the material is to where you want to plant, the greater the chances of long term success increase exponentially.

RULE 7 - Plant full-sun species in full sun, and shade species in the shade. The natural desire is to buy inexpensive seed. Generally putting any species in the wrong conditions will only cause failure.

RULE 8 - NEVER PLANT EXOTICS or naturalized species, which are all the plants that are in the light-faced type in the Jepson Manual : Higher Plants of California, published by the University of Cal.Press. - Some exotics can persist as weeds, and along roadsides could violate the President's Executive Order 13112 on Invasive Species.

RULE 9 - Always take at least one soil sample from the site, and conduct a soil nutrient test, and get recommendations on what materials need to be added when you sow your seed. For a list of soil testing labs, see

RULE 10 - Always use organic sources of nitrogen or phosphorus if soil nutrient tests indicate either nutrient needs to be added.

RULE 11 - Always conduct small-scale test plots prior to any large-scale planting. There is a tendency to skip over this rule and go directly to large-scale plantings. If you are trying native species for the first time, you almost always are guaranteed that you will have some problems. Mistakes are easier to accept when they occur on a square-yard planting rather than acre-sized plantings. What you find out by conducting numerous "spot plantings" with different species and sowing rates is critical for ultimate success of your large-scale planting.

Your test plots should be at least a square yard each, and always try: (1.) at least a dozen different sowing rates, (2.) different sowing techniques for each species, and (3.) various nutrient rates. Expect in difficult sites that you will find only one of 50 different test plots treatments might achieve long term survival---See Detail 3 below with photos.

RULE 12 - Always sow a minimum of 50 pounds of pure live seed per acre, unless you have conducted test plots which indicate that you are able to achieve success at another sowing rate.

RULE 13 - Always sow single species. Never sow a seed mix unless the mix has been previously shown from your own test plots to succeed.

RULE 14 - You can sow more than one species at a site, but they need to be sown in individual swaths. One of the added advantages of sowing individual species is that your native plant seedlings can be identified upon germination, and be told apart from any weed seedlings.

RULE 15 - Always evaluate your planting 30 days and 60 days after sowing. You need to see the following:
(a.) At least one native seedling per square inch.
(b.) At least 95% cover of native species
(c.) Less than 5% bare soil (not counting ground squirrel or gopher mounds)
(d.) Less than 5% exotic plant cover.

If all of these objectives have not been achieved, in all parts of the site, or if the percentage of exotic cover is higher than 5%, then those areas need to be redone.

RULE 16 - Always evaluate a planting six months and one year later. You need to see the following:(a.) At least 90% cover of native species.
(b.) Less than 5% bare soil (not counting ground squirrel or gopher mounds)
(c.) Less than 10% exotic plant cover.

If all of these objectives have not been achieved in all parts of the site, or if the percentage of exotic cover is higher than 10%, then those areas need to be redone.

THE FINE DETAILS - The things that can make or break you California native planting:

DETAIL 1 - Did you use the correct local species for the particular site?

DETAIL 2 - Did you use the correct genetic material or "ecotype" of local native species for the site? See picture of different genetic native material at

DETAIL 3 - Did you conduct numerous small-scale test plots on the site to trial out your proposed seed and seeding prescription? On some difficult sites, only one out of 25, or one out of 50 different seed and seeding strategies will end up succeeding. Here are photos of two test plots sown with the same seeds at the same time, and both plots received the same amount of water and light:

One the left, the seeds germinated and then died. On the right the native grasses thrived. This shows the value of trying at least two different planting strategies, and try some small test plots before you begin a large scale planting.

DETAIL 4 - Did you conduct a genetic identification fingerprint on the seed you purchased, so you know that it is the species and ecotype you wanted? See pictures and details on seed fingerprinting at

DETAIL 5 - Could there be a soil problem that a general nutrient test did not detect, like toxic levels of trace elements?

DETAIL 6 - Did you conduct a seed-predation test, to see what animals at the site might eat your seeds (harvester ants, birds, harvester mice, etc.)? If you find your seeds taken away, "pay the landlords". Put out some seed to the side of your planting for the the harvester animals to eat instead. You will probably need to hide your own sown seed better. California poppy seeds, for example, are a favorite food of Mourning doves.

NOTE: The above information is a general overview for planting sites without special needs or considerations. A different set of parameters may be necessary for success on more difficult sites.

We offer consulting services for a fee, and have a variety of technologies available for licensing as tools to increase success the first time when planting native plants.

To see the different DOT pages we have, please look at

Updated June 18, 2016. Back to Craig Dremann's main Contents page