Twelve Gopher-Proof Plants

January 12, 2015

Oh, this little critter… The gopher.

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I have a love/hate relationship with this guy. I love that he keeps my dog busy for hours on end, digging and sniffing in the yard. But what I don’t love is coming outside to find a plant on its side, severed at its base. Ugh. It gives me the shivers just typing that. In the nine years that I’ve lived in gopher country, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with plants and I’ve found that there are quite a few lovely, drought-tolerant plants that gophers actually won’t touch! And the best news is that these plants are easily propagated (except for the Golden Barrel Cactus), so you don’t have to spend much money¬† to fill up your ornamental landscape. All of the succulent varieties can be propagated by taking cuttings and planting them straight into the ground the next day, after the cut has healed and dried a bit. The rosemary can be propagated by taking rooted pieces and transplanting them. These are all great additions to a xeriscape garden.

These are photos of plants from my property in San Diego, which means that our local gophers don’t like ’em. I can’t say if the same applies to gophers in other parts of the country.

1. Sticks of Fire – This is the king of gopher-proof plants. Not only will they not eat it, they tend to stay away from the entire area when you plant this. I have this all over my front yard, and the gopher mounds have ceased to exist. The plant makes a milky, sticky, white sap that is supposed to be very irritating to human skin. I have had it all over my hands and arms with no reaction whatsoever. I hear that my non-reaction is not the norm though.

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2. Agave Attenuata – I love this particular agave because its tips are soft. I don’t know of any other agave species out there with soft tips. The rest are like hypodermic needles, so I tend to stay away.

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3. Rosemary – The one pictured here is the trailing type. Of the different rosemary types, I like the trailing one most because we live on a slope and it just spills the pretty purple flowers everywhere. Gophers won’t touch rosemary roots.
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4. Golden Barrel Cactus – This thing looks the same all year long. It’s always its vibrant yellow self, whether it gets rain or not. It is slow growing and adds a beautiful desert look to my yard.

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5. Aeonium “Dinner Plate” – This one gets its name because the florets get huge… Like dinner plates! Gophers won’t get any dinner from this plant though.

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6. Aeonium “Kiwi” – You can plant one of these florets and within a couple of years you have a small bush bursting with these vibrantly colored florets all over. Just so lovely!

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7. Aeonium arboreum “Tree Aeonium” – These form magnificent clumps. They get leggy after awhile, at which point the pieces fall off the parent plant to put down their own roots. There’s a philosophy lesson in there somewhere.

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8. Jade – This one is found all over the place in San Diego county. That doesn’t change my love for this versatile plant. Gophers don’t like it, so therefore I love it. Jade makes a great bonsai plant selection, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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9. I don’t know the name of this plant. I used to, but I can’t remember anymore. I think it is some sort of crassula (jade), but that could be wrong. Does anyone out there know? It makes these pretty orange flowers in the middle of winter!

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10. Elephant plant – This is also in the crassula (jade) family. It is great as a clipped hedge. If you let it grow naturally, it becomes a large and irregularly shaped bush.

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11. Crassula tetragona – This is another plant that looks the exact same all year. There is absolutely no frying of the edges anywhere in the scorching 100+ degree summers we have here in east San Diego county. It just goes along its merry way looking hydrated somehow. I love this plant! It is quite sculptural and is beautiful potted.

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12. And last but not least… Bulbine frutescens – Also known as “burn jelly plant.” You can read all about this plant in another blog post, where I discuss its virtues as a skin healer.

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