Where the Malibu Wildflowers Grow
The color scheme of Malibu, if one could describe it, might be called “cool”: the soft blue of the ocean, the beige of the sand, the faded white of surfboards in the waves.
For one short period each year, Malibu also becomes a town of verdant greens, bright oranges, yellows, and even purples. The spring blooming season has arrived in southern California, and it’s set to be a good one.
The blooms come yearly in Southern California, but thanks to a rainier winter, 2023 has the potential to be spectacular. As of late February, the U.S. Drought Monitor map of California has Malibu in the lowest level of drought (“abnormally dry”), a far cry from the “exceptional drought” of the mid-2010s. Nearby Oxnard, according to the National Weather Service, has received 84 percent more water this winter than normal.
With a solid percentage of that precipitation coming early in the season, National Parks Service Restoration Ecologist Joey Algiers says that the wildflower bloom is starting a little earlier than normal: some poppies and “shooting stars” are visible as of late February.
So, where to start?
For proximity to Malibu, it’s hard to beat Paramount Ranch in Agora Hills, less than 15 miles from the front door of Malibu Beach Inn.
“I’d probably say [in March] you’re going to see beautiful blooms of gold fields, yellow native daisies or native sunflowers [there],” says Algiers.
Many of the best locations to see blooms are surprisingly accessible via car: Paramount Ranch, for instance, has its own parking and some easy-to-navigate trails. (It’s also fun to spot the flowers alongside film sets for shows like “Westworld” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
However, that ease of access can also result in big crowds at some of the most popular locations. Lake Elsinore in neighboring Riverside County has already decided to close the popular Walker Canyon hiking trails, owing in part to crowds of upwards of 100,000 people in one weekend during 2019’s superbloom. Thankfully, many Angelenos looking for flowers head east to places like Antelope Valley, giving Malibu’s mountains a diamond-in-the-rough feel.
Blooms v. Green
The wildflowers, though, thrive in wide open areas, spaces where they don’t compete for water and other resources with invasive grasses and the like. On the wooded hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains, expect to see a few flowers here and there, but much more from healthy coastal sage scrub and oak trees.
“I think when people think about super blooms and they’re kind of thinking of the poppy preserve,” says Algiers. “And at Solstice Canyon, at least when you’re hiking in lower Solstice Canyon, a lot of those are woody shrubs that you’re seeing – still gorgeous.”
For Brian Houck, the head of Grounds and Gardens at the Getty Villa, the viewpoint from God’s Seat, a rock formation just off Mullholland Highway near Circle X Ranch, is hard to beat for the combination of greens and blooms.
“It’s a pretty awesome location,” he says, “with a view into the [San Fernando Valley and a smidge of a view out to the ocean.”
No Chase Required
For some, wildflower chasing can be frustrating; it can feel like blooms that were there yesterday (on social media posts, at least) are gone today. But not all blooms in Malibu are wild, as anyone who’s ever walked the grounds at Getty Villa knows.
The colder weather in 2023 has delayed the Getty bloom slightly according to Houck, but he says the middle of March will be the time to which to pay attention. And for 2023, many of the gardens at Getty have been redesigned to closer match the Roman theme.
“It looks better than I think it has looked in years past,” he says. “It’s a little bit more robust and the plantings are more organized.”
But whether it’s the wild blooms of open fields, the gorgeous greens of a hiking trail, or the well-manicured patches of plants at the Villa, people looking for a splash of color in their Malibu vacation can find it this season, just steps from the Malibu Beach Inn.