Best Medicinal Herbs for Southern California
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Laurie Roberts
Posted on: February 19, 2007

What would be the most profitable herbs to grow in foothills of San Diego area. We have regular freezes in winter with minimum average around 18 F. Last freeze around mid April. The soil is decomposed granite, good drainage bottom land. The weeds that grow on it are horehound, pigweed, purslane and epazote.

The native trees are coast live oaks. We have 1 acre but if the biz grows, there is room to expand. The Ayurvedic and chinese herbs are interesting to me and I think they would sell in pots at farmers markets. I wouldn’t even need to put them in the ground....just buy Richters plugs. What do you think would work well here in the local market for fresh herbs?

Also, we are near an area that has a lot of chaparral, Ceanothus (redroot), Arctostaphylos -- is there a market for this organic wildcrafted herbs? I want to buy your book about the "Commercial Importance of Native Plants" but it is not on the site. Where can I get it?

The book is available from Richters. Please see:

Where should I begin? You probably need me to develop a business plan. Start at

For details on costs and what I might need to get you in the right direction.

Actually, with only one acre and the soil problems in that region, it really is a "no-brainer." I would begin with Baby’s Breath (double-bristle cultivar). You have a Dutch Auction house, and the floral trade is perhaps the largest in North America (over Vancouver and Florida). If you add value, like bleaching and preserving the product before it leaves the farm, you can think of it as doing three acres.

If the business looks like it wants to expand, I would guess there are numerous 1-acre parcels not being used in the local community - for lease. Share crop with them, and develop local growers who want to supplement their incomes. Yields can be as high as $20,000/acre, especially when it comes into labor and cottage industries.

For an overview of just what I am suggesting, go to

You mentioned purslane, and it reminded me of a project I did out of Arizona some 15 years ago. On the Fort McDowell River, the purslane grew almost 1.5 fee4t high, especially during flood stage. We fed it to layer hens in Lancaster County to create a low-cholesterol egg (25%). We also played Mozart.

Responding to your statement that "I would not even need to put them in the ground," of course your would need to grow them further to be able to sell them at a farmer’s market. Plug culture is a 4-inch plant for replant in row crowing techniques. See "Getting Started" at

There is a serious market for chaparral. But it must be harvested above 4,000 feet to have good quantities of NADGA (anti-tumor drug). Wildcrafting can be very locative, especially if you have grains and grasses between you and the beaches. I would guess there are more than 50 grasses in San Diego that are commercially important in the floral trade.

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