Phacelia tanacetifolia is native to Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is most common in the deserts of southern California below 5,000 feet (1,500 m), but may be occasionally found at much higher elevations.
It is used outside its native range in agriculture as a cover crop, a bee plant, an attractant for other beneficial insects, as a green manure and an ornamental plant. It is planted in vineyards and alongside crop fields, where it is valued for its long, coiling inflorescences of nectar-rich flowers which open in sequence, giving a long flowering period. It is a good insectary plant, attracting pollinators such as honey bees.