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Make Your Landscape Water-Wise with Drought Tolerant Plants

Posted on  by Prunin Arboriculture & Landscape

The drought tolerant or water-wise California landscape allows for a beautiful, healthy yard. Instead of fighting the realities of the landscape and trying to create a lush green property, embrace the drought environment.

Drought Tolerant Plants

The following tips will help you create a gorgeous outdoor landscape that requires minimal supplemental irrigation and has little or no adverse runoff.

Avoid Excess Of Grass

Grass significantly limits drought tolerant landscaping because it needs so much water. Cutting back or getting rid of grass altogether will give you a lot more options for your landscaping. If you’re set on having grass, install a water-efficient sprinkler system and monitor your watering carefully to stay within the water limit for your area.

Select Appropriate Plants

Choose a variety of trees, shrubs, and groundcover that thrive well in your particular region of California. Different plants thrive the best in Northern and Southern California. If you have graded or sloped ground that you’re landscaping, such as a yard on a hillside, take the needs of this space into consideration as well.

Prefer Native Plants

Opting for native drought tolerant plants that have low water demands, limited pest problems, and minimal fertilizer needs will greatly reduce the amount of time that you have to spend on your yard. A well designed water-wise landscape reduces routine maintenance as much as 50%, thanks to reduced mowing, mulching, and watering.

Strike a Balance

As you weigh varying drought tolerant plants, think about mixing color and texture to create visual interest in your space. Select plants that fit the architecture of your home. For example, the plants that work best with a modern Spanish home may not work well for an older cottage.

Sow Drought Tolerant Grass Seeds

If you are fond of lush green grass but you are in a drought-affected area, reseeding your lawn with drought-tolerant grass seeds is the best option. They’ll establish quickly and will be able to thrive on very less water than any other variety of grass and will help your front lawn or backyard garden survive the drought.

Tall Grass Adds Depth

Use decorative grasses like “Japanese blood” or “Russian Sage”. They grow really tall and come in different colors. By placing these grasses on the back of shorter ones or along the fences will create a layered landscape and will give it a very uniformed look.

Below are a few drought tolerant plant ideas for Southern California region:


Olea ‘Wilsonii’ – Fruitless olive tree, hence no mess. The trunk becomes knotty with time which is great for night lighting.

Carolina Laurel – Spring-flowering with deep green foliage.

Rhus Lancea – Commonly called African Sumac. Evergreen with sword-shaped leaves.

Western Sycamore – Smooth, gracefully twisted branches, multiple or leaning trunks. Drought tolerant and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Shrubs and Groundcover

Sedges and Salvias – Both are pollinators and add color to the landscape.

Agave – Tough as nails and adds nice texture and contrast. It has a waxy surface that helps to retain water.

Coffee Berry – The dark green to yellowish green leaves are either shiny or dull. Berries also turn from green to black during the ripening period to add a lot of color.

Dymondia(as a lawn substitute) – Grows flat to the ground. Often referred to as Mini Gazania.

So, when you’re planning your yard, consider trees, shrubs, and groundcover that are a good fit for the size of your yard. Plants that stay contained and compact will help a smaller yard look bigger and free of clutter. You can also position larger, showy plants along trail edges and parkways to enhance them without overwhelming the whole space. Likewise, if you have a big yard, don’t be afraid to consider larger plants that make a bold statement.

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