SAN DIEGO — Drought conditions are nothing new to Californians, who are experiencing an exceptionally dry start to 2022 after there were some brief signs of improvement last winter.
Across the Golden State, residents are trying to get more water-wise. People with large grass yards (and even larger water bills) may be considering alternative groundcovers or even artificial turf for the first time. Gardeners who find their beloved greenery struggling through the summer might be looking for something more hearty.
Whether you’re reimagining your whole approach to landscaping or just looking to add an “unthirsty” new friend, there are plenty of options to consider.
Water-conserving plants for California yards
If you’re replacing old landscaping or adding new plants, these options are generally recommended by California’s Department of Water Resources.
- Blue Hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Barberry, Berberis x stenophylla
- Bush Anemone, Carpenteria californica
- Bush Morning Glory, Convolvulus cneorum
- Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
- Euryops, Euryops pectinatus
- Pineapple Guava, Feijoa sellowiana
- Texas Ranger, Leucophyllum sp.
- Pomegranate, Punica granatum
- Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
- Bottle Tree, Brachychiton populneus
- Pindo Palm, Butia capitata
- Australian Beefwood, Casuarina stricta
- Honey Locust, Gleditsia triacanthos
- Sweet Bay, Laurus nobilis
- Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii
- Locust, Robinia x ambigua
- Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora
- Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus-castus
- Bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
- Carmel Creeper, Ceanthous griseus horizontalis
- Red Spike Ice Plant, Cephalophylum sp.
- Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile
- Creeping Coprosma, Coprosma x kirkii
- Trailing Lantana, Lantana montedivensis
- Creeping Mahonia, Mahonia repens
- Pork and Beans, Sedum rubrotinctum
- Australian Bluebell Creeper, Sollya heterophylla
- Wooly Thyme, Thymus pseudolanuginosus
- Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
- Columbine, Aquilegia hybrids
- Wormwood, Artemisia “Powis Castle”
- Italian Arum, Arum italicum
- Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatior
- Fortnight Lily, Dietes iridioides
- Siberian Wallflower, Erysimum x allionii
- Blanketflower, Gaillardia grandiflora
- Sunrose, Helianthemum nummularium
- Crown Pink, Lychnis coronaria
Use these lists as a jumping-off point — depending on your needs, you can check in with a local nursery or the gardening section at a home goods store, where staff will likely have further recommendations.
Even if they don’t carry the specific species you seek, they can point you toward something similar. It’s also worth confirming that there’s nothing in your immediate area’s microclimate that makes one plant less-suited than another.
Take advantage of drought landscaping rebates
Local water districts and government agencies want you to save water — and they’ll help finance your landscaping project, too. Make sure to check for rebates and other incentives if you’re planning to make your yard more drought tolerant.
For example, San Diego County offers rebates for a wide range of initiatives:
- Turf replacement
- Watersmart edgescaping (replacing the plants that line pavement)
- Rainwater barrels and other rain-saving mechanisms
- Rain-friendly pavement (permeable surfaces that allow water to flow into the earth)
- Smart irrigation controllers for sprinklers
The Los Angeles County Waterworks District offers a “Cash for Grass” program, which pays residents by the square-foot for replacing inefficient turf with drought tolerant alternatives.
These are just a few examples — Google your local agencies along with the name of your project and “rebate” or “incentives” to find more. You might be surprised how much you can save.
Ready to dive deeper?
Tackling a large, water-efficient landscaping project is best done with a cohesive plan and a fair bit of research beforehand. Check out these trustworthy sources when you’re ready to learn more:
- The California Department of Water Resources
Sample landscaping plans, irrigation system tips and maintenance information
- California Native Plant Society
A wealth of information about plants that thrive in the Golden State
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s portal for water conservation rebates and tips
- “Water Smart” Video Series
The San Diego County Water Authority’s free video series on every step of a landscape makeover