The current trend of using native, low-water plants is not only wonderful for a homeowner’s utility bills, but also for the local environment. With so many benefits, there is little wonder why more and more people want to create a water-friendly garden or landscape using natural vegetation. Native plants are those that would grow naturally in a region; they have adapted through evolution to be suited to the environment, so they are more likely to flourish given an area’s “normal” rainfall and temperature patterns.
Southern California is unique because the natural zones can vary so much from the ocean to the desert. However, throughout the region plants that naturally conserve water will thrive more readily. Native Southern California plants must be smart to survive in a low-water environment.
Using native plants, Southern Californians can enjoy low-water landscapes that are naturally water-conscious and beautiful. Of course, even if you’ve lived here for years you might not know what type of plants to use to create a low water landscape.
Guide to Native Plants for Low-Water Landscaping
This guide describes our top 10 native plants for low-water landscaping in Southern California. Use it for inspiration and ideas!
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
California Lilac (Ceanothus) is an evergreen shrub or small tree. It blooms a lavender flower, and does great in a dry climate! This plant is accustomed to all sorts of rugged weather including cold and severe heat. Native Americans used this plant in teas to help ease the pain of childbirth or help with other ailments! photo by selkovjr
Tree Poppy (Dendromecon)
Tree Poppy (Dendromecon) is a celebrated and gorgeous plant that blooms bright yellow flowers. This stunner blooms in the spring, and grows quickly in the Southern California native climate. It can be used to fill in spaces and does great when pruned in the late autumn. photo by Jorge Ochoa
Lemonade Berry (Rhus Integrifolia)
Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia) is a shrub or small tree that does great in our climate and has pretty dark red to yellow berries that grow. This plant loves the dry, windy climate and is a great addition to any native garden. photo by Bludgeoner86
Fuchsia Flowering Gooseberry (Ribes speciosum)
Fuchsia Flowering Gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) is a shrub with bright red flowers that resemble a fuchsia plant! The dangling flowers have a very interesting look when they dance gently on the breeze. It does great in bright light and will thrive in the right environment to bring bold color to the garden. photo by peganum
Spreading Rush (Juncus patens)
Spreading Rush (Juncus patens) is a rush that is well known throughout the Southern California region. This is one of those plants you have seen often and wonder about. It also goes by the name Elk Rush. photo by oliveoligarchy
Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) is a small perennial that has gorgeous little vibrant purple and yellow blossoms. They are shy and diminutive in nature and their blossoms close during dusk. photo by wackybadger
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
White Sage (Salvia apiana), also known as bee sage or sacred sage, lends a deep and herbaceous fragrance to the air around it. This shrub attracts hummingbirds, bumblebees and many other insect life to it’s flowers. White Sage is an evergreen perennial with white to pale lavender flowers that bloom in the Spring. photo by joedecruyenaere
Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)
Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) has a deceiving name! This highly aromatic shrub has beautiful light-colored flowers that are usually a pale blue or lavender color, and rarely a pale rose color. Black sage is attractive local insects and botanists alike! It works especially well in butterfly and hummingbird gardens. photo by Tom Hilton
Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii) is also known as blue sage and has a gorgeous little blossom that is blue in color. Another favorite with hummingbirds, this shrub is hearty and loves a sunny location. photo by JefferyTurner
Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum)
Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum) is often cultivated as an ornamental. Exclusive to California, its aromatic and showy flowers will attract hummingbirds and bumblebees. One caveat is that this plant is notoriously hard to grow. For those willing to take on the challenge, the whimsical, wild curls, woolly flowers and rich colors are an enchanting reward. photo by Jorge Ochoa
What we really love about these native plants is that they prove low-water landscaping can be lush and beautiful. Many people have a misconception that naturalized gardens are barren or brown. It’s just not so! These native plants can create colorful, low-water landscapes that bloom with all the extra benefits that come from being environmentally-friendly.