UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA

Water Wise Plants

Arctotis 'Purple Torch'

Our Palo Alto Demonstration Garden includes a Water Wise Garden. The goal of the garden is to find beautiful native and non-native ornamental plants that will thrive in our summer-dry climate and clay soil without a lot of extra work. Many of our non-native plants come from climates similar to ours, such as Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Chile. We are also trialing a number of UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars plants.

In the Water Wise Garden we take a tough love approach to plants. We water once every three weeks in late spring, summer and early fall using a drip irrigation system. We use no fertilizer except for a two-inch mulch of shredded leaves and stems that we spread on top of our soil in the fall. All our plants are planted in unamended soil. Most of our California native plants are planted directly in our native soil, which is a fertile, moderately well draining clay soil. Our non-native plants have been planted on one-foot mounds composed of a gravelly, well draining soil with little or no organic matter. If our plants look good under these harsh conditions, they are likely to thrive in your Santa Clara County garden.

Please come visit the garden to see the beautiful results yourself. Here are category lists of our favorite plants, or view full plant listing or image gallery of all our plants.

Plant Type
Bulb Grass
Groundcover Perennial
Plant type depends on cultivar Shrub
Succulent Tree

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Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
None: avoid summer water Very Low: water deeply several times a summer

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Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun Full to half sun
Full to half sun, shade Half sun
Half sun to shade Shade

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Bees Beneficials
Butterflies Deer resistant
Hummingbirds Other birds

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Webmaster Email: webmaster-mgsantaclara@ucanr.edu