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

Water Wise Plants

Here's a full list of all our water wise plants. You can also view an image gallery, or view the plants by categories.

Achillea 'Moonshine'

Pronunciation
ah-KILL-lee-ah
Common Name
Yarrow 'Moonshine'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 ft.
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Bright yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Yarrow MoonshineAchillea 'Moonshine' is a reliable mid-summer bloomer. It is a very strong yellow, so it will stand out in your garden.

These plants require very little maintenance. We regularly deadhead the spent flowers to keep a fresh look.
Vigorous clumps can be divided in the winter and given away to friends.

These plants are magnets for butterflies and beneficials insects. The flowers have lots of nectar and the flat shape of the flower serves as a perfect landing pad for butterflies.

Achillea 'Taygetea'

Pronunciation
ah-KILL-lee-ah tay-GET-ee-uh
Common Name
Yarrow 'Taygetea'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
12 in. to 18 in. wide and tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Creamy yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

'Taygetea' Greek yarrow is a cheerful, reliable summer bloomer. The flowers start out bright yellow in midsummer and fade to a more mellow shade over time. We also like the grey-green foliage that blends in well with many plants found in low water gardens. This cultivar of yarrow seems to be more drought tolerant than the popular Achillea millifolium.

Greek yarrow doesn't need a great deal of maintenance. To encourage reblooming, you can deadhead it regularly. Also, this plant will spread, so don't plant it too tightly.

Agastache

Pronunciation
ag-ah-STAK-ee
Common Name
Agastache
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. wide and 2 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We've had mixed success with Agastaches in our garden. These plants are originally from the Southwest and Mexico, a climate that is somewhat different from our Mediterranean summer-dry climate. According to our references, these plants require well draining soil, but our soils tend to be slow draining clay soils. Even so, we've have had success with this unnamed cultivar.

Aquilegia eximia

Pronunciation
ak-will-EE-jah Eks-IM-mee-uh
Common Name
Serpentine Columbine
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. high and 11/2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Sun/Shade Requirements
Half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Yellow and orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Columbines are great plants for woodland areas. Their blooms are delicate and lovely. In the summer, the foliage tends to die back, but the flowers more than make up for this. Aquilegia eximia, a California native, is a UC Davis "All Star" plant.

The Palo Alto Demonstration Garden planted Aquilegia eximia in partial sun and it hasn't done as well as we would like. We are now trialing it in a shady spot. The plant may just need more water than we provide at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden.

Arctotis 'Purple Torch'

Pronunciation
ark-TOE-tiss
Common Name
African Daisy
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1 ft. to 1 1/2 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Purple
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This African daisy begins blooming in the winter and continues until the weather gets hot. Other varieties of African daisy will bloom through the summer.

This plant is a low growing ground cover with gray felty leaves that are attractive even when there are no flowers. At our Palo Alto Demonstration Garden we have repeated plantings of 'Purple Torch' throughout the front of our beds to unify the garden. It combines well with Bulbine frutescens, which blooms at approximately the same time.

We do not consider this to be a low maintenance plant. To keep Arctotis looking its best, the flowers should be regularly deadheaded when past their prime. If you have a lot of Arctotis planted in your garden, it can be a chore.

Cuttings root easily in the cool months and that's a good thing because Arctotis looks best when replaced every few years.

Aster chilensis

Pronunciation
ASS-ter chil-EN-sis
Common Name
California Aster
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 ft. to 3 ft. wide and 18 in. to 3 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Purple, pale blue or white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This California native is a low growing, late summer bloomer that shines when much of the garden is quiet. It works well in the front of a low water perennial bed or native plant border.

California aster looks better if regularly deadheaded. After it is done blooming in the fall, we recommend shearing it back to to the ground to keep a tidy look in the garden. The plant will cheerfully return when winter is over.

California aster was a new plant in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden and we found that it spread very rapidly even without supplemental water. We have removed it from the native plant bed. It might work better in a situation where a rapidly spreading plant is needed for erosion control rather than in a small, mixed perennial bed.

Calylophus hartwegii

Pronunciation
kal-ee-LOW-fus heart-WEHG-ee-eye
Common Name
Sundrops
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1.5 ft. high and 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This is a very showy, low growing perennial. The flowers, which appear in mid-summer, are bright yellow. The delicate, lacy foliage is also an attractive addition to the garden. It is native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico.

This is a new plant in our water-wise garden, so we don't have a lot of experience with it yet. Sunset's Western Garden Book suggests shearing before spring growth. The stems on this plants can become woody, but that hasn't happened in our garden yet.

Echinops ritro ‘Taplow Blue’

Pronunciation
EK-in-ops RIH-tro
Common Name
Globe Thistle
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 - 4 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Bright blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Echinops has beautiful blue flowers beginning in the spring and continuing through the fall. The coarse leaves may not appeal to everyone, but we think they add an interesting texture.

The flowers of Echinops make a great cut flower. The spiky texture adds interest to flower arrangements.

To encourage new blooms and keep the plant looking fresh, remove the entire flowering stalk. Even with minimal water and no fertilizer, we find these plants need stacking. When we put supports in place in the early spring, they are quickly covered with foliage and hidden from view.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

Pronunciation
er-IJ-er-on GLAW-kus
Common Name
Seaside Daisy 'Wayne Roderick'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1 ft. high and spreading up to 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Pink to Lavender to Violet
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We've been growing Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden for several years now. The cultivar 'Wayne Roderick' is supposed to be longer lived, have larger blooms, and be more durable and heat tolerant than the species. Our experience with Erigeron 'Wayne Roderick' has been very good, although we have noticed that the foliage burns in the summer unless given more frequent water.

This plant has a long bloom period with regular deadheading. Ours starts blooming in the spring and continues into the fall. To keep this plant looking its best, we prune leggy growth back to 1 or 2 inches in the late fall.

In the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' has been a winner. We would recommend to anyone looking for a plant with a very long bloom period.

Eschscholzia californica

Pronunciation
esh-SHOLZ-ee-ah cal-ih-FOR-nih-kah
Common Name
California Poppy
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
6 in. wide and 6 in. to 12 in. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
Bright orange, golden, pale yellow, red, cream, rose
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

To provide design unity in our water-wise beds, we like to have one or more plants repeat in all the beds. In the spring, bright orange California native poppies fill that role in our garden. Although California poppies are perennials in our area, they can be treated as annuals.

California poppies can be problematic because they are aggressive reseeders. They must be heavily thinned out in areas you want to keep them and removed in areas you don't want them. They can get to be a sizable one and a half feet wide and can smother other plants.

California poppies look great in wild areas and are lovely massed. They make excellent temporary fillers if you are starting a new bed with small plants.

California poppies can get by on almost no summer water, but they tend to look shabby and weedy under these conditions. To encourage continuous bloom, you should provide moderate amounts of water and trim the plants back to almost ground level when the foliage turns grey and the plants lose their flowers.

Most retail nurseries and many hardware stores sell seeds for California poppies. Larner Seeds, a mail order company, is a good source of seeds for some of the less common varieties of these California natives.

Plant seeds in the fall for a spring show. Be sure to cover seeds with mulch to hide them from the birds and water regularly until they sprout if the winter rains have not arrived.

Euphorbia rigida

Pronunciation
yew-FOR-bee-ah RIH-jih-dah
Common Name
Euphorbia
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. to 4 ft. high and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

These perennials from the Mediterranean Basin have done very well in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. Euphorbias are tough as nails. The chartreuse or lime green flowers appear in late winter and hold well through spring. Euphorbias are very showy in the winter garden and continue looking good during the hot summer.

Euphorbias can be aggressive reseeders so cut off the flower stalks at the base sometime in May before they set seed. Be careful of the sap as it may irritate the skin. We let the cuttings dry an hour before tossing them in the recycling bin.

Hundreds of varieties of Euphorbias are available ranging from groundcovers to shrubs.

Heuchera 'Rosada'

Pronunciation
HEW-ker-ah
Common Name
Coral Bells 'Rosada'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. to 4 ft. wide with 1 ft. flower stalks
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Half sun to shade
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

There are many different kinds of Heuchera, but one of our favorites is "Rosada'. Heuchera 'Rosada', which was introduced to the nursery trade by the UC Davis Arboretum, is a cross between two different native species from the western U.S.

Heuchera rosada prefers light shade and occasional to moderate water. With beautiful rosettes of low growing foliage and stalks of pink blooms, it is a favorite of woodland gardens. Removing the flower stalks when the plant finishes blooming is all the maintenance this western native needs.

Although these plants will grow in full sun, they will need more water to look their best. Plants grown in the shade can tolerate less water.

UC Davis Arboretum selected Heuchera 'Rosada' for its "All Stars" series. "All Stars" are easy to grow, reliable, do not need a lot of water, and have few pest or disease problems.

Heuchera maxima

Pronunciation
HEW-ker-ah MAX-im-a
Common Name
Island Alumroot
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1-2 ft tall x 3-4 ft wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Pinkish-white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Heuchera maxima is a California native plant from the Channel Islands. This heuchera is one of the largest of this genus. It forms a low clump and looks great planted in mass, especially in early spring when the delicate flowers appear on thin stalks above the large green leaves. The flowers are useful as a cut flower.

In the Water Wise Garden we have several Heuchera maxima in a shady spot where the soil is quite rich. These plants have grown very large and are stunning in the spring when they bloom.

Kniphofia

Pronunciation
ny-FOE-fee-ah
Common Name
Red Hot Poker
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
Varies by cultivar
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red, orange, yellow, near white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

The glowing torch-like flowers of Kniphofia are reliable midsummer bloomers. From a design perspective the flower spikes of these plants provide great vertical accents. Many sizes and colors of Kniphofias have been developed, including reds, oranges, yellows, and near whites. The the flower colors can be dramatic and intense, so take care in selecting flower colors that blend well with your plants.

The Palo Alto Demonstration Garden has several Kniphofias including "Christmas Cheer', which is a UC Davis "All-Star". It has brilliant orange buds that open to a deep-gold tubular flower. Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer' blooms in the fall and winter unlike many other Kniphofias.

We deadhead these plants because the old flower spikes are not that attractive. When the leaves start looking shabby in the winter, we cut back the foliage about three inches above the ground. Kniphofia will then come back beautifully in the spring. The plant divides easily when you want to spread it around, but it doesn't seem to need dividing to stay vigorous.

Linaria purpurea

Pronunciation
lin-AR-ee-uh pur-PUR-ee-uh
Common Name
Purple Toadflax
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 - 3 ft. high and 1 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Linaria is an old friend that asks for little and gives much. This plant makes a great filler, especially in a young garden. The flowers are small, but the plant is large with many blooming branches. Sunset recommends planting these plants in mass for maximum impact.

The big drawback to Linaria is that it reseeds. The seedlings are easy to spot and pull out. If you deadhead the flowers and mulch your soil regularly you will cut down on the amount of reseeding.

Lobelia laxiflora

Pronunciation
lo-BEE-lee-ah laks-ih-FLO-ruh
Common Name
Mexican Lobelia
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. to 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Red with yellow tips
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Many Lobelias need lots of water, but not this lovely red Mexican lobelia, which has done well in our low water garden. It blooms all summer!

Though very frost tender, Mexican lobelia comes back from the root stock in the spring and spreads vigorously. After frost damage, we prune some of the scragglier branches back to about three feet to make the plant look neater. When danger of frost is gone we prune the plant to the ground to encourage new growth.

Mexican lobelia has spread aggressively in our garden and needs regular root pruning to keep under control. We would not recommend this Lobelia for someone looking for a low maintenance plant.

Warning: Lobelia may cause serious illness or death if eaten. If ingested, immediately call the Poison Control Center or your doctor. In addition, the juice or sap of the plant can cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact.

Mimulus

Pronunciation
MIM-yew-lus
Common Name
Monkey Flower
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 1/2 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
White, cream, yellow, orange, copper, salmon, red, maroon
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Mimulus is a cheerful California native that adds bright color to the garden. This shrubby perennial has been hybridized heavily to produce a rainbow of colors. In the wild, different species of Mimulus can be found from southern Oregon to southern California.

Happy in sun or part shade, these plants prefer good drainage. With supplemental water, you can expect some repeat bloom all summer. Mimulus is a favorite in native plant gardens because of its color range.

When new foliage appears at its base in late winter, the plant is ready to be pruned back to the new green growth. This hard pruning will rejuvenate the plant. If there is no growth at the base, then gently pinch the tips to encourage new growth.

Some Master Gardeners have found this plant to be short-lived; other Master Gardeners have Mimulus plants in their personal gardens that are over five years old and doing just fine. These plants are easy to propagate from cuttings and seeds.

Origanum

Pronunciation
oh-Rig-an-um
Common Name
Oregano
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
Varies depending on cultivar
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
No flowers
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We enjoy mixing herbs in ornamental plantings. Herbs like oregano are very attractive and thrive under tough conditions. Some oreganos are grown for their aromatic qualities, others for their interesting foliage and others for their attractive flowers.

'Hopley's, a variety with purplish pink flowers looks good in pots. 'Aureum', the variety shown in this picture, looks better with morning sun. The hot afternoon sun can bleach its leaves.

Herbs are great for attracting beneficial insects to gardens. Also the less they are watered, the more intense the flavor.

Many oreganos benefit from being sheared to the ground in the fall. You can harvest oregano any time for cooking, but the intense flavor will be right before the plants bloom.

Pelargonium sidoides

Pronunciation
pe-lar-GO-nee-um sih-DOY-deez
Common Name
African Geranium
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1 ft. wide and tall forming a dense mound
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Dark purple
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We love Pelargonium sidoides elegant dark purple flowers and dense mound of silver-gray, heart-shaped leaves. Masses of the dark purple flowers keep coming all the way through mid-December with or without deadheading. Even without flowers, African geranium still looks great in the garden because of its attractive foliage.

This is a geranium that thrives in low water situations and in full sun. We've also seen it do well in part shade with generous water. This cultivar seems to be more cold hardy than other Pelargonium. The only regular maintenance it needs is occasional deadheading of spent flowers and that's only necessary if you enjoy deadheading. All in all it doesn't seem to be a very picky plant.

Like most Pelargoniums it is very easy to propagate from cuttings. 

Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

Pronunciation
PEN-steh-mon
Common Name
Foothill Penstemon
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1 ft. to 2 ft. wide, 2 ft. to 3 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This is a very reliable, long-blooming California native that thrives in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden's native plant border. Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' is a UC Davis All-Star because it does well in average garden conditions. Unlike many other California native plants, Foothill penstemon can tolerate some summer water.

The bright blue flowers on these plants are stunning and last well into late summer, especially if deadheaded regularly.

Phormium tenax 'Amazing Red'

Pronunciation
FORM-ee-um TEN-ax
Common Name
New Zealand Flax 'Amazing Red'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. wide and tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red (but grown more for foliage)
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

'Amazing Red' is reputed to be one of the smaller Phormium cultivars; our plant has grown to about 3 feet high and wide in six years. The sharp texture and brownish-red color of the leaves makes this plant an excellent focal point in the perennial bed.

We have never seen 'Amazing Red' bloom in our garden, but that's OK because Phormium flowers are not particularly attractive in our opinion. Prune out dead leaves, but don't try to reduce size Phormiums by cutting back their leaves. Unlike grasses, Phormium leaves won't grow back and you'll be stuck with stubby unattractive leaves.

Some Phormiums revert to the brownish color of the species after several years. 'Amazing Red' has held its color in our garden for six years and for ten years in some of our Master Gardeners' personal gardens.

Polystichum munitum

Pronunciation
pol-ISS-tih-kum MEW-nih-tum
Common Name
Western Sword Fern
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 - 5 ft. tall and 3 - 4 ft wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
No flowers
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We highly recommend western sword ferns, although we are unsure about how much water they need to look good though the entire summer. Since this is a new plant in our garden, we've been watering it every week. Now that it has been in the garden several years, we are going to put it on our once every three weeks watering regime.

Western sword ferns are found in in forests throughout California and much of the west. These ferns help give shady landscapes a natural woodsy look that we like. These plants are very tolerant of competition from tree roots.

To keep these plants looking attractive, remove older fronds.

These plants provide forage for elk, deer, and black bears, should you wish for any of these animals in your garden.

Rosa 'Happenstance'

Pronunciation
ROE-sah
Common Name
Rose 'Happenstance'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. tall and wide with regular pruning
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
Light yellow to white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Roses have a reputation for being lovely shrubs that require a great deal of maintenance and water. 'Happenstance' rose is a beautiful, disease-free shrub rose that is doing fine on our low water diet.

The pale yellow flowers of 'Happenstance' provide a calming contrast to the more brightly colored flowers in our water wise border. The arching branches of 'Happenstance' rose form a neat mound.

This rose is a slow grower in our garden and doesn't need a lot of deadheading or pruning because we don't provide much water or fertilize. In February, we prune back some of the longer canes of 'Happenstance' to about two feet to keep the rose a three foot mounding shrub over the summer.

Despite our low maintenance approach, this rose blooms continually in the spring, summer and fall. It's amazing! If you want to add a medium-sized rose to your water-wise perennial garden, we highly recommend this one.

Salvia chamaedryoides

Pronunciation
SAL-vee-uh kam-ay-dry-OY-deez
Common Name
Germander Sage
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 ft. wide and 3 ft. to 4 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Bright blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Salvia chamaedryoids is one tough cookie. This plant needs very little water and blooms like crazy in the late summer.

We grow this plant as much for its pretty silver leaves as its bright blue flowers. Deadheading will encourage those lovely blue flowers to come back in the fall. Shearing back to the ground in late fall rejuvenates the plant.

Salvia Hybrid 'Christine Yeo'

Pronunciation
SAL-vee-uh
Common Name
Sage 'Christine Yeo'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
12-18 in. high and 24 - 36 in. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We are big fans of Salvias microphyllas in the water wise garden. These shrubby perennials come in a wide variety of colors and will bloom many months with deadheading. Salvia microphyllas also stay a nice size in the garden and will not overwhelm neighboring plants.

The flower pictured here is Salvia hybrid 'Cristine Yeo'. It is a cross between Salvia microphylla and Salvia chamaedryoides. This plant has only been in the garden for two years, but it is doing well enough to add to our favorites list.

Salvia microphyllas prefer full sun, but this plant is doing well with morning sun and afternoon shade. It seems a little floppy, but we are not sure whether that is a shade issue or just its natural form.

With a little work you can keep Salvia microphyllas in top form in your garden. We shear off all the flowers in early summer and again in our fall clean up. This keeps the plant more compact and encourages repeat blooming. In the spring we prune out one third of the oldest stems to keep the plant from getting woody. A nice bonus for your pruning work -- the leaves of these Salvias smell wonderful.

Salvia microphylla 'UCB Pink'

Pronunciation
SAL-vee-uh My-kro-FIL-uh
Common Name
Sage 'UCB Pink'
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3 ft. to 4 ft. wide and tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This hot pink Salvia is pretty especially in late fall when fewer plants are blooming. Salvia 'UCB Pink' seems to bloom more consistently than many of the Salvia microphylla types. Salvia "UCB Pink' is available from specialty nurseries, several of which are listed in our references.

In the fall, we shear off the skinny branches of this plant to form a neat ball. We suggest avoiding cutting into the thicker woody stems because you may not get regrowth. Regular pruning keeps this plant fuller and encourages more flowering the next season. In general Saliva microphylla plants are very well-mannered in summer-dry perennial gardens and don't need a great deal of maintenance.

If you want to learn more about Salvias, we suggest reading Betsy Clebsch's book called The New Book of Salvias.

Salvia spathacea

Pronunciation
SAL-vee-a spa-THAY-see-a
Common Name
Hummingbird Sage
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1-2 ft high x spreading
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Salvia spathacea is a California native plant with an unusually (for California natives) lush appearance. The leaves of this plant are large and can grow up to a foot in length.

The plant spreads by underground rhizomes and can eventually cover a large area. Hummingbird sage can make a colorful ground cover in dry, shady conditions.

From spring until fall flowering stems appear above the foliage. The flower clusters are spaced evenly along the stems creating a bold vertical accent. Light pruning after blooming will help keep this plant neat.

In the Water Wise Garden, we found that too much summer sun burned the leaves and made the plant unattractive. Also, we found that our hummingbird sage spread more aggressively than we had anticipated. A few runners were replanted to shadier spots under oak trees and we will be monitoring them carefully. 

Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Nana'

Pronunciation
san-toh-LEE-nuh kam-ee-ky-par-ISS-us
Common Name
Dwarf Lavender Cotton
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Nana' is a compact shrub with silver grey foliage and bright yellow flowers. We found this dwarf cultivar at Sierra Azul Nursery several years ago. This cultivar is very slow growing and stays a nice size. We originally had a full sized Santolina, but the plant fell apart when it bloomed. It looked like a mess, so we removed it from the garden.

Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Nana' is a good choice for an edger or in a knot garden because it doesn't require the pruning that the larger species needs. We've used short silver plants as edgers throughout the Demonstration Garden as a way to tie the garden together visually.

Sisyrinchium bellum

Pronunciation
si-si-RINK-ee-um BEL-lum
Common Name
Blue-Eyed Grass
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
12 inches high x 6 inches - 2 feet wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This California native plant has green or bluish green strappy leaves. In early spring small blue flowers cover the plant.

In the Water Wise Garden Sisyrinchium bellum dies back when the weather gets hot, then we remove the dried foliage. With additional water throughout the summer, plants will stay evergreen and continue to occasionally rebloom. Some reseeding will occur, but not aggressively.

They are showiest when planted in masses. People love these little flowers, the clear blue is eye-catching in the spring garden. There are different cultivars that offer subtle variations.

Tagetes lemmonii

Pronunciation
tah-JEE-deez lem-mon-ee-eye
Common Name
Mexican Bush Marigold
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
4 ft. to 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. to 6 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Tagetes lemmonii is a sprawling shrub-like perennial with cheerful yellow flowers and aromatic leaves. The plant is originally from Mexico and the southwestern U.S.

Mexican bush marigold can become large and ungainly, so we recommend shearing this plant several inches from the ground in the spring to keep the plant compact and give it a nice shape. Also you should prune out any frost damage once the danger of frost is over.

Tagetes lemmonii is not long-lived in the garden, but if you like yellow flowers and enjoy the smell of its leaves this plant is worth planting. In the water wise garden in Palo Alto, we removed Tagetes lemmonii because it repeatedly suffered frost damage and was not attractive.

Verbena bonariensis

Pronunciation
ver-BEE-na bo-nar-ee-EN-sis
Common Name
Verbena
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3-6 ft tall x 1-3 ft wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Purple
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This is a fast growing plant, which if happy in the garden, will spread by seed. It has a small clump of green leaves that produce tall flowering stems in the hot summer months. The overall look is light and airy. Tall stems should be cut down when flowers have faded. Best used as a background plant. Verbena bonariensis does best in hot, dry locations with good air circulation and well draining soil.

This plant is no longer in the Water Wise Garden. When we grew it, it needed some supplemental water to keep it thriving.

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