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.

Aesculus californica

Pronunciation
ES-kew-lus ka-li-FOR-ni-ka
Common Name
California Buckeye
Plant Type
Tree
Mature Size
Can grow 10 - 25 ft. or more, and spread 30 ft. or wider
Water Requirements
Very Low: water reply several time a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
White to pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

The California buckeye is a unusual native because it is summer deciduous. It will naturally drop its leaves with the heat of summer, but with regular watering it may hold its leaves longer.

The California buckeye nectar/pollen is poisonous to European honeybees, but not to native bees. The flower has a candy or perfume like scent, and blooms in very early spring. The tree produces a large nut that resembles a buck's eye, thus the name. The nut is poisonous to eat. The nuts easily reseed where they fall, so collect them if you don't want a lot of sprouts coming up.

Without summer leaves, the pale bark of the California buckeye offers interest and structure in the garden. This shrub is very easy to prune and shape for your desired size.

Although we are very fond of buckeyes, this plant is no longer in the Demonstration Garden. We decided to remove it because it is poisonous to honeybees.

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.

Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'

Pronunciation
ark-toe-STAF-il-lohs
Common Name
Manzanita "Emerald Carpet"
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
5 ft. wide and 8-14 in. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Pink flowers
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

'Emerald Carpet' is a slow growing California native manzanita from the coast of Mendocino County. It is a very attractive plant with dark glossy leaves, reddish stems and small flowers in the early spring. We have mixed feelings about 'Emerald Carpet'. Although it has not died, it has not thrived either. We suspect that it needs more water than most manzanitas. It is in a part of the garden that gets no water. Some Santa Clara Master Gardeners have had success using the cultivar 'Carmel Sur' as a ground cover in low water landscapes.

There are many, many different cultivars of manzanita ranging from ground covers to small trees. Manzanitas are a good wildlife plant and typically tough as nails. They do well in very dry situations. Most manzanitas need superb drainage or they will struggle and die. Plant on a mound or slope and water weekly for the first summer and less after that. By the third summer, stop watering. Avoid fertilizing the plant.

These plants rarely need pruning. Remove the odd branch that dies back in the late summer and the plant will fill in. Some gardeners will remove the lower branches on some of the larger manzanitas to highlight the interesting branching structure and reddish bark.

Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'

Pronunciation
ark-toe-STAF-i-los den-si-FLOR-us
Common Name
Manzanita 'Howard McMinn'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
5-7 ft tall x 6-10 ft wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Whitish pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

California native Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' is reputed to be the manzanita most tolerant of typical garden conditions. Manzanitas in general need excellent drainage. In heavy clay soils, be careful not to over water or over fertilize.

If the tips of Arctostaphylos branches are pruned, this large shrub will become very dense and make a good privacy screen. At the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, we have chosen instead to remove the interior stems and leaves to expose the interesting red bark. This is a good approach if you want the shrub to be more of a focal point instead of a background plant.

We planted three 'Howard McMinn' manzanitas at the entrance of the Water Wise Garden. They have struggled there over the years. Damaged by foot traffic and the occasional joy rider, they have not lived up to their reputation. Now, they are receiving too much shade as the oak trees reach overhead. How much longer will we keep them?

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.

Callistemon 'Canes Hybrid'

Pronunciation
kal-is-TEM-on
Common Name
Bottlebrush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
8 ft. to 10 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
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Soft pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Callistemon 'Canes Hybrid' is a beautiful shrub that adds height and structure to the perennial garden. We especially like its soft pink flowers that bloom repeatedly throughout the summer. The cultivar 'Canes Hybrid' is smaller and has softer, greyer foliage than the more common red Callistemon citrinus.

Callistemon are very adaptable plants for our area and the hummingbirds love them. There are many cultivars of Callistemon ranging from tree-size to shrub-size to ground cover height. We haven't prune the Callistemon in our garden yet because we want it to be tall. When it gets to the size we are looking for we will use pruning to shape it and keep it shrub-sized.

The Callistemon in our photo is next to Miscanthus sinensis 'Yaku Jima' -- an excellent plant combination.

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.

Ceanothus 'Concha'

Pronunciation
see-a-NO-thus
Common Name
California Wild Lilac 'Concha'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
6-8 ft tall x 6-8 ft wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus 'Concha' is one of the best Ceanothus cultivars for our area. It is more adaptable to typical garden environments than many other Ceanothus, tolerating heavy clay soil, drought or summer watering. Over watering will shorten the life of any Ceanothus so be sure to allow the soil to dry between waterings.

'Concha' has rose colored buds that open to cobalt blue flowers in late winter or early spring. Leaves are small and a deep dark green.

Ceanothus 'Concha' is a California native plant.

Ceanothus x. pallidus 'Marie Simon'

Pronunciation
see-an-OH-thus PAL-id-us
Common Name
Wild Lilac 'Marie Simon'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
Up to 6 - 8 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
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon' is an interesting plant. It is a cross between a native Ceanothus and another unknown plant. As you can see, it looks very different from a native Ceanothus. It is semi-deciduous and has red stems and light green leaves. Instead of blue flowers, this Ceanothus has delicate pink flowers.

If you look at photos on the Internet, you will see a plant covered with pink flowers. We haven't had that kind of luck with our plant yet. The flowers have been pretty but sparse and the plant does not look vigorous.

Is this plant a keeper? We'll get back to you on that. It has been in the garden three years, but it is quite a slow grower. It may take several more years before this plant shows us its stuff.

Update: Several year later, Ceanothus x pallidus is still a non-performer in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. We can't recommend this plant for low water gardens in the Palo Alto area.

Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon' is a UC Davis All Star.

Correa alba

Pronunciation
KOR-ree-uh AL-ba
Common Name
Australian Fuchsia, White
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
8 ft. high and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Correa alba looks very different from the more commonly grown Correa 'Dusky Bells'. The flowers are more open and less downward facing than other Correas. The foliage is fuzzy on the back side and the stems are bronzy brown. Although Sunset says Correa alba is a summer bloomer, this picture was taken in late fall.

This shrub can get to be 8 feet by 8 feet, but we keep it more compact in our garden by regular pruning. If you plant this shrub in a big enough spot, you can avoid having to prune your Correa.

Correa is a plant that doesn't get used enough in Bay Area gardens. Let's list its attributes: it thrives in sun, partial sun or shade; it is deer resistant and bird friendly; it has pretty long-lasting flowers; it does well with moderate to occasional water; it does not get too big; it tolerates our alkaline soil; and it is evergreen.

What's not to like? Well, some Master Gardeners have found Correas to be short-lived in their home gardens. Another issue can be scale on the stems if the plant gets very dense. Sunset notes that this plant is sensitive to overwatering and overfertilizing. At the Palo Alto Demonstration garden, this plant is still going strong after several years in the garden. The beds in Garden are mulched with wood chips, but not fertilized and watered deeply with drip irrigation once every three weeks.

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.

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens

Pronunciation
ee-ree-OG-oh-num GRAHN-day roo-BESS-ens
Common Name
Rosy Buckwheat
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
1 ft. to 2 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Rosy buckwheat, a California native from the Channel Islands, has pretty rosy flowers in summer. It is one of the most showy and most compact of the buckwheats. Because of its size and neat growth habit, it makes a great filler plant in a native garden.

Rosy buckwheat shines in late summer when the flowers turn from rosy to a coppery tint. The mellow colors of this plant blends well with other perennials.

At the end of the coppery color phase we suggest you deadhead the blooms as they can get really ratty looking. Every couple of years we do a light pruning to new growth below the taller branches. The best time to do this pruning is in the late fall before the winter growth starts. You may also want to shape this plant every so often to keep its mounding form.

Buckwheat will require some summer water the first year it has been planted. After the first year, avoid summer water. Although some sources say these plants live only three to five years, we have found these plants to be longer lived. Buckwheat freely reseeds so you won't have to buy new plants.

Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast'

Pronunciation
lah-VAN-dew-lah STOY-kas
Common Name
Spanish Lavender
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
1 ft. to 2 ft. tall and 2 ft. to 3 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Purple
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Lavenders are a favorite plant for low-water gardens with their aromatic foliage and showy spikes of scented flowers. We have several different types of lavenders in our garden. 'Otto Quast', one of the cultivars we've had success with, is a UC Davis "All Star" plant.

Lavandula stoechas is an early bloomer and will repeat bloom if deadheaded and given supplemental water. Full sun and good drainage are essential for lavenders. Shear the plant after blooming to maintain a neat appearance and discourage the plant from becoming too large and woody.

One drawback is lavender is a short-lived shrub that needs to be replaced when it becomes leggy or woody. We are considering replacing our lavenders after about six years in the garden.

Leonotis leonurus

Pronunciation
lee-oh-NO-tus lee-oh-NURE-us
Common Name
Lion's Tail
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4 ft. to 6 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
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Orange-red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This upright shrub from South Africa has bright eye-catching orange flowers. A single lion's tail works well as a late summer/early fall garden focal point. The flowers can also be stunning in a flower arrangement. From a design standpoint, we don't recommend massing a large number of lion's tail plants because the strong color can overwhelm a garden.

It is a good idea to prune these shrubs in the early spring after the danger of frost is past to control size. Some of our Master Gardeners prune these shrubs down to six inches from the ground; others prune by half. How much you choose to prune lion's tail is just a matter of deciding how large you want these plants to be in your garden. With no pruning at all these plants can get really big, really quickly.

Lion's tail can be frost tender but in our experience, they rebound quickly. If this plant does get frost damaged, it is recommended that you cut down to live growth in the spring after the danger of frost is past.

Lessingia filaginifolia

Pronunciation
les-IN-jee-a fi-la-jin-i-FOL-ee-a
Common Name
California Dune Aster
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
Two ft. wide and 18 inches high, cut back in winter
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
Flower Color
Pink to lilac
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This picture of Lessingia felaginifolia is from the Sunnyvale Demonstration Garden. We planted Lessingia seeds in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden as a groundcover, but ended up removing the plants. We felt Lessingia looked scraggily by the end of summer when it bloomed.

Whether you like this plant or not probably depends on your level of fussiness. The Sunnyvale Demonstration Garden is a fan of Lessingia and continues to plant it. They cut it back in November to freshen it up.

Lessingia is big favorite with butterflies, so the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden is trying it again. We are currently trialing a cultivar called 'Silver Carpet', which is recommended in the book, California Native Plant for the Garden, in the front of the native plant bed. Lessingia 'Silver Carpet' was planted last fall so we are waiting to see how it does in our garden before recommending it.

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.

Nepeta x faassenii

Pronunciation
NEP-eh-tah ex. fah-SEEN-ee-eye
Common Name
Catmint
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
1 ft. tall and 1 1/2 - 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
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Lavender-blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Catmint was one of the earliest plants in the demonstration garden and it provided much needed color the first summer. Catmint is a wonderful edging plant for perennials borders. We have used it extensively in the Palo Alto Demonstration garden to visually tie the beds together. It has lovely soft gray leaves and lavender-blue flowers in the spring.

After the first set of blooms finishes we like to cut back catmint several inches to keep it from getting leggy and to encourage another set of blooms. After seven years in the garden, it might be time for us to divide this plant. This is a fun job because catmint leaves have a wonderful smell.

Be aware that some cats also love the smell of the plant and will roll their bodies in the plant and flatten it.

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 ionidiflorum

Pronunciation
pe-lar-GO-nee-um eye-oh-nid-ih-FLOR-um
Common Name
Celery Scented Pelargonium
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
12 - 18 in. high and 15 -24 in. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Half sun to shade
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Magenta pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Pelargonium ionidiflorum was recommended to us by Jeff Rosendale of Rosendale Nurseries. It has quickly become one of our favorite front of the border plants. It stays low and compact and seems to do well in partial shade. We love the bright pink flowers. Another plus, this plant blooms throughout the year.

So far the only maintenance we do is occasional deadheading. Unlike many other Pelargoniums, this plant seems to stay compact and not get leggy.

This plant is highly recommended for low water Bay Area gardens!

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.

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.

Symphoricarpos albus

Pronunciation
sim-for-ih-KAR-pus AL-bus
Common Name
Snowberry
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3 - 5 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Butterflies
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

When fall and winter comes, shrubs with berries and fruit add interest to the garden. Snowberry, a California native, has wonderful white berries that show up in the fall and last through winter. These berries are attractive to birds too.

One of the best features of snowberry is it actually likes dry woodland conditions. It is a rare shrub that will thrive under a thicket of oak trees. At the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden we have it growing in a shady area that gets no summer irrigation.

Some people find the branching structure of snowberry to be messy. We have not tried this yet, but California Native Plants for the Garden recommends occasional coppicing to improve its appearance. Coppicing means to cut back a plant to about one foot from the ground. This usually works best right before a plant puts out new growth in the spring.

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.

Teucrium fruticans ‘Azureum’

Pronunciation
Tew-kree-um FREW-ti-kanz
Common Name
Bush Germander
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4 - 6 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Violet blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Teucium fruticans 'Azureum' has to die for blue flowers all winter long. The rest of the year it has a smaller floral display. The deep blue really stands out against the grey foliage. The species (original unnamed plant) is dull in comparison.

The only draw back to bush germander is it can get really big. In June of 2010 we pruned our bush germander back to 4 inches to help control its size. The shrub came roaring back with a natural shape and a slightly smaller size. The winter blooms are a plentiful and as lovely as in previous years.

We recently planted a smaller Teucrium cultivar, 'Compactum' that is reputed to stay 3 feet tall and wide and have intense blue flowers. We will report back on its behavior in a couple years.

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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