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.

Aloe striata

Pronunciation
AL-oh stree-AH-tuh
Common Name
Coral Aloe
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
2 ft. to 3 ft. tall and 1 ft. to 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red-orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Like many succulents, Aloes are from South Africa. Aloe striata tolerates cold better than most aloes and grows successfully in the Bay Area.

The large, broad, fleshy leaves and tall clusters of flowers are bold additions to the summer-dry perennial bed. As a bonus, hummingbirds and bees are attracted to its orange-red blossoms.

After that flowers have dropped off, we cut back the inflorescence. That's the only maintenance this plant needs. Aloe striata is easy to propagate too. We just remove the pups (baby plants) from the base of the plant, let the stems dry and harden, and then plant the cuttings in a pot of cactus soil mix.

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.

Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam'

Pronunciation
ar-te-MIZ-ee-uh VER-suh-kuh-lor
Common Name
Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam'
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 - 12 in. high can spread 15 - 18 in.
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
Yellow and orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We have used Artemisia 'Seafoam' as a small edging plant in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. The leaves are silver and frilly, which add a nice texture to the garden. We have repeated silver foliage plants around the edge of the garden beds as a way of tying different beds together.

'Seafoam' has its challenges. The plant wants to bloom, but then it dies back after blooming. Cutting off the yellow flowers to keep the plant looking good may be more work than many of us want to do in the garden. We have found it to be a short lived perennial that needs to be replanted after several years.

Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’

Pronunciation
SIS-tus pul-ver-oo-LEN-tus
Common Name
Rockrose
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
2 ft. tall and 6 - 8 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Hot pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This hot pink rockrose was a long blooming, low growing shrub in our water wise garden until it got crushed by a Teucrium. Even though we had to remove it, we will be looking for a new spot to showcase this reliable performer.

There are a number of different rockrose cultivars. Some grow up to 6 feet, some have white flowers, and others have lavender flowers.

Rockroses thrive in hot, dry areas. They like well draining soil and will quickly die if overwatered. Our experience has been they will die within two years in a regularly watered landscape with clay soil. Our rockrose was planted on a berm (small hill) and received minimal summer water.

You can prune this plant to shape it, but don't cut into the wood because it may not resprout.

Correa 'Dusky Bells'

Pronunciation
KOR-ree-uh
Common Name
Australian Fuchsia
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
6 ft. to 8 ft. wide and 2 ft. to 3 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Reddish pink to red, cream, orange, and greenish yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

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 that provide winter color; 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 Correa to be short-lived in their home gardens. At the Palo Alto Demonstration garden this plant is still going strong after several years in the garden.

Look for some of the newer cultivars of Correa that have been bred to have flowers more visible above the foliage.

One more thing -- this shrub requires no deadheading or pruning. It is practically maintenance-free!

Echeveria sp.

Pronunciation
ech-eh-ver-EE-a
Common Name
Hen and Chicks
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
Less that 1 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Half sun to shade
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Pink, red with yellow tips
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Echeveria is a nice filler or edging plant for the summer dry flower border. Echeverias also do well in pots. The sculptural quality of the fleshy leaves provides a nice contrast to the more delicate leaves of many perennials.

For gardeners at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden part of the charm of this plant is watching the hummingbirds enjoy the flowers. Our water-wise garden features the UC Davis "All Star" cultivar 'Imbricata'.

Echeverias are often referred to as 'Hen and Chicks', but so are Sempervivums. One of the the problems with using common names is they can be confusing. In this case, it is better to use the botanical name, Echeveria.

Some Echeverias do well in full sun, but the cultivar in the Demonstration Garden seems to do better in half shade. We have also found that Echeverias seem to do better with a drip very close to their roots.

Euphorbia myrsinites

Pronunciation
yew-FOR-bee-ah mur-sin-ee-teez
Common Name
Creeping Spurge
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 - 12 in. tall and 12 in. 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
Yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Euphorbia myrsinites has a wonderful texture as you can see from this picture. It makes a good ground cover for dry areas.

Like all the Euphorbias, these plants have very showy flowers in the spring. Be sure to cut off the flowering stalks to the base before seeds develop. These plants will reseed vigorously if you do not deadhead. When deadheading, be sure to leave the new growth intact. These will be next spring's flowers.

Take care when you cut Euphorbias. They have a sap, which can be very irritating to the skin.

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.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

Pronunciation
grah-VIL-ee-ah rose-ma-ree-nee-FOH-lee-uh
Common Name
Grevillea
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3 ft. high and 6 ft. wide
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 and cream
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Grevillea is one of our favorite no fail plants. It's not showy, but it is tough, deer resistant, loved by hummingbirds, and a fall to spring bloomer.

The Grevillea in this picture is a dwarf form of Grevillea rosmarinifolia. It has evergreen rosemary-like leaves and stays a nice size for a perennial garden -- 3 ft. high and 6 ft. wide according to Sunset. It's a nice combination to have flowers in the winter when not much is blooming and a tidy, low growing shrub in the summer when other plants take center stage.

Sunset says there are over 250 species and hybrids of Grevillea. Some have fine leaves, others have courser leaves. Some make great ground covers, others grow to be the size of the small trees. Some tolerate cold weather weather better than others. Research carefully cultivars carefully before going to the nursery.

Dwarf Grevillea is practical choice for planting in a parking strip that challenging area between the sidewalk and road. For safety reasons most cities require plants shorter than 3 feet in areas next to roads.

Grevillea does well getting a deep watering once every three weeks. We've also seen it do well in gardens that get regular water. Be careful of using fertilizer with phosphorus around Grevillea.

There is no maintenance required for this plant. No deadheading or trimming back, it really is easy peasy!

Helianthemum nummularium 'Henfield Brilliant'

Pronunciation
hee-lee-AN-them-um num-ew-LAH-ree-um
Common Name
Sunrose
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 in. to 12 in. high and 18 in. to 3 ft. 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
Orange-red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

A low-growing, trailing ground cover from Turkey, Helianthemum is covered with small flowers in the spring.

There are many cultivars with different flower colors -- red, apricot, yellow, pink and white. 'Henfield Brilliant' is a striking form with its silvery leaves and orange flowers.

Shear the dead flowers off to encourage repeat blooms. Helianthemum likes full sun and well-draining soil with low to moderate water.

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.

Lepechina hastata

Pronunciation
le-peh-KIN-ee-uh hass-TAH-tuh
Common Name
Pitcher Sage
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3 ft. tall and wide in low water gardens
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Magenta
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Pitcher sage is an aromatic member of the mint family that is attractive in wild gardens. In late summer these plants have reddish purple flowers on medium-sized spikes. Hummingbirds and bees love them, so they add quite a bit of life to a garden. Another nice feature is the plant has large leaves, which is a nice contrast to many plants from the Mediterranean region that have smaller foliage.

One caution about these plants: Some reference books say this plant can get up to 6 feet tall, but in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden they have stayed a modest 3 feet tall and wide. The trick is not to overwater them.

Although some pitcher sages are native to California, Lepechinia hastata is from Mexico.

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.

Phlomis fruticosa

Pronunciation
FLOW-miss fru-tih-KOE-sah
Common Name
Jerusalem Sage
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4 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
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

From the Mediterranean Basin, this sun-loving shrub has unique yellow ball-shaped flowers. The large wooly-gray leaves are a good texture complement to other water-wise plants, many of which have small-leaves to conserve water.

Occasional water will encourage repeat blooms, however, Phlomis fruticosa will tolerate very dry conditions. You can cut this plant back by half in the fall to keep it compact. Some Master Gardeners are a little more daring and like to cut Phlomis back to six inches above the ground. This will keep the plant even more compact. Another option is to do nothing at all if the size and woodiness of the plant doesn't bother you.

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.

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.

Thymus vulgaris

Pronunciation
TY-mus vul-GAR-iss
Common Name
Thyme
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
3 in. high and 3 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Many herbs, including thyme, are great additions to water wise gardens. You can use them in cooking, they smell great and their foliage and flowers are attractive.

Thyme makes a nice ground cover for small spaces. It has grey-green leaves and small white flowers. We have repeated grey-green plants in the edges our borders to tie together the look of our beds.

To keep thyme neat, we shear back the faded flowers in early spring. Many thymes are not long lived, but Thymus vulgaris has proven to be long-lived in our water wise garden.

Watsonia

Pronunciation
wat-SON-ee-uh
Common Name
Watsonia
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
21/2 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
Pink, rosy red, white, lavender, peach, orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Watsonia is another South African plant that grows well in our area. The pink gladiolus-like flowers are a highlight of our late spring garden. The sword-shaped leaves provide strong accent points in our beds.

This is a summer dormant plant, which means it can get by on almost no water in the summer (good), but has unattractive leaves starting in July (bad). We solve the ugly leaf problem by cutting the leaves back to a couple inches above ground in mid-summer. This results in a bare spot in the bed. If that bothers you, install a plant next to the Watsonia that will fill in the bare spot during the summer and fall months.

Some retail nurseries carry a selection of Watsonia corms (bulbs) in the fall.

Westringia fruticosa 'Wynyabbie Gem"

Pronunciation
west-RING-ee-uh froo-tih-KOH-suh
Common Name
Coast Rosemary
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3 - 6 ft. tall and 5 - 10 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
White to light lavender
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This shrub from Australia looks a lot like rosemary, but its leaves are finer and have no fragrance. It has pretty light lavender flowers that appear in midwinter and last through spring.

Westringia gets big so plan ahead unless you want to be doing a lot of pruning. Unlike rosemary, the stems of Westringia do not get woody, which makes it is a better long term landscaping choice.

Unfortunately we had to remove this plant from the garden to make way for a city of Palo Alto well project. 

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