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.

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.

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.

Aloe x spinosissima

Pronunciation
AL-oh spin-oh-Siss-e-ma
Common Name
Spider Aloe
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
2-3 ft. high, 2-4 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red-orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Spider aloe has to be the slowest growing succulent ever! Still it worth adding to a small garden because the plant has an interesting form -- almost like a piece of modern sculpture. And you don't need to worry about it outgrowing its space or crowding its neighbors.

In the winter spider aloe is rumored to have red flower spikes that are attractive to hummingbirds. Unfortunately, we can confirm that because the plant in the Palo Alto has never bloomed..

This plant is frost tender so be sure to protect it on cold winter nights.

Spider aloe is striking and very undemanding. It makes an excellent specimen for a small low water garden.

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.

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.

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.

Chasmanthe

Pronunciation
chas-MAN-thee
Common Name
Chasmanthe
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
3 ft. to 3 1/2 ft. 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
Orange-red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Chasmanthe is one of the South African bulbs that does so well in our climate. Foliage appears in the fall, orange-red flowers appear in the winter and then the plant goes dormant in the summer. There is also a yellow flowered version, called Chasmanthe floribunda duckittii. Chasmanthe needs no summer water.

Late frost can damage blooms. To prevent overcrowding, corms (bulbs) will need to be divided every two to three years. Also, diligently deadhead the flowers as this plant will reseed vigorously (invasively!) particularly the Chasmanthe aethiopica!

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.

Epilobium 'Select Mattole'

Pronunciation
Ep-ih-LOW-bee-um
Common Name
Hummingbird Fuchsia 'Select Mattole'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
1 ft tall and 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Red orange
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

If you are searching for a summer blooming California native, put California fuchsias at the top of your list. Hummingbirds love them and so do we.

There are a number of cultivars out there, but one of our favorites is 'Select Mattole'. It has wonderful silver foliage and sweet red orange tubular blooms. We love the fact that it is well behaved -- it stays compact and doesn't spread.

The book California Native Plants for the Garden recommends cutting California fuchsias back to one inch stubs in the fall and winter. The book also suggests pinching the outer tips in late May or June to prevent flopping. With 'Select Mattole' we haven't found this to be necessary, but with other California fuchsias you might want to give this a try.

We have learned that California fuchsias look better with a once a month deep watering. It is not critical, but you will have a lusher looking plant with occasional water.

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!

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Pronunciation
het-er-OH-mi-lees ar-bew-ti-FO-lee-a
Common Name
Toyon
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
10-20 ft tall x 10-15 ft wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
  • Other birds
Flower Color
White
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Toyon is an attractive dark green, large shrub that can, over time, develop into a small multi-trunk tree. This plant is native to many chaparral areas of California and easily adapts to garden cultivation.

It is a member of the rose family, producing small white flowers in early spring that are followed by showy red berries. The berries remain on the shrub for a number of months while they slowly ripen. Once ripe, they attract many different species of hungry, grateful birds.

Young toyons may take a few years to settle into the garden but once established they are easy to grow and can be pruned to manage their size or to keep them looking fresh.

The toyon in the Water Wise Garden was planted in the winter of 2008 from a one gallon container in a spot where it gets afternoon shade. As you can see from this recent photo, our toyon is still a modest sized shrub several years after planting.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Ribes sanguineum

Pronunciation
RY-beez san-GWIN-ee-um
Common Name
Pink Flowering Currant
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
5 ft. to 12 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
  • Hummingbirds
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Pink, red, yellow, white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ribes sanguineum is a useful landscape plant because it is a rare shrub that shines in dry shade. Pink flowering currant is one of the first plants to awaken in the spring with a beautiful display of pendulous pink flowers and green maple-like lobed leaves. Ribes, a deciduous shrub, loses all its leaves in the late fall.

This large shrub can be used as a focal plant in the garden surrounded by smaller perennials or as an understory plant when combined with large, low-water using trees such as our California oaks.

There are many different cultivars of Ribes available with flowers ranging from red to pink to yellow to white. Some types of Ribes work well in full sun.

Pink flowering current can get by with very little water but looks fuller when a moderate amount of water is applied in the summer. When using a currant under a California oak avoid summer water.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers, especially since they bloom when not much else is flowering. In the fall the shrub has blue-black berries that attract fruit-eating birds including mockingbirds and cedar waxwings. Ribes sanguineum is found along the Pacific coast from California to British Columbia, Canada.

Ribes speciosum

Pronunciation
RIE-bees spes-ee-OH-sum
Common Name
Fuchsia Flowering Gooseberry
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4-8 ft tall x 6-10 ft wide
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

This California native is a large, spiny shrub that can exist with no summer irrigation. In our experience, Ribes speciosum will go fully dormant during the summer, therefore it's not recommended as a summer focal plant. As soon as the winter rains begin, the plant will unfold glossy green leaves and fuchsia-like red flowers that bloom all winter. The flowers that hang along the undersides of the long arching branches are loved by hummingbirds.

Because of the spiny branches this shrub should be kept away from walks. It does makes a formidable barrier.

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. 

Trichostema lanatum

Pronunciation
try-CO-stem-uh la-NAY-tum
Common Name
Woolly Blue Curls
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3-4 ft. high & wide
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Violet to blue
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We approached growing the California native woolly blue curls with some trepidation because it has a reputation for being difficult. It is sensitive to overwatering and poor draining soil and often is short lived. But it has beautiful flowers! The foliage smells like bubble gum when rubbed, which is also a neat feature of this plant year round.

Several years ago we added a woolly blue curls to our California native plant bed. The plant was mulched with rock to improve drainage and received no additional summer water. Our woolly blue curls has bloomed and grown over the years, but it really wants a sunnier spot. The plant is reaching out for more light and has woody, unattractive stems.

We’ve avoided cutting the plant back hard, because we have read it does not get new growth on old wood. Some sources suggest planting woolly blue curls as an annual; if you love the flowers that might be an option for you. In all honesty, if your heart is not set on a California native, there are probably easier low water plants with lavender flowers. Lavender and Mexican sage are two lavender flowered plants we think are safer choices for the novice gardener.

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