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

Full Plant List

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

Acacia cultriformis

Pronunciation
a-KAY-see-uh kul-tre-FORM-iss
Common Name
Knife-leaf acacia
Plant Type
Tree
Mature Size
10'-15' high x 10'-15' wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Acacia cultriformis is a tree that can reach 15' in both height and width. It has striking silver-gray leaves and is covered with vibrant yellow flowers in winter. This is a very drought tolerant tree and can go without water in summer once established. Although generally considered a problem-free tree, acacia branches can be more prone to breakage in windstorms than some other trees. Consider location carefully when planting.

PADG notes: The tree is a focal point during winter in the garden. It is pruned to a size that suits its small garden bed. During the dry season, drip irrigation is used every three weeks.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is a reliable mid-summer bloomer whose deep yellow flowers will stand out in a garden. Requiring very little maintenance, these plants are a magnet for butterflies and beneficial insects. The flowers have lots of nectar and the flat shape of the flower serves as a perfect landing pad for butterflies. Deadhead spent flowers to keep the plants looking fresh. Vigorous clumps can be divided in the winter.

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
Where to See
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. The grey-green foliage 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, deadhead it regularly. 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
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 an 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 leaves longer. Its 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 new sprouts are not desired.

Without summer leaves, the pale bark of the California buckeye offers interest and structure in the garden and is very easy to prune and shape.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Agastache are originally from the Southwest and Mexico, a climate that is somewhat different from Santa Clara County’s Mediterranean summer-dry climate. These plants require well-draining soil, but local soils tend to be slow-draining clay soils.

PADG notes: This unnamed cultivar of Agastache has been a mixed success in our gardens.

Agastache ‘Acapulco Salmon and Pink’

Pronunciation
ah-ga-STAHK-ee
Common Name
Hummingbird mint
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
2'-2.5' high x 1.5' wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
Flower Color
Orange and Pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Agastache ‘Acapulco Salmon and Pink’ is a beautiful accent plant for the late spring to early fall garden. It is more compact than most hummingbird mints and is densely covered by orange and pink flower spikes. The plant’s gray-green foliage is also a nice contrast to the brighter greens of most garden plants. Like many perennials, these plants die back during the winter. Hummingbird mints are only moderately drought tolerant. This plant does not flower well unless it is in full sun for half a day or more.

PADG notes: This specimen is planted where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade so it needs less water than recommended. During hot, summer periods, the plant is hosed weekly in addition to a once every three-week drip irrigation cycle.

Agave americana

Pronunciation
ah-GAH-vay ah-mer-ih-KAY-nah
Common Name
Century Plant
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
6 ft. wide to 10 ft. high
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Yellowish green flowers on 15 ft. to 20 ft. stalks
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This plant is quite the showstopper and makes a powerful statement when placed among grasses and softer, small-leaved perennials. Small plants form around the base of the plant, but they are easily pruned out if desired.

PADG notes: To prevent accidental injuries, we prune off the sharp spiky tips of this plant.

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.

The only maintenance this plant needs is to cut back the inflorescence after the flowers have dropped off. Aloe striata is also easy to propagate. 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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Spider aloe is a slow-growing succulent, making it unlikely to outgrow its space or crowd its neighbors. This low-maintenance plant is an excellent specimen for a small low-water garden.

It’s a striking plant with an interesting form – it almost looks like a piece of modern sculpture. Spider aloe is frost-tender so be sure to protect it on cold winter nights.

PADG notes: In the winter, spider aloe is rumored to have red flower spikes that are attractive to hummingbirds. Unfortunately, this cannot be confirmed because the plant has never bloomed in our location.

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
Where to See
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. Aquilegia eximia, a California native, is a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star plant.

PADG notes: Our Aquilegia eximia planted in partial sun hasn't done as well as we would like. We are trying it in a shady spot. The plant may need more water than our water wise garden is given.

Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’

Pronunciation
ar-BYOO-tus YOO-nee-doe
Common Name
Strawberry Bush
Plant Type
Tree
Mature Size
10' high x 10' wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Other birds
Flower Color
White
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Arbutus uneda or Strawberry Tree is a small tree with dark green leaves. It has dainty, white, bell-shaped flowers in the fall and winter. The flowers are followed by small, bright red fruits that somewhat resemble a strawberry. The fruit is enjoyed by birds and although not toxic to humans, they are not considered tasty. The fruit can be messy if the tree planted over sidewalks or patios.

PADG notes: The tree was planted at PADG in 2020. It is currently doing well and is drip irrigated every two weeks during the dry season. As it matures it will need less water.

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
Where to See
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.

There are many different cultivars of manzanita, ranging from ground covers to small trees. Manzanitas are a good wildlife plant and typically are a hearty plant. 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. Some Santa Clara Master Gardeners have had success using the cultivar ‘Carmel Sur’ as a ground cover in low-water landscapes.

PADG notes: ‘Emerald Carpet’ has not thrived at PADG. It may need more water than most manzanitas.

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. Removing the interior stems and leaves instead exposes the interesting red bark. The latter is a good approach for making the shrub more of a focal point instead of a background plant.

PADG notes: PADG 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.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Arctotis ‘Purple Torch’ is a low growing ground cover with gray felty leaves that are attractive even when there are no flowers. It begins blooming in the winter and continues until the weather gets hot. Other varieties of African daisy will bloom through the summer.

To keep Arctotis looking its best, the flowers should be regularly deadheaded when past their prime, and the plant should be replaced every few years. Cuttings root easily in the cool months.

PADG notes: The Palo Alto Demonstration garden has planted ‘Purple Torch’ throughout the beds to unify the garden. It combines well with Bulbine frutescens, which blooms at approximately the same time.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

The leaves of Artemisia ‘Seafoam’ are silver and frilly, which add a nice texture to the garden. It is a short-lived perennial that needs to be replanted after several years. The plant wants to bloom, but unfortunately will die back afterwards. To prevent the die back, cut off the yellow flowers.

PADG notes: ‘Seafoam’ has been used as a small edging plant in the Demonstration Garden. We have repeated silver foliage plants around the edge of the garden beds as a way of tying different beds together. But we find cutting off the flowers to keep the plant looking good to be labor intensive. 

Asarum caudatum

Pronunciation
ah-SAR-um kaw-DAH-tum
Common Name
Wild Ginger
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
7-10 inches high and spreading
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
Maroon, generally hidden by leaves
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This California native boasts large, shiny, heart-shaped leaves that give the plant a lush, almost tropical look. The leaves can be up to seven inches wide, which can hide the interesting maroon flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring.

Asarum caudatum grows naturally in the coastal redwood forests and prefers a cool, moist environment. In Santa Clara County gardens with coastal influences, wild ginger can do well on a low water diet if given a shady spot and rich soil full of organic material. In drier landscapes, it may disappear in the summer months and reappear after the winter rains. 

This plant is extremely low maintenance. All it seems to need is the occasional removal of old leaves.

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
Where to See
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 best if regularly deadheaded. After it is done blooming in the fall, shear it back to the ground to keep a tidy look in the garden. The plant will cheerfully return when winter is over.

PADG notes: California aster spread very rapidly even without supplemental water. 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.

Bearded Iris

Pronunciation
Common Name
Bearded Iris
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
1.5 to 4 feet high Spreads via rhizomes
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
Many colors except true red and green,
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Bearded irises are beloved for their showy spring flowers, structurally pleasing upright, green leaves and low, summer water needs. They come in a wide range of colors and shapes. Choosing a mix of early, mid and late bloomers prolongs the spring bloom period, and the addition of re-blooming varieties gives another flush of flowers in the fall and winter season. Unfortunately, re-blooming varieties do need water year-round to re-bloom, and the second bloom has fewer flowers. All bearded irises need full sun for at least half the day to bloom well.

Given enough water from late fall through spring, intermediate bearded iris can grow to a height of 2.5 feet tall, and tall bearded iris can reach 4 feet in height. With enough water they develop tall flower stalks supporting numerous large blooms. With less water during the growing season, the plants are smaller with fewer flowers, but the blooms are still striking. Improve growth by adding compost and mulch in the fall, which helps retain soil moisture and provides nutrients for better bloom. Allow plant leaves and soil to dry out between watering to prevent fungal infections and flower loss.

During the summer, bearded irises are dormant, and their leaves die back. For aesthetics many people cut the leaves back when they begin to yellow, but it is not necessary. Plants remain healthy with and without summer trims. Be aware though, there is one major maintenance issue when growing bearded iris. These plants grow from thick rhizomes. Each year new rhizomes spread from the original making a larger clump. As the older rhizomes die, a dead spot will eventually appear in the center of the iris clump. To prevent this from happening and to keep clump size in check, divide iris rhizomes about every three years. Do this during the hot summer months when plants are dormant and fungal infections are less likely to affect the cuts from the mother rhizomes.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pigmy’

Pronunciation
BER-ber-is thun-BERG-ee-a
Common Name
Japanese Barberry
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
2 ft x 3 ft
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Yellow
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pigmy’ adds great dramatic foliage color to the garden. When planted in full sun, the small leaves on this spiny, naturally graceful plant are a deep purplish red. The purple red leaf color contrasts nicely with the yellow flowers that appear in spring. If grown in semi-shade, the foliage takes on a greener cast. In the fall, the leaves turn a vivid red before falling. The small size makes this plant an easy addition to any garden.

PAGD notes: In our original planting, three pygmy barberries were planted along the front bed. Unfortunately, only one plant survived, but it is doing well. Barberries are slow growing plants and it took a while for them to get established in the garden. More frequent watering would have benefited these plants.

Borago officinalis

Pronunciation
ber-AH-go oh-fiss-ih-NAH-liss
Common Name
Borage
Plant Type
Annual
Mature Size
2'-3' high x 1.5'-2' wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

The compact size, bright green leaves and blue springtime flowers of Borago officinalis provide a nice contrast to the darker and more muted greens of most water wise plants. Borage is an annual that dies back without supplemental water in summer. It reseeds readily, allowing new plants to spring up in random places. Plants are easy to remove when they begin to die back or if the seedlings come up in undesirable locations. The plant is edible and its star-shaped blue flowers taste like cucumber. In a low water situation, the plants seldom grow over 1.5 feet.

 

Bulbine frutescens

Pronunciation
BUL-bin-ee froo-TESS-enz
Common Name
Bulbine frutescens
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
1 ft. high and 2 ft. 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
  • Bees
Flower Color
Yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This South African native is a great plant to mix into a low water flower border. It is evergreen, has spikes of star-shaped yellow or orange flowers and cool fleshy pencil-shaped leaves.

The yellow-flowered Bulbine frutescens blooms mostly in the winter when very few plants are in flower. The cultivars ‘Hallmark’ and ‘Tiny Tangerine’ are more compact, have orange flowers, and bloom in the summer. Though the plant looks best when watered several times a summer, bulbine can survive on less water.

When bulbine starts to flop open in the center, it is time to dig up and start fresh by planting a piece of the original plant. Cuttings will grow without much special treatment: stick them in the ground and wait for a new plant. The best time to start a new plant is during the rainy season.

Calamagrostis acutifolia ‘Stricta’

Pronunciation
kal-ah-mah-GROSS-tiss ah-kew-tih-FLOOR-ah
Common Name
Feather Reed Grass
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
2-3 ft. tall and wide, flowers to 6 ft.
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Taupe
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Calamagrostis is a low maintenance plant with big impact in the garden as a vertical accent. They can also be massed to make a low growing screen. In late winter, cut back to several inches above the ground to renew the plants. Alternatively, simply rake out the old growth in the spring

PADG notes: We have used two plants to mark an entryway to the garden.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Callistemon ‘Canes Hybrid’ is a beautiful shrub that adds height and structure to the perennial garden, with 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 Santa Clara Valley gardens and are attractive to hummingbirds. The many cultivars of Callistemon range from tree-size to shrub-size to ground cover height.

PADG notes: The Callistemon is pruned and shaped to a shrub and is has been planted next to Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yaku Jima’ as seen in the photo.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Calylophus hartwegii is a 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.

Sunset’s Western Garden Book suggests shearing before spring growth. The stems on these plants can become woody.

Carex divulsa

Pronunciation
KARE-eks dee-VOOL-sah
Common Name
Foothill Sedge
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
2 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
No flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Foothill sedge makes a lovely informal ground cover in shady areas. With occasional watering, this plant stays green over the entire summer. It will survive full sun but can begin to look ratty in the summer.

This plant was once considered a California native, but that has recently been disproven. The new name is Carex divulsa, but it may still be sold in nurseries as Carex tumulicola.

PADG notes: At the end of winter, many people cut this plant back to several inches above the ground, but that has not been necessary at the demonstration garden. Because plants are in the shade, they don’t become tattered. Reseeding has also not been a problem, probably because of extensive bark mulch and drip irrigation in the water wise garden.

Carpenteria californica

Pronunciation
kar-pen-TIER-ree-uh kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh
Common Name
Bush Anemone
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
6 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide or possibly larger
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
White
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Carpenteria is an evergreen shrub and works well as a background shrub or in mixed plantings under oaks. This shrub has pretty leaves and cheery ‘egg over easy’ flowers. It is a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star and a California native.

Carpenteria californica is a flexible plant, tolerating light to moderate water and full sun to partial shade. One drawback of this plant is the brown leaves don’t always drop off in summer. If this shrub is in a very visible spot, it may be desirable to cut off the brown leaves for a cleaner appearance.

Ceanothus

Pronunciation
see-ah-NO-thuss
Common Name
California Wild Lilac
Plant Type
Plant type depends on cultivar
Mature Size
Many different types
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
Purple, dark blue, medium blue, white
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus is a California native evergreen shrub. It is very showy in late winter and early spring when it covers itself with beautiful blossoms. Most Ceanothus have blue blooms that are very attractive to bees and other insects.

There are many different kinds of Ceanothus. Some are low growing ground covers; some are shrubs, and some become tree-like. Most Ceanothus need to be planted in a dry part of the garden because they are very sensitive to summer watering. Ceanothus varieties originally from the coast, such as ‘Carmel Creeper’, are more tolerant of summer water. Cultivars should be researched carefully to select the right plant that meets individual garden conditions. 

It is best to prune Ceanothus in the late summer when they are dormant. Take care not to cut into large branches. Only prune branches that are an inch or less in size.

Even with proper pruning and watering, these plants can be short-lived (five to ten years), but their beautiful spring flowers more than make up for any challenges.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus ‘Concha’ is a California native plant with rose colored buds that open to cobalt blue flowers in late winter or early spring. Leaves are small and a deep dark green.

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

Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’

Pronunciation
see-an-OH-thus muh-RIT-tim-mus
Common Name
Maritime ceanothus
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
1'-3' high x 3'-8' wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Deer resistant
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’ is a California native and a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star. This low growing Ceanothus has a wide spread and can be an effective ground cover. It has dark, blue-green foliage that contrasts nicely with its purple flowers, which bloom from winter into spring. Be aware that all Ceanothus develop buckthorns as they age that can be very sharp.

PADG notes: Several varieties of Ceanothus were planted several years ago in the Native Bed at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. As of 2022, Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’ is doing the best in the group. It is very drought tolerant and is living up to its All-Star status with the garden’s dry season irrigation cycle. Established plants are watered once every three weeks with drip lines.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ceanothus x pallidus ‘Marie Simon’ is a cross between a native Ceanothus and another unknown plant, and is a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star. It looks quite different from a native Ceanothus. It is semi-deciduous, with red stems and light green leaves, and its flowers are a delicate pink instead of the blue more typical for Ceanothus.

PADG notes: Online photos show a plant covered with pink flowers but that hasn’t been the case at the Demonstration Garden. The flowers have been pretty but sparse and the plant does not look vigorous. It has been in the garden for several years and is still a non-performer. We can’t recommend this plant for low water gardens in the Palo Alto area.

Cercis occidentalis

Pronunciation
SIR-sis ok-sih-den-TAY-liss
Common Name
Western Redbud
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
12-20 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Magenta
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Western redbud's magenta flowers are quite a sight in the early spring. After blooming the small multi-trunked tree or large shrub has pretty heart-shaped leaves. This California native and UC Davis Arboretum All-Star is an excellent choice for a small space or an edge of woodland design. After the plant blooms, Western redbud sets distinctive seedpods.

Like many natives, this plant needs good drainage, so consider planting it on a mound. Avoid summer water. Cercis can be pruned over the winter to open up the branching structure to give the plant a more tree-like appearance.

Cercocarpus betuloides

Pronunciation
ser-koe-KAR-pus be-tull-OY-dees
Common Name
Mountain Mahogany
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
5-12 ft. tall and wide, adult size can vary
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Small yellow flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Cercocarpus is an evergreen shrub that is useful for screening, as informal hedging, or can be pruned into a small, elegant tree. As a California native from the foothills, it can get by on little to no water once established. It is on the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars list.

PADG notes: This slow growing plant has not had problems with pests or diseases. We have pruned this Cercocarpus to have a more open form, so it is now a very attractive, airy shrub.

Chasmanthe

Pronunciation
chas-MAN-thee
Common Name
Chasmanthe or cobra lily
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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

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

For best flowering, corms should be divided every two to three years. Be aware that the plant will reseed vigorously, particularly Chasmanthe aethiopica, so be sure to deadhead the flowers if this is not desired.

Chondropetalum tectorum

Pronunciation
kon-dro-PET-al-lum tek-TOR-um
Common Name
Cape Rush
Plant Type
Grass
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 to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Tan brown bracts
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Chondropetalum is a low water plant from South Africa that has a nice reed-like look. Many garden designers favor it as a specimen for its strong architectural lines. It is often use in modern designs and in pots as the “thriller.” Overwatering the plant will make it floppy. Remove old stems to highlight new growth. It can also be sheared to ground just as new sprouts start to show.

PADG notes: We also tried Juncus, a similar looking plant, but found it did not do well with once every three weeks watering.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum

Pronunciation
kry-soh-SEE-uh-lum uh-pik-yoo-LAY-tum
Common Name
Silver and Gold Everlasting
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
1' high x 2'-3' 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

Chrysocephalum apiculatum is a low growing perennial strawflower with standout silver foliage and yellow flowers. Like all strawflowers, the fresh spring blooms retain their color as they dry and last on the plant for long periods. When established this is a very drought tolerant plant. It works well near the front of a border but give space for its spread. It should not be planted next to the border’s edge. Trim the flowers when they become unsightly and lightly shape the plant for the next spring bloom. Do not prune heavily.

Cistus x argenteus ‘Silver Pink’

Pronunciation
SIS-tus x (ar-JEN-tee-us)
Common Name
Rock Rose
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
2'-3' high x 4'-5' 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
Pink and White
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Cistus x argenteus ‘Silver Pink’ has small flowers that densely cover the plant in the spring. At the end of the season the flowers drop off cleanly. This beautiful evergreen shrub naturally grows into a neat, compact mound, with dense, gray-green foliage. It should never be pruned heavily. Like many drought tolerant plants, a heavy pruning can kill it or leave it misshapen. Instead, be sure to allow enough space for the mature shrub in your landscape design so that pruning is not necessary.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This hot pink rockrose is a long blooming, low growing shrub that can grow to six feet. There are several different rockrose cultivars, with flowers ranging from pink to white to lavender. Rockroses thrive in hot, dry areas. They like well-draining soil and will quickly die if overwatered. The plant can be pruned, but don’t cut into the wood because it may not resprout.

PADG notes: This plant tended to die within two years in the Demonstration Garden’s regularly watered clay soil. The rockrose was planted on a berm (small hill) and received minimal summer water.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Correa has many attributes that make it ideal for Bay Area gardeners. It thrives in sun, partial sun, or shade; is deer resistant and bird friendly; has pretty, long-lasting flowers that provide winter color; does well with moderate to occasional water; does not get too big; tolerates our alkaline soil; and is evergreen.

Also, the shrub requires no deadheading or pruning, so it is practically maintenance-free. Look for some of the newer cultivars of Correa that have been bred to produce more visible flowers above the foliage.

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
Where to See
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. This shrub can grow to 8 feet by 8 feet without regular pruning.

Like Correa ‘Dusky Bells’, Correa alba thrives in sun, partial sun, or shade; is deer resistant and bird friendly; and has long-lasting flowers. The plant does well with moderate to occasional water, tolerates alkaline soil, and is evergreen. The plant is sensitive to overwatering and overfertilizing.

PADG notes: Some find Correas to be short-lived but 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.

Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga ‘Macrantha’

Pronunciation
kot-EE-lee-don Or-bee-kul-AY-tuh
Common Name
Pig's Ear
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
No flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Cotyledon orbiculata has large, bright green, red-edged leaves. Many summer-dry plants have small, fine leaves so these brightly colored, fleshy leaves add a much needed punch to the garden. This is especially important during the quiet months in the fall and winter when not much is blooming.

Like many succulents, Cotyledon orbiculata is easily propagated from cuttings and does well in containers. It is cold hardy to 20–25°F.

Dierama pendulum

Pronunciation
dy-er-AH-muh
Common Name
Fairy Wand, Angel’s Fishing Rod
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
Leaves to 2 ft. long, stems 4-7 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Purplish pink to pink to white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Fairy Wand, also known as Angel’s Fishing Rod, has stunning flowers on long arching stems. It is certainly a “what is that?!” plant when it blooms in late spring and early summer. Be sure to put it in a spot that will showcase its tall blooms.

If the plant gets too big, the corms can be divided and replanted. Fairy Wand self sows, though heavy mulching may discourage seedlings. If reseeding is a problem, deadhead the flowers before they set seed.

Fairy Wand is usually evergreen in Santa Clara County’s climate, but leaves can be cut back in mid-summer if they become unattractive. Otherwise, this is a trouble-free plant with a big impact when it blooms.

PADG notes: Fairy Wand is said to need regular water, but a once every three weeks watering regime has worked well.

Echeveria sp.

Pronunciation
ech-eh-ver-EE-a
Common Name
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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

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

Echeverias are sometimes called ‘Hen and Chicks’, but so are Sempervivums, another succulent. It's one of the problems with using common names. In this case, it is better to use the botanical name, Echeveria.

PADG Notes: Echeveria ‘Imbricata’, a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star, is featured in the Demonstration Garden. Some Echeverias do well in full sun, but Imbricata seems to do better in half shade and with a drip very close to the roots.

Echinacea purpurea

Pronunciation
ek-ih-AY-shee-a pur-PUR-ee-ah
Common Name
Purple cone flower
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3'-4' high x 2' 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
Purple
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Echinacea purpurea is a green-leaved perennial that produces large purple, daisy-like blooms in the summer. It can grow to four feet in height and works well in the background of garden borders. It needs minimal drip irrigation, dies down after bloom, and resprouts in the spring with little extra maintenance required.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Echinops has beautiful blue flowers that bloom spring through fall. The coarse leaves may not appeal to everyone, but they add a different texture to the garden. Echinops make a great cut flower. The spiky texture adds interest to flower arrangements.

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

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

California native fuchsias are a welcome addition to the waterwise garden. They produce masses of red-orange flowers all summer long, at a time when many other native plants are dormant. Hummingbirds love these tubular flowers. ‘Select Mattole’ is one of many cultivars available. Its silver-green foliage foliage shines in the garden. It stays compact and doesn't spread.

Cut California fuchsias back to one inch stubs in the fall or winter. For varieties that tend to ranginess, pinching the outer tips in late May or June will encourage them to be denser and less floppy.

California fuchsias are drought tolerant and can be completely summer dry, but will be lusher if given a once a month deep watering.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’ has a long bloom period if deadheaded regularly, with blooming starting in the spring and continuing into the fall. To keep this plant looking its best, prune back leggy growth to 1 or 2 inches in the late fall. The cultivar ‘Wayne Roderick’ is supposed to be longer lived, have larger blooms, and be more durable and heat tolerant than the species.

PADG notes: 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.

Eriogonum fasciculatum

Pronunciation
er-ih-OG-uh-num fas-sik-yoo-LAH-tum
Common Name
California buckwheat
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
2' high x 4'-5' wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Deer resistant
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Eriogonum fasciculatum is a drought-tolerant California native shrub. Reaching only two feet in height with a four-to-five-foot spread, it is a good mid-border choice. The shrub has many branches that are densely covered with small, dark green, needle-like leaves and is covered with pinkish-white clusters of tiny flowers in spring which turn an attractive rust color in summer and fall. When not flowering, it is an attractive contrast to other plants in the mixed border. Trim flowers off when they become unsightly and lightly shape the plant. Do not prune heavily.

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 rosy flowers in summer. It is one of the showiest 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, the blooms can be deadheaded to avoid a ratty look. Every few years, 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. Shape this plant every so often to keep its mounding form.

Buckwheat requires some summer water the first year it is planted. After the first year, avoid summer water. The plants may only live three to five years, though sometimes longer. It freely reseeds so buying new plants may not be necessary.

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

California poppies look great in wild areas and are lovely massed. They make excellent temporary fillers in new beds and landscapes. 

California poppies can get by with almost no summer water, but they tend to look shabby and weedy under these conditions. To encourage continuous bloom, 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.

Although California poppies are perennials in the Santa Clara Valley, they can be treated as annuals. California poppies can be problematic because they are aggressive reseeders. They should be heavily thinned even in desired areas and removed entirely when undesired. They can reach one and a half feet wide in size and can smother other plants.

Most retail nurseries and many hardware stores sell seeds for California poppies. Some mail order companies are good sources 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 myrsinites

Pronunciation
yew-FOR-bee-ah mur-zin-EYE-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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

With its eye catching texture and showy flowers in the spring, Euphorbia myrsinites makes an attractive ground cover for dry areas. These plants will reseed vigorously if not deadheaded, so be sure to cut off the flowering stalks before seeds develop. Leave new growth intact since that will be next spring's flowers.

Take care when cutting Euphorbias because the milky sap 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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Hundreds of varieties of Euphorbias are available ranging from groundcovers to shrubs. These Mediterranean perennials are hardy plants. 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. 

Festuca californica

Pronunciation
fess-TEW-kuh kal-ih-FOR- nih-kuh
Common Name
California Fescue
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
2 ft. high and wide, with inflorescence 2 - 3 ft. high
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Golden
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Festuca californica is a commonly planted California native grass. It is larger than many of the Festucas, reaching two feet or more in height and has a softer more arching habit. Unlike many California natives, this plant can take moderate water and will stay green and lush with regular watering. Without regular summer watering, it will go dormant. Festuca californica is tough and resilient. To prevent reseeding, be sure to deadhead in early summer.

Festuca glauca

Pronunciation
fes-TOO-ka GLAW-ka
Common Name
Blue Fescue
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
1 ft high and 10 in. wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Blue-green
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Blue fescue is a small, evergreen bunch grass with narrow blue-green leaves that form a mound. The fairly insignificant flowers appear in early summer.

This grass needs occasional water and good drainage. It tends to brown out in the middle, but can be divided and replanted to renew it. In a low water garden, these grasses seem to hold their blue green color better in the shade.

Festuca idahoensis

Pronunciation
fess-TOO-kah eye-duh-ho-EN-sis
Common Name
Idaho Fescue
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
1 ft. to 2 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
No flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Idaho fescue is common native grass in California and many other western states. Without summer water, they turn brown and scraggly. Even with occasional summer water, Festucas do better shadier areas than in full sun. Miscanthus, another type of grass, does better in full sun, but is larger than Festucas.

PADG notes: The Palo Alto Demonstration Garden is still searching for a grass that is low growing and does well in full sun with limited water.

Ficus carica ‘Panachée’

Pronunciation
FY-kus KAR-ih-kah
Common Name
Panachée Striped Tiger Fig
Plant Type
Tree
Mature Size
15 -30 ft.
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
None
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Tiger figs have beautiful striped, green fruit and large attractive leaves. The fruit requires a long warm season to ripen, which may not be possible in all parts of Santa Clara Valley. See the fig page for more information about growing figs. 

PADG notes: PADG's two Tiger fig trees were too large for the modest-sized beds where they were planted, so had to be heavily pruned every year to keep them small enough. The Tiger figs have been removed and replaced with a dwarf fig cultivar called “Black Jack”.

Gazania

Pronunciation
gay-ZAY-nee-uh
Common Name
Gazania
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 in. tall and 12 in. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Yellow, orange, white, and pink
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Gazanias are colorful, easy to grow, low water plants. Gazanias do better with only occasional water because they can become leggy if given regular water. Cultivars with silver foliage blend particularly well with other Mediterranean plants. Tired blooms can be deadheaded although it is not necessary. If a clump of plants becomes too crowded or too large, divide the plant during the cool season.

PADG notes: Gazanias have been planted along the edges of the Demonstration Garden to help tie together different beds. 

Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’

Pronunciation
ji-RAY-nee-uhm kan-tuh-brij-ee-EN-see
Common Name
Cranesbill ‘Biokovo’
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 - 8 in. tall and spreading
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
Pale pink
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This pretty ground cover is good for dry shady areas. The pale pink flowers have a long season and complement a variety of plants, from roses to California native shrubs to coast live oaks. It's easy to propagate and transplant to new areas. Just cut off a small piece, plant it directly in the soil and keep it wet until the plant roots. Shear in the fall to get fresh growth in the spring.

Be aware that geranium ‘Biokovo’ can become aggressive and spread quickly if planted in soil that is fertilized and watered regularly. 

Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’

Pronunciation
grev-ILL-ee-uh lan-EE-ger-ruh
Common Name
Wooley Grevillea
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
1'-1.5' high x 4'-5' 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

Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’ is covered with showy pink flowers from fall into spring, providing color when most plants do not bloom. Plan the garden so the remaining spring blossoms accent the early spring blooms on other plants. When not in bloom, this is a compact and attractive shrub with gray-green leaves. It is very drought tolerant once established.

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Grevillea is a no fail plant. It's tough, deer resistant, loved by hummingbirds, and a fall to spring bloomer.

The Grevillea pictured is a dwarf form of Grevillea rosmarinifolia. It has evergreen rosemary-like leaves and stays about 3 feet high by 6 feet wide. It flowers in the winter when not much is blooming and provides a tidy, low growing shrub in the summer when other plants take center stage.

Grevillea does well with a deep watering once every three weeks. It also grows well in gardens that get regular water. Be careful of using fertilizer with phosphorus around Grevillea. No maintenance, deadheading, or trimming back is required for this plant.

Note that 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 better than others. Research cultivars carefully before selecting plants.

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
Where to See
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.

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

Hesperaloe parviflora

Pronunciation
hes-per-AL-oh par-VEE-flor-uh
Common Name
Coral yucca
Plant Type
Perennial
Mature Size
3'-4' high x 4'-5' 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
Red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Hesperaloe parviflora is a standout plant for any garden and is on the UC Davis Arboretum All-Star list. The three- to four-foot-high rosettes of stiff yucca-like, blue-green leaves provide structural interest all year long. From spring into summer, five-foot-long flower stalks sport many striking red flowers followed by interesting seed pods. This plant is drought tolerant, low maintenance, and very reliable, with few pest and disease problems.

 

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 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 followed by showy red berries. The berries remain on the shrub for several 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.

PADG notes: The toyon in the Palo Alto Demo Garden Water Wise Garden was planted in the winter of 2008 from a one-gallon container in a spot where it gets afternoon shade. This toyon is still a modest sized shrub many 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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

There are many kinds of Heuchera, but Heuchera ‘Rosada’ is a favorite. Introduced to the nursery trade by the UC Davis Arboretum, it is a cross between two different western U.S. native species.

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 needed. 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 Arboretum All-Stars designation, which identifies plants that 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
Where to See
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 delicate flowers appear on thin stalks above the large green leaves. The flowers are useful as a cut flower. It is on the UC Davis Arboretum All-Star list

PADG notes: In the Water Wise Garden, several Heuchera maxima are growing 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.

Hypericum reptans

Pronunciation
hy-PARE-ih-kum REP-tanz
Common Name
St. Johnswort
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
2 in. tall and 1 1/2 in. wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Bright yellow
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Hypericum reptans, or ground cover St. Johns’s Wort, is ideal for dry sunny and partially shady areas. This ground cover looks and behaves differently from other species of St. John’s Wort. It has very small leaves and flowers, grows close to the ground and spreads slowly, with yellow flowers appearing in the summer.

Spent flowers can be sheared off when the plant is done blooming. It is easy to start new plants by planting cuttings directly into the soil when the weather has cooled.

Ipheion uniflorum

Pronunciation
IF-ee-on yoo-nee-FLOR-um
Common Name
Starflower
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
0.5' high x Spreads
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Deer resistant
Flower Color
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ipheion uniflorum has low-growing green leaves and is covered with white star-shaped flowers in early spring. It dies down to the bulb after bloom and resprouts when fall and winter rains begin. It is a dainty and beautiful addition to garden edge. It reliably complements the early blooming narcissus and other spring flowers and requires little maintenance other than extra water if it does not rain during bloom.

Iris ‘Canyon Snow’

Pronunciation
EYE-riss
Common Name
Pacific Coast Iris ‘Canyon Snow’
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
Flower stems reach 8 in. to 24 in. high
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
White
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

There are many hybrids of Pacific Coast iris, some of which are very showy. Flower colors available include white, blue, pink, copper, brown, maroon, and violet. The flowers appear in the spring. The cultivar ‘Canyon Snow’ is said to tolerate full sun better than many other California native irises, as well as being more vigorous and floriferous. UC Davis has included this cultivar on the Arboretum All-Stars list.

Master Gardeners have found that Pacific Coast irises seem to prefer part shade and low to moderate water. Native irises are useful under oaks, in woodland gardens, and in meadows.

Ixia

Pronunciation
IKS-ee-uh
Common Name
African Corn Lily
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
18 - 20 in. tall
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Cream, yellow, red, orange, and pink
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This versatile South African bulb is one of the best kept secrets of a Mediterranean garden. The late spring flowers come in pretty jewel tone colors that go well with many spring-blooming plants. The grass-like foliage on this plant can be removed when it goes brown and dormant in the summer. While it prefers no summer water, it can tolerate some. 

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

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

Deadhead the plants when the old flower spikes become unattractive. When the leaves start looking shabby in the winter, cut the foliage back about three inches above the ground. Kniphofia will come back beautifully in the spring. The plant divides easily but it doesn't seem to require dividing to stay vigorous.

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

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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Lavenders are a favorite plant for low-water gardens with their aromatic foliage and showy spikes of scented flowers. 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. Lavender is a short-lived shrub that may need to be replaced when it becomes leggy or woody after about six years.

Lavandula stoechas is an early bloomer and will repeat bloom if deadheaded and given supplemental water.

PADG notes:  Several different types of lavenders are planted in the Demonstration Garden, including ‘Otto Quast’, a successful cultivar which is also a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star plant.

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. 

Prune these shrubs in the early spring after the danger of frost is past to control size. Some gardeners prune them down to six inches from the ground; others just cut off half of the total height. How much to prune is a matter of deciding the desirable size of the plants in the garden. With no pruning at all, these plants can get very large, very quickly.

Lion’s tail can be frost tender, but they rebound quickly. If this plant does get frost damaged, wait until after the danger of frost is past, then cut off the damaged parts.

Lepechinia 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
Where to See
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 feature is the plant’s large leaves, which offer a nice contrast to many plants from the Mediterranean region that have smaller foliage. Although some pitcher sages are native to California, Lepechinia hastata is from Mexico.

PADG notes: 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 may be not to overwater them.

Lessingia filaginifolia

Pronunciation
les-IN-jee-a fi-la-jin-i-FOL-ee-a
Common Name
California Dune Aster
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
3+ ft. wide and 4 in. tall
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
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Lessingia felaginifolia is a drought tolerant California native groundcover and a favorite with butterflies. Lessingia ‘Silver Carpet’ is a selection known for its dense, silvery foliage. The short, ground-hugging foliage is only 4 inches high, spreading 3 or more feet. Water deeply a few times over the summer.

Leucadendron ‘Jester’

Pronunciation
lew-kuh-DEN-dron
Common Name
Jester Conebush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4 ft. to 6 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Rose, red or yellow
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Leucadendrons are evergreen shrubs from South Africa and are related to Proteas. Some Leucadendrons have interesting cone-like heads with colorful bracts that may be used in flower arrangements; others are grown primarily for their foliage.

Plant Leucadendrons on one-foot mounds to encourage good drainage. Their color and size add a bit of drama to the beds, especially during periods where other plants are dormant.

PADG notes: There are several different cultivars of Leucadendrons in the garden, including this one. ‘Jester’ is also known as ‘Safari Sunshine'.

Leucadendron ‘Rising Sun'

Pronunciation
lew-kuh-DEN-dron
Common Name
Rising Sun Conebush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
6 ft. to 8 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Red
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Leucadendron ‘Rising Sun’ is a South African native, with beautiful reddish stems and terminal bracts (colorful flower-like leaves toward the end of a stem). Some Leucadendrons can be frost tender.

PADG notes: This Leucadendron stayed small, so pruning hasn’t been necessary. It may be because it was planted on top of a gravel mound and received limited water. However, we removed Rising Sun from the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden because it had a twisting way of growing that we didn't find attractive.

Leucadendron salignum ‘Golden Tip’

Pronunciation
lew-kuh-DEN-dron sal-LIG-num
Common Name
Conebush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4'-6' high x 4'-8' wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Leucadendron salignum ‘Golden Tip’ is a structurally striking, upright shrub, with branches tipped with bright yellow bracts from winter into spring. Leaves are green but pick up a yellow hue during bloom time. Although considered drought tolerant, Leucadendrons require more water than most water wise plants. Even well-established plants can die during hot summers without enough water.

PADG notes: This plant is watered every three weeks, but this is at the edge of their tolerance in the garden. They require little extra maintenance.

Leucadendron salignum ‘Red Wing’

Pronunciation
lew-kuh-DEN-dron sal-LIG-num
Common Name
Conebush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3'-4' high x 4'-6' wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Red
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Leucadendron salignum ‘Red Wing’ is smaller than most leucadendrons and has deep red bracts from winter into spring. The green leaves pick up a red hue during bloom proving beautiful contrast in the mixed garden bed. Although considered drought tolerant, Leucadendrons require more water than most water wise plants. Even well-established plants can die during hot summers without enough water.

PADG notes: The plants are watered every three weeks at the Demonstration Garden, but this is right at the edge of their tolerance in the garden. They require little extra maintenance.

 

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Yaku Jima'

Pronunciation
mis-KAN-thus sih-NEN-sis
Common Name
Silver Grass 'Yaku Jima'
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
2 ft. to 3 ft. wide and tall with plumes rising 4 ft. to 5 ft.
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Striking golden plumes in fall
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Miscanthus 'Yaku Jima' is a favorite of Roberta Barnes, one of the founders of the Palo Alto Water Wise Demonstration Garden. She has found Miscanthus to be one of the best looking grasses for full sun and low water. There are many cultivars of Miscanthus on the market that vary in size and foliage color including silver and reddish brown. The cultivar 'Yaku Jima' is a U.C Davis All Star plant.

From a design perspective, the delicate foliage and showy plumes of Miscanthus add movement and texture to the garden. The plumes look especially lovely in the fall afternoon light.

We have not experienced any problems with this grass reseeding in the garden. To keep a fresh look, cut Miscanthus to the ground in winter and divide every few years. That is the only maintenance needed for these trouble-free plants. We have found that sometimes Miscanthus takes a year or so to get established in our water wise garden.

Muhlenbergia dubia

Pronunciation
muh-len-BER-jee-ah DOO-bee-uh
Common Name
Pine Muhly
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
2 ft. to 3 ft. wide and tall with plumes rising 4 ft. to 5 ft.
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
No flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Muhlenbergia dubia from the southwest U.S. is one of our favorite grasses for the summer dry garden. It looks very similar to the more common Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass), but it is a third of its size. That makes this plant a better choice for pots and small spaces.

Like most grasses Muhlenbergia dubia really shines in the fall when its graceful leaves add movement and texture to the garden.

In the spring we like to rake out the older growth to encourage new green leaves. Every three years we shear this plant down the ground. That is the only maintenance we do on this plant.

Muhlenbergia emersleyi

Pronunciation
muh-len-BER-jee-ah e-MERS-lee-eye
Common Name
Bull Grass
Plant Type
Grass
Mature Size
1 1/2 ft tall and 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
Flower Color
No flowers
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Muhlenbergia emersleyi is a wonderful grass to include in perennial flower beds because it doesn't get too big. In the late summer and fall this grass has attractive reddish flower spikes on green foliage. The winter form is lovely as well. Some describe the winter color as cream or tan. We say let's call it brown.

We have a single specimen in the Demonstration Garden, but we think this grass would look attractive planted in a larger group or even in a meadow.

This grass is extremely low maintenance and unlike many other grasses doesn't need to be divided every couple years. To keep this grass looking good, we rake out the old foliage to make room for the green spring growth.

The only downside of this plant is that it can be hard to find in nurseries. It is well worth requesting from a nurseries as a special order.

Muhlenbergia rigens

Pronunciation
muh-len-BER-jee-ah RIG-ens
Common Name
Deer Grass
Plant Type
Grass
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
Flower Color
No flowers
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Grasses are the backbone of late summer and fall dry perennial gardens. We love the movement and texture they add to gardens. The graceful leaves of grasses look particularly beautiful when highlighted by the late afternoon sun.

Muhlenbergia rigen is a reliably pretty California native grass. The flower stalks are persistent and look attractive year-round. We've used it as an accent plant in our native and non-native beds with good results. The UC Davis Arboretum, which has selected Muhlenbergia as one of their "All Stars", suggests using it as a low informal screen.

Muhlenbergia requires very little maintenance in our water-wise garden. UC Davis recommends shearing Muhlenbergia a couple inches above the ground in the early spring every three years to encourage new green growth. California Native Plants for the Garden suggests periodically raking out dead foliage with a fan rake. Otherwise, this is a maintenance-free plant.

PADG notes: The Palo Alto Demonstration Garden also grows Muhlenbergia dubia, a smaller cultivar. We have found this to be an attractive low-water plant, although the UC Davis Arboretum suggests giving M. dubia slightly more water than M. rigens

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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!

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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.

Philotheca myoporoides ‘Profusion’

Pronunciation
fil-oh-THEK-uh my-oh-por-OY-deez
Common Name
Waxflower 'Profusion'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
4 - 5 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
White
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Philotheca myoporoides ‘Profusion’ is an evergreen beauty from Australia. This plant prefers part shade and has lovely citrus-like blooms in the spring. Philotheca is one of those hard to find plants that should be used more in water wise gardens.

We've only had this plant in our garden for a couple of years and it is growing slowly so we haven't had to prune it.

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
Where to See
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.

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)
Where to See
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.

Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'

Pronunciation
pol-ee-GAH-luh froo-tih-KOH-suh
Common Name
Petite Butterfly Sweet-Pea Shrub
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
2 ft. to 3 ft. wide and tall
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Purplish pink
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

It's always nice to find a neat, round evergreen shrub that blooms a lot and doesn't get too big. Polygala fruticosa plays nicely in the perennial garden. Its flowers look a bit like sweet peas hence the common name 'Sweet-Pea Shrub'.

Cut back Polygala to about 10 inches above the ground in late winter to maintain its compact shape.

Sunset recommends providing regular water for Polygala. We are currently trialing this plant to see if it can survive in a low water garden. Several Master Gardeners have not found Polygala fruticosa to be long-lived in their home 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
Where to See
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.

Punica granatum

Pronunciation
PU-ni-kuh grah-NAT-um
Common Name
Pomegranate
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
15 ft. to 20 ft. tall and wide, but can prune smaller
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Orange-red flowers with ornamental yellow, orange, or red fruit
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We are always looking for small, well-behaved shrubs for the perennial garden. Pomegranates fit the bill nicely. Pomegranates flower in the early summer and have attractive golden leaf color in the late fall. The fruit, which forms in the mid-fall, adds color to the fall garden. One drawback is pomegranates lose all their leaves in the winter and don't have a particularly attractive branching structure.

Sunset's Western Garden Book recommends regular water, but says pomegranates tolerate considerable drought. We have found that pomegranates do quite well with deep and infrequent watering. Another bonus of a low water regime is the tree grows more slowly and requires less frequent pruning.

In our garden, we prune pomegranates in the late winter to maintain them as shrubs. Since pomegranates can grow to be quite large, some gardeners may choose to prune off the bottom branches of the shrub to give the plant a pleasing tree-like form.

There are a number of ornamental cultivars that are grown for showy flowers. There are also dwarf cultivars. We do not grow these pomegranates in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, but encourage you to give them a try.

Rhamnus californica 'Mound San Bruno'

Pronunciation
RAM-nus kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh
Common Name
Coffeeberry 'Mound San Bruno'
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
5 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun, shade
Wildlife
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Inconsequential pale yellow
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

We planted the California native coffeeberry 'Mound San Bruno' in our native plant bed that receives both sun and shade. The amount of sun the bed gets varies depending on the time of year and time of day. That's a common condition in many gardens and not all shrubs do well in both sun and shade.

Coffeeberry isn't a flashy shrub, but it does add much needed structure to the native plant bed. The berries on the plant are attractive and beneficial for birds and small mammals.

There are many different varieties of coffeeberry. They can be used as an informal hedge or screen or gently pruned to be a bedding or foundation shrub. 'Mound San Bruno' is one of our favorites because of its compact growing habit, which works well in a perennial bed.

We watered our coffeeberry once a week to get it started, but now that it is established, we water it once or twice over the summer to wash the dust off the leaves.

Rhodanthemum hosmariense

Pronunciation
rowd-AN-theh-mum hos-mar-ee-EN-see
Common Name
Moroccan Daisy
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
2 ft. wide and 8 ins. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
White daisies
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Rhodanthemum hosmariense has lovely silver foliage and white daisy flowers. This plant makes a wonderful edging plant. We also like Moroccan daisy because it flowers profusely in the winter when not much is in bloom.

Don't over-water this plant or it will rot. It can survive on very little water.

The only maintenance we do to this plant is occasional deadheading of spent flowers.

Rhus ovata

Pronunciation
rus oh-VAY-tuh
Common Name
Sugar Bush
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
8 ft. to 12 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Other birds
Flower Color
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

The California native, Rhus ovata, is very adaptable in the garden. This evergreen shrub can be pruned up by removing the bottom branches to create a small tree. It can also be formed into a hedge or left to grow naturally as a large, rounded shrub. Rhus ovata takes sun or partial shade and tolerates occasional water in the summer.

This plant is more of a garden workhouse rather than a star, but a garden full of stars would be overwhelming. These are good background shrubs for places that get no irrigation. The flower bracts, which appears in the fall, are red and show up well against the shiny green leaves. The flowers appear several months later and are small and white.

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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.

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
Where to See
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.

Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis'

Pronunciation
ROE-sah chin-EN-sis mew-TAB-ill-iss
Common Name
Butterfly Rose
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
8 ft. to 10 ft. tall and wide
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

While most hybrid tea roses like regular water and fertilizer, there are many antique roses that withstand tough conditions. Rosa x ordorata 'Mutabilis' is very successful under our low water/no fertilizer regime. This rose likes full sun, but will grow and bloom in part shade.

Rosa 'Mutabilis' grows into a large shrub with delicate blossoms that open orange then turn pink and finally maroon as it ages. The bronzy colored new foliage is also attractive. Blooming all summer, it is a focal point in our garden.

We pruned this rose back to about four feet in February, selectively cutting smaller branches back to a main stem. This helps keep the plant a manageable size and encourages lots of blooms over the summer.

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue'

Pronunciation
ross-mah-RYE-nus oh-fi-shi-NAH-lis
Common Name
Tuscan Blue Rosemary
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
6 ft. to 7 ft. tall and 1 1/2 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
Flower Color
Blue
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Rosemary is one of the toughest shrubs in the garden and a great evergreen plant to anchor a summer dry bed. It is from the Mediterranean Basin and is well suited to our climate. There are many different varieties and forms, some tall, others spreading. Flower color can also vary from pale blue to deep blue, and less commonly, pink and white. The variety in the Palo Alto Demonstration garden is 'Tuscan Blue'.

Rosemary starts blooming in the winter and provides food for bees when little else is blooming. Rosemary sometimes has a small bloom in the late summer and fall as well.

The 'Tuscan Blue' rosemary shrubs in our Palo Alto Demonstration Garden have never grown taller than 4 feet and are more ball shaped than vertical. Part of this may be due to less watering and part of this may be due to our pruning regime. We prune it by 1/3 to 1/2 after it finishes blooming in late spring to control its height. We also prune side branches that fall on other plants. Once the plants become mature, we prune out up to 1/3 of the large woody branches to control plant size and maintain vigor.

To minimize pruning, we have taken out several of our 'Tuscan Blue' rosemary shrubs and replaced them with the smaller cultivar 'Mozart', a UC Davis Arboretum "All-Star". We'll let you know how are experiment works.

Rosemary is useful herb in the kitchen.

Rubus pentalobus

Pronunciation
ROO-bus pen-tuh-LOH-bus
Common Name
Creeping Raspberry
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 ft. wide and 6 in. to 12 in. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Half sun to shade
Wildlife
Flower Color
Small white flowers
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Rubus pentalobus is a tough, low maintenance ground cover that does well in dry shade -- a rare combination. We also like that the dense, spiny branches discourage weeds.

The tiny fruit of Rubus pentalobus is edible, although you'll probably only get enough to sprinkle on a bowl of cereal.

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
Where to See
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 clevelandii

Pronunciation
SAL-vee-uh kleev-LAN-dee-eye
Common Name
Cleveland Sage
Plant Type
Shrub
Mature Size
3 ft. wide and tall
Water Requirements
Very Low: water deeply several times a summer
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

'Winnifred Gilman' is a Salvia cultivar that is compact and has lovely violet-blue flowers. It is one of our favorite late spring California natives because the grey-green foliage smells like a chaparral morning.

Like many sages, these are short-lived plants. Even with regular pruning, Salvia clevelandii needs to be replaced every five to ten years when the stems become woody. We like to prune 'Winnifred Gilman' back by about a third in the late summer and early fall to prolong the life of the plant and maintain a nice shape.

We previously had a Salvia clevelandii 'Whirly Blue' in the water-wise garden. It was beautiful, but grew too large for our compact perennial garden. We removed it and replaced it with 'Winnifred Gilman'.

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

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
Where to See
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.

PADG notes: In the PADG 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
Where to See
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.

Scilla peruviana

Pronunciation
SILL-ah per-u-vee-AN-uh
Common Name
Giant Scilla
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
Less than 1 ft. tall
Water Requirements
Low: water every three weeks until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Blue, white
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This bulb with its dome shaped cluster of blue flowers is a real show stopper when it blooms in the spring!

Scilla, which is from the Mediterranean Basin, is well suited for our climate. The flowers and strappy foliage will disappear in the summer's heat. The leaves will reappear with winter rains. Going dormant in the summer is an adaptation many plants from summer-dry climates use to survive.

PADG notes: Although our Scilla are in beds that receive water every three weeks in the dry season, some of our gardeners have had success at home in beds that only receive winter rain water.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Pronunciation
SEE-dum
Common Name
Stonecrop 'Autumn Joy'
Plant Type
Succulent
Mature Size
1 - 2 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
Flower Color
Pink
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

This is a very easy plant to have in your garden. Sedum 'Autumn Joy' stands very upright with no need for extra support, needs very little water and generally is not bothered by garden insects. In late summer the plant blooms a nice strong pink and slowly fades to a rust. Good for adding color to the garden when most other plants are tired and resting. During the winter months 'Autumn Joy' dies back to the ground and returns in the early spring.

In the Water Wise Garden, Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is planted in a very rocky, well drained spot. It has grown very slowly, but steadily. It is a favorite of many gardeners because of the long lasting fall color.

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
Where to See
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.

Sparaxis tricolor

Pronunciation
spa-RAKS-iss
Common Name
Harlequin Flower
Plant Type
Bulb
Mature Size
8-12 in. wide and 12 in. tall
Water Requirements
None: avoid summer water
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full sun
Wildlife
Flower Color
Red, pink, purple, while and yellow
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Sparaxis are another South African bulb that deserve to be more widely planted in Mediterranean climates. Sparaxis have cheerful flowers and sword-shaped leaves. They come in an assortment of colors and look pretty spectacular in a mixed planting. Best of all, they don't need summer water, but will tolerate water if you irrigate.

Sparaxis is truly an easy plant that has few insect or disease problems and will naturalize without effort. The plants readily self sow. If you leave the leaves until the seed pods open, you'll have even more plants the next year. In fact, we sometimes need to pull some of the seedlings to keep them under control. These plants go dormant after blooming.

PADG notes: We wait until the leaves have lost most of their green color before snipping them off a couple inches of above ground. Other master gardeners wait for the leaves to go completely brown and then they simply pull off the dead leaves. It isn't necessary to do this, but we think getting rid of brown dormant leaves gives the summer garden a more lush look.

Unfortunately, snails and slugs love these plants as much as we do. The leaves will generally show it unless you are good at keeping snails under control.

Stachys byzantina 'Countess Helen von Stein'

Pronunciation
STAKA-is bye-zan-TEEN-ah
Common Name
Lamb's Ears
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
3 ft. 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 to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
Flower Color
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Ok, not every plant in the garden has that "wow factor" going for it and that's a good thing. You need plants to fill in bare spots and give the eye a rest. Lamb's ears is a classic filler plant for a water-wise garden. We have used it and other silver-leaved plants to visually tie together the edges of our beds.

"Helen von Stein' is a wonderful cultivar because it has extra-large leaves and doesn't bloom a lot. We are always looking for summer- dry plants with large leaves to provide contrast to other plants in our garden, many of which have small leaves.

Some people love the dramatic flower spikes on lamb's ears. We have mixed feelings about the flowers. Sometimes we cut them off and sometimes we leave them in place.

After a couple years, these plants tend to spread and die out in the middle. Just get out your sharp shovel and divide the clumps in fall or early winter and they will be cute again by spring. Lamb's ears may also have some die back over the winter; we recommend leaving the ugly leaves in place until all danger of frost has passed.

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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.

Tanacetum densum amani

Pronunciation
TAN-uh-SEE-tum DEN-sum AHM-an-eye
Common Name
Partridge Feather
Plant Type
Groundcover
Mature Size
6 - 8 in. high, spreading slowly to make a mat about 1 1/2 ft. wide
Water Requirements
Moderate: water weekly until the root ball is wet
Sun/Shade Requirements
Full to half sun
Wildlife
  • Bees
  • Beneficials
Flower Color
Yellow
Where to See
Maintenance- Design- Planting Tips

Tanacetum densum amani is an interesting ground cover that is native to Turkey. Its leaves are silver and have a feathery texture that people are drawn to. We have used this plant as an edger in one of our beds.

One drawback to the plant is the small yellow flowers that appear in late spring. Some people like them, but we cut them off.

This plant has survived, but not thrived at in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. One of the reasons may be it likes more water than it receives in the demonstration garden. We water deeply every three weeks. We suspect this plant would look lusher in the summer with deep weekly watering.

This plant is not easy to find in nurseries and gardens. If you like the texture, Tanacetum densum amani is worth seeking out.

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
Where to See
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
Where to See
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.

Trichostema lanatum

Pronunciation