Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Drought tolerant garden

Hello fellow gardeners! This week I’d like to discuss what we call “drought tolerant” gardening and the plants that we can use to implement this.

First, a drought tolerant plant is one that can survive drought – it doesn’t mean it can go without water. Surviving and thriving are two different things. Many of the drought tolerant plants we use here in Southern California come from similar areas in the world, such as the Mediterranean area, Australia, South Africa, and Madagascar, to name a few. For the most drought tolerant plants, one would use those native or indigenous to the area.

Some of the top drought tolerant plants are cactuses and succulents. I’ve discussed varieties in my previous articles. Not all of those can take freezing temperatures however; this is why it is so important to know your climate zone and the plant’s climate zone.

Drought tolerant plants do extremely well on drip irrigation. It saves you water and puts it exactly where it can benefit the plant roots the most, so it’s a top recommendation of mine.

Ground cover – whether it is rocks (gravel) or shredded bark – helps keep moisture in the soil – another top recommendation of mine. Also, if you have soil that is very quick draining (unless you’re planting succulents), I recommend adding some good compost into the soil. It is also good for succulents – water less frequently though so they don’t hold water too long.

I’m going to go over various types of plants here as they all serve different purposes in the landscape. Unless you want to hire a professional, the choice is up to you to decide how to arrange them in your landscape.


Australian Willow-Gejeria parviflora – This is a fairly large evergreen “weeping” type tree, similar to California Pepper but not as messy.

Crape Myrtle-Lagerstroemia indica – Smaller tree, great in heat, beautiful flowers in summer and fall color.

Strawberry Tree-Arbutus ‘Marina’ – Beautiful evergreen, medium-sized.

Chinese Pistache-Pistacia chinensis – Deciduous, slow growing, medium to large, incredible fall color.

Mulga-Acacia aneura – A nice smaller-sized silvery gray evergreen tree good for patio.


Manzanita-‘Howard McMinn’ – This is a good one to try.

Mexican Bush Sage-Salvia leucanthia – Great color and shape, low maintenance and hummingbirds love it.

Texas Sage-Leucophylum frutescens compacta – Grey leaves and light purple flowers.

Butterfly Bush-Buddleia – Many sizes and colors to choose from and an absolute favorite of butterflies.

Autumn Sage-Salvia greggii – Dark green foliage, fantastic red blooms, only about 2’ high.

Lavender-lavandula species – Many varieties to choose from, I prefer “French,” “Grosso” and “Spanish.”

Everything else

Clumping grass varieties I recommend are:

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Dwarf Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yakushima’), Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca), Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) and New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax).

Lambs Ears-Stachys lanata or Byzantine – Both great, large grey fuzzy leaves, low growing.

Kangaroo Paws (Anigazanthos flavidus) and Gaura lindheimeri – Both great flowering plants.

Rock Purslane-Calandrina grandiflora – Fantastic succulent with tall spikes of bright magenta flowers all summer long, loves the heat.

Since I’ve covered succulents in previous articles I won’t go into them here, but they are at the top of my list! My next article will be devoted to California natives in the garden. Have fun in the garden and as always I am available for consultations.

Linda McDonald-Cash

Landscape Designer

(951) 764-4762

[email protected]

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