Water-Wise Plants


Are you tired of mowing?  Does your flat, monotone lawn leave you uninspired? 
Are you a little baffled about what to plant instead of grass? We feel you.  

Choosing the right plant can be tricky.  There are all kinds of factors to consider: how much light you get, how much shade, upkeep, etc.  Fortunately, there are some great tools available to help you make the right choice for your garden.  

The following plant list links will help guide in your water-wise plant selection:

SCC MG 2.jpg

UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara Co. Water-Wise Plant Guide

This is an amazing resource!  These smart Master Gardeners have done the research to figure out what plants will work in your Santa Clara County garden.  Don't forget to check out their beautiful and useful Water-Wise Plant Image Gallery too.  

SJWC image.jpg

San Jose Water Company's Water-Wise Plant Database

Find a wide selection of water-wise plants on this database, hosted by San Jose Water Company.


California Native Plant Society's
Plant Database

This database will let you enter in your California address and will give you ideas about what kind of plants will love living in your area.  

UC Davis.jpg

UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars

The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and support native birds and insects. Most All-Star plants can be successfully planted and grown throughout California.


Allium (wild onion)

This water-wise beauty flowers in spring or early summer.  Full sun to part shade, good drainage, dry summer dormancy.  Some are California natives.  


This perennial (pictured: California aster) like full sun to part shade, and is attractive to pollinators.  Native to coastal California, they will go dormant in the summer and return with winter rains.    


ceanothus julia phelps.jpg

Ceanothus (wild lilac)

This evergreen shrub is native to western North America, with some being native to California.  They bloom in spring, like excellent drainage and sun to part shade.  They also need little to no summer water.  


Linum (blue flax)

Very drought tolerant, this California native likes full sun and good drainage.  


Eriogonum (wild buckwheat)

As you can see by this picture, buckwheat attracts pollinators.  Buckwheat, a perennial, likes full sun, good drainage and occasional water.  Native to the western United States.   

Fremontodendron (flannel bush)

Native to California, this drought-tolerant shrub flowers in the spring, likes full sun, excellent drainage and little water.


5 Spot.jpg


Pictured is five-spot, a California native.  These annuals will flower in spring, and like sun or part-shade and good drainage.  


Pictured is bird's eye, a western U.S. native.  These annuals will flower in spring to summer, like full sun, good drainage and occasional water.  

Copy of garden-14.jpg

bright poppies.JPG

Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy)

California's beautiful state flower, it likes full sun, good drainage and no water.  

Achillea (yarrow)

Although not a California native, yarrow is a perennial that thrives in hot, dry climates.  It likes full sun, good drainage, occasional water and is attractive to pollinators.  


Toyon with berries.jpg

Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon)

Native to California, this large shrub will sport clusters of white flowers in the early summer, turning to red berries in the fall and winter.  Enjoys full sun to part shade and little to no water.     

Stylomecon heterophylla (wind poppy)

A California native, the wind poppy blooms in spring to early summer.  Likes full sun to light shade, occasional water and excellent drainage.  Attractive to pollinators.     

wind poppy.jpg


Eriogonum (wild buckwheat)

This shrubby perennial loves full sun and good drainage, with little water.  Loved by pollinators, it tolerates heat and drought nicely, as it's a native to the western U.S.     

Epilobium (California fuschia)

This perennial has gray-green leaves and colorful orange to red flowers in the summer and fall.  Enjoys full sun to part shade, good drainage and little water.  Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are all visitors, it's native to western North America.  

common ca fuscia.jpg

blue elderberry.jpg

Sambucus mexicana (Mexican or blue elderberry)

Native to western North America, the elderberry is a fast-growing shrub or tree, with flowers in the spring turning to berries.  This plant enjoys full sun to light shade, and occasional to no water.  Birds are regular visitors.  


This annual has showy flowers in late spring to early summer, and enjoys full sun to part shade, good drainage and little to no water.  Native to western North America.   

clarkia farewell to spring.jpg

narrow leaf milkweed.jpg

Asclepias (milkweed, butterfly weed)

Loved by butterflies, this perennial blooms in spring or summer and likes full sun, good drainage and occasional water.  Native to western North America, including California.   

Trichostema lanatum (wooly blue curls)

This evergreen shrub enjoys full sun, excellent drainage and no summer water.   

wooly blue curls.jpg