Water Wise Ornamental Plants

The goal of the Santa Clara County Master Gardener Water Wise Garden is to find beautiful native and non-native ornamental plants that will thrive in our summer-dry climate and clay soil without a lot extra work. Many of our non-native plants come from climates similar to ours, such as Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Chile. We are also trialing a number of U.C. Davis Arboretum All-Stars plants. You can visit at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, view directions (PDF).

In the Water Wise Garden we take a tough love approach to plants. We water once every three weeks in late spring, summer and early fall using a drip irrigation system. We use no fertilizer except for a two-inch mulch of shredded leaves and stems that we spread on top of our soil in the fall. All our plants are planted in unamended soil. Most of our California native plants are planted directly in our native soil, which is a fertile, moderately well draining clay soil. Our non-native plants have been planted on one-foot mounds composed of a gravelly, well draining soil with little or no organic matter. If our plants look good under these harsh conditions, they are likely to thrive in your Santa Clara County garden.

Below are pictures of some of our favorite plants in the Water Wise Garden. To learn more about caring for and using these plants, simply click on a picture. You can also view this list by name.

Achillea 'Moonshine'
Achillea 'Taygetea'
Aesculus californica
Agave americana variegata
Aloe striata
Aloe x spinosissima
Aquilegia eximia
Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'
Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'
Arctotis 'Purple Torch'
Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam'
Asarum caudatum
Aster chilensis
Berberis thunbergii 'Crimson Pigmy'
Bulbine frutescens
Calamagrostis acutifolia 'Stricta'
Callistemon 'Canes Hybrid'
Calylophus hartwegii
Carex divulsa (previously known as Carex tumulicola)
Carpenteria californica
Ceanothus 'Concha'
Ceanothus x. pallidus 'Marie Simon'
Cercis occidentalis
Cercocarpus betuloides
Chondropetalum tectorum
Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’
Correa 'Dusky Bells'
Correa alba
Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Macrantha'
Echeveria sp.
Echinops ritro ‘Taplow Blue’
Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
Eschscholzia californica
Euphorbia myrsinites
Euphorbia rigida
Festuca californica
Festuca glauca
Festuca idahoensis
Ficus carica ‘Panachée’
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
Grevillea rosmarinifolia
Helianthemum nummularium 'Henfield Brilliant'
Heteromeles arbutifolia
Heuchera 'Rosada'
Heuchera maxima
Hypericum reptans
Iris 'Canyon Snow'
Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast'
Leonotis leonurus
Lepechina hastata
Lessingia filaginifolia
Leucadendron 'Jester'
Leucadendron 'Rising Sun'
Linaria purpurea
Lobelia laxiflora
Miscanthus sinensis 'Yaku Jima'
Muhlenbergia dubia
Muhlenbergia emersleyi
Muhlenbergia rigens
Nepeta x faassenil
Pelargonium ionidiflorum
Pelargonium sidoides
Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'
Philotheca myoporoides ‘Profusion’
Phlomis fruticosa
Phormium tenax 'Amazing Red'
Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'
Polystichum munitum
Punica granatum
Rhamnus californica 'Mound San Bruno'
Rhodanthemum hosmariense (previously known as Chrysanthemum hosmariense)
Rhus ovata
Ribes sanguineum
Ribes speciosum
Ribes speciosum
Rosa 'Happenstance'
Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis'
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue'
Rubus pentalobus
Salvia chamaedryoides
Salvia clevelandii
Salvia Hybrid 'Christine Yeo'
Salvia microphylla 'UCB Pink'
Salvia spathacea
Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Nana'
Scilla peruviana
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Sisyrinchium bellum
Sparaxis tricolor
Stachys byzantina 'Countess Helen von Stein'
Symphoricarpos albus
Tagetes lemmonii
Tanacetum densum amani
Teucrium fruticans ‘Azureum’
Thymus vulgaris
Trichostema lanatum
Triteleia laxa ‘Queen Fabiola’
Verbena bonariensis
Westringia fruticosa 'Wynyabbie Gem"
Zauschneria (Epilobium) 'Select Mattole'