HOA Lawn Conversion


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Sheet Mulching


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: CNPS

HOA Lawn Conversion or Sprinkler-to-Drip Water Saver.

Lawn sprinklers use, on average, one gallon of water per MINUTE. Contrast this with drip irrigation, which uses, on average, one gallon of water per HOUR.

Motivated to save water, to grow California native plants, and to provide natural habitat for song birds/hummingbirds/butterflies/pollinators, I responded to the Cash for Grass program offered by Santa Rosa City Water Department to convert lawn areas to drought tolerant plants.

I have now converted my lawn. The plants there now are watered by dripline. Many are receiving just one quarter gallon of water per month. And this is only their first year. Resources online say these plants can exist eventually without any supplemental water.

Of my plant choices, many are native species I see when hiking in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and other parks in Sonoma County. I love these plants!

The complication of my particular project is that I live in a homeowner’s association. The lawn in front of my house is in common space. I had to submit my plan and plant list to both my HOA and the larger association in charge of my 3,000 home community. I’m so glad to have gotten approval.

Sheet mulching of the lawn area was done in the fall of 2021. The plants went in early spring of 2022. Neither deer, nor frost, nor a record breaking 114 degree day have phased these plants!

This project is contagious! My HOA of 47 homes has started converting all of its lawns to drought tolerant plants. The first batch of 6 lawn areas is complete. For the HOA, our goal is for them to be at least mostly California natives.

Native plants, are plants that have evolved in this area for 100,000s of years. They have genetic characteristics that give them resilience to changes in weather, changes in animal predation, and competition from other plants. They know these soils. So no need to add amendments. They are interdependent with each other and with the animals and soil organisms with which they are associated.

It turns out that saving water also saves our natural world of plants and animals.

Plants in this Garden

Plant Picker
Manzanita bush

Arctostaphylos spp & cvs

Manzanita, 'Dr. Hurd'

Manzanitas vary from carpet-forming groundcovers to small trees. Manzanitas have varying shades of striking, reddish brown bark and can provide structure to a garden. These plants have evergreen foliage, small white-to-pink, urn-shaped blossoms in late winter to early spring, and then small fruits that resemble tiny apples.

Groundcovers: A. ‘Emerald Carpet’ (1’ x 3-6’), A. ‘Pacific Mist’ (2-3’ x 6-8’), A. nummularia ‘Bear Belly’ (1’ x 3’), A. uva ursi ‘Radiant’ (6” x 4-6’), A. uva ursi ‘Wood’s Compct’ (1’ x 3’).

Shrubs: A. ‘Howard McMinn’ (5-7’ x 6-10’), A. ‘John Dourly’ (3-4’ x 5-6’), A. ‘Lester Rowntree’ (8-10’ x 10-15’), A. ‘Sunset‘ (5-7’), A. bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’ (8-10’), A. manzanita ‘Sentinel’ (6-8’ x 5’), A. hookeri ‘Wayside’ (3′ x 8′).

Trees: A. manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’ (10-15′)

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
dwarf coyote brush

Baccharis pilularis & cvs

Dwarf Coyote Bush

Flowers are inconspicuous but provide a source of pollen, nectar, and seeds for wildlife. Shrubby varieties can be cut back to maintain a more tidy and compact appearance. Perennial varieties can be divided in fall or early spring. Excellent choice as support for more showy plants in the garden.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Most Soils
California Lilac

Ceanothus spp & cvs

Ceanothus, California lilac, 'Ray Hartman'

Ceanothus is a group of fast-growing, evergreen shrubs that vary from groundcovers to small trees, many of which are native to California. They provide a spectacular display of flowers in spring that will attract a multitude of pollinators. Flowers are followed by seeds that provide food for birds. The clusters of tiny flowers range from white to deep violet. Plants perform best with good drainage and minimal irrigation once established. Some do best in cooler coastal climates, but many thrive in hotter inland climates. Pay close attention to the mature size when selecting ceanothus to ensure that it has sufficient space for its natural form.

Groundcovers: C. ‘Centennial’ (1’ x 8’), C. gloriosus var. gloriosus ‘Anchor Bay’ (2’ x 8’), C. griseus var. horizontalis ‘Diamond Heights’ (variegated, 1’ x 4’), C. griseus var. horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ (3’ x 12’), C. maritimus (2’ x 6’).

Shrubs: C. ‘Blue Jeans’ (6’ x 6’), C. Concha (6’ x 6’), C. ‘Dark Star’ (6’ x 8’), C. ‘Joyce Coulter’ (4’ x 12’), C. ‘Julia Phelps’ (8’ x 10’), C. cuneatus (8’ x 8’), C. thyrsiflorus ‘Skylark’ (4’ x 6’).

Large shrubs: C. ‘Frosty Blue’ (10’ x 12’), C. thyrsiflorus (20’ x 20’), C. t. ‘Snow Flurry’ (white flower, 20’ x 20’).

Trees: C. ‘Ray Hartman’ (15′ x 15′)

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Dudleya spp

Cliff Lettuce, Live Forever

Group of succulent perennials with a characteristic rosette shape and chalky appearance that are mostly native to central and southern California where they grow on rocky outcroppings and coastal cliffs. Provide these plants with good drainage and afternoon shade in hotter areas. Larger forms can provide a striking accent plant in summer-dry gardens. Plant dudleyas at a slight angle to help water drain away.

Examples: giant chalk dudleya (D. brittonii, 12-18”), sand lettuce (D. caespitosa, up to 8”), bluff lettuce (D. farinosa, 4”, forms small colonies), chalk liveforever (D. pulverulenta, up to 2’).

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Zauschneria [Epilobium] spp

California Fuchsia

Group of highly variable, semi-evergreen subshrubs and herbaceous perennials distributed over a wide geographic area, including California. Epilobiums bloom in late summer with tubular flowers providing a food source for hummingbirds migrating south and are also attractive to bees and butterflies. Epilobiums range from low-growing groundcovers to upright plants of several feet. Flower colors include orange-red, white, pink, and salmon. Most can be pruned back in late autumn to maintain a more compact form and be rejuvenated for the following year.

Low-growing examples: E. ‘Schieffelin’s Choice’; E. canum ‘Calistoga’, a selection from Phil Van Soelen from California Flora Nursery from the Palisades east of Calistoga; E. canum ‘Cloverdale’, a selection from U.C. Santa Cruz Arboretum from along the Russian River north of Cloverdale with exceptionally orange flowers; E. c. ‘Everett’s Choice’, E. c. ‘Summer Snow’ with white flowers, and E. septentrionale ‘Select Mattole’, a somewhat redder flowering selection that is more shade-tolerant.

Upright examples: E. c. ‘Bowman’s Hybrid’ (2-3’), E. c. ‘Catalina’ (3-4’), E. c. ‘Liz’s Choice’ (3’) selected by Milo Baker Chapter CNPS Fellow Liz Parsons, E. c. ‘Marin Pink’ (2’) with pink flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained

Salvia spp


Salvias are a huge group of more than 900 species that include annuals, perennials, and shrubs adapted to a variety of climates and have varying water requirements. Salvias are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and are generally ignored by deer. Sages that are native to California are generally drought-tolerant, prefer full sun, and little to no fertilizer. Annual pruning in late summer or fall generally helps to keep plants tidy and healthy.

CA native sages:

  • S. apiana, white sage (3-4’ x 4-6’), silvery-white, aromatic leaves with tall flower spikes of white flowers, popular for honey production and in bundles as a natural incense.
  • ‘Bee’s Bliss’ (1-2’ x 6-8’), superb, light gray groundcover with light purple flowers on long spikes; damp conditions can cause mildew which will clear with warm weather and sunny conditions.
  • S. clevelandii, Cleveland sage (3-5’ x 3-5’), medium-sized shrub for hot, dry locations known for pleasant fragrance and deep blue whorls of flowers; popular cultivars include S. c. ‘Allen Chickering’, S. c. ‘Pozo Blue’, and S. c. ‘Winnifred Gilman’.
  • S. leucophylla, purple sage, includes plants with both an upright growth habit, such as S. l. ‘Amethyst Bluff’ (3-5’ x 3-5’) and others with a sprawling form, such as S. l. ‘Point Sal’ (2-3’ x 6’), both of which are from Santa Barbara county.
  • S. sonomaensis, Sonoma sage (1-2’ x 3-4’), groundcover that prefers light shade and will not tolerate damp conditions; cultivars include S. s. ‘Dara’s Choice’, S. s. ‘Greenberg Gray’, and S. s. ‘Hobbit Toes’.
  • S. spathacaea, hummingbird sage (1-2’ spreading), herbaceous groundcover that grows well in dry shade and spreads slowly by underground rhizomes; large leaves have a wonderful fruity fragrance; the only red-flowered native sage.
  • S. mellifera, black sage (6′ x 10′), evergreen shrub that grows well in full sun and well drained soils. Dark green leaves with pale purple flowers in late spring and early summer.

Non-native sages:

  • S. chamaedryoides, germander sage (2-3’)
  • S. chiapensis, Chiapas sage (1-2’ x 3-4’)
  • S. greggii, autumn sage (1-4’ x 1-4’)
  • S. leucantha, Mexican bush sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • S. microphylla, cherry sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • S. officinalis, garden sage (1-3’ x 1-3’)
  • Water: Very LowLowModerate
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Favorite Plants


Baccharis pilularis 'Pigeon Point'

prostrate coyotebush. Looks great all year. Low mounding and evergreen.


Muhlenbergia rigens

Whispy tall, bunching grass that adds height interest.


Epilobium canum

Bowman’s #1”, ‘Calistoga’ ‘Sierra Salmon’. These 3 cultivars have bloomed over a couple of months in late summer, and have attracted hummingbirds.


Satureja douglasii

Very nice smell. Doing well in the shady north side near my front door.


Ceanothus impressus and Ceanothus papillosus var. roweanus

Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’, (California lilac). Many blue blossoms. Attractive to pollinators and provides shelter and cover for California Towhees.

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Cal Flora Nursery

2990 Somers Street Fulton

Recommended Resources

Gardening Tips


Look at your yard area.

Pay attention to where rain water flows on your site. Before planting, add swales and other modifications to capture rain before it gets to the storm drains. Design layout for plants needing less water/better drainage to be uphill or on mounds.
For areas without fencing, choose plants that can handle some nibbling from deer.


Calscape Website

The Calscape website adds companion plant information. You can group together plants that have evolved together over thousands of years. They support each other and associated wildlife and soil microbiology.