Water Smart Plant Picker

Water conservation is an essential consideration when designing and managing Sonoma and Marin County landscapes. Our area enjoys a Mediterranean climate characterized by wet winters and long, dry summers with little rainfall. Plants that are suited or adapted to local conditions not only use less water but generally grow more successfully and robustly, with fewer insect and disease problems. They ultimately create a healthier, more beautiful and more sustainable landscape.

Below is a hand selected plant list for Sonoma and Marin counties that displays mostly native species that will thrive in our climate. You can search, filter and save specific plants. A login (Facebook or Email) is required to save a plant list. No account is needed to copy and share links to individual plants.

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Cistus spp

Rockrose
Shrub
Organization

Mediterranean evergreen flowering shrubs that perform well in California gardens with plenty of sun and good drainage. Good choice for stabilizing slopes and banks. Flowers appear mid-spring into early summer. Many varieties are low, mounding groundcovers while others are more upright.

Examples: C. ladanifer (crimson spot rockrose, 3-5’ x 3-5’) has white flowers with dark crimson spots. C. x hybridus ‘Mickie’ (white rockrose, 1.5-2’ x 2’) has unique variegated foliage with cherry red stems and white flowers. C. x purpureus (orchid rockrose, 4’ x 4’) flowers are reddish purple with maroon blotches. C. salvifolius (sageleaf rockrose, 2’ x 6’) has white flowers and sage-like leaves. C. x skanbergii (2-4’ x 3-4’) bears pale pink flowers. C. ‘Sunset’ (2’ x 3-5’) flowers in magenta pink and has fuzzy gray-green leaves.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: MultiRedWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDWater Smart Plants Cards

Clematis lasiantha

Pipestem Clematis
Vine
Organization

The deciduous pipestem clematis is native to dry foothills of California and Baja California and is one of the few flowering vines that requires little-to-no supplemental water. Pipestem clematis produces an abundance of 1-inch, creamy white flowers in spring that develop into attractive, fluffy seed heads. Allow to grow through shrubs or trees or train on a pergola, archway, or fence.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: BlueLavenderPinkRed
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Coreopsis Lanceolata

Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Organization

Large group of annual and perennial plants that produce a vivid display of yellow-to-orange flowers in full sun to part shade with good drainage. Many cultivars are available from local nurseries. C. lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed), C. rosea (pink tickseed), and C. verticillata (threadleaf coreopsis) have lower water needs than other species and are likely to be more successful in hot, dry areas.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesSRJC ID

Correa spp

Australian Fuchsia
Shrub
Organization

South Australian evergreen, small-to-medium-sized shrubs with delicate, tubular flowers that vary from white to green and yellow to red. Typical flower time is fall through spring, providing a nectar source when many California native plants are just coming out of dormancy. All require good drainage.

Examples: C. alba (4-8’ x 4-8’) blooms with white, star-shaped flowers. C. ‘Dusky Bells’ (2-3’ x 6-8’) is a mounding shrub with deep red flowers. C. ‘Ivory Bells’ (3-4’ x 4-6’) has white flowers. C. pulchella (2-3’ x 4-8’) is a variable species with several popular cultivars. C. reflexa (1-8’ x 3-9’) ranges from prostrate to upright. C. ‘Wynn’s Wonder’ (2-3’ x 3-5’) has variegated foliage and rosy pink flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesSonoma Super Star

Cotinus coggygria

Smoke Tree
Shrub, Tree
Organization

Popular large, accent shrub or small tree with attractive rounded leaves and unique flowers that resemble puffs of smoke. Available in both green and purple-leaved varieties and grown as a natural multi-trunk or as a standard.

Examples: C. c. ‘Golden Spirit’ (15’ x 15’) produces golden-yellow foliage. C. c. ‘Purpureus’ (15-25’ x 15-25’) has purple leaves that gradually become greener. C. c. ‘Royal Purple’ (12-15’ x 12-15’) has dark purple foliage and purple flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: GreenPurple
  • Flower Color: BluePurple
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFall
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Cotoneaster dammeri cvs

Cotoneaster
Ground Cover, Shrub
Organization

Cotoneaster dammeri is a low-spreading, evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and bright red berries that can look effective on slopes or cascading over walls. Stems root as they grow, providing effective erosion control. Unlike some species of cotoneaster, this one has not proved invasive. Prefers sun or part-shade.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: PinkWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringFallWinter
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseSRJC ID

Cotyledon spp

Cotyledon
Succulent
Organization

South African succulent with fleshy foliage that varies from round and flat to cylindrical, and produces flower stalks above the foliage with bell-shaped flowers. Cotyledon orbiculata has rounded leaves and forms a large clump (2-3’) over time. C. o. var. oblonga has elongated cylindrical foliage.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Orange
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Daphne spp

Daphne
Shrub
Organization

Winter daphne (D. odora) is an evergreen shrub with lower water needs than most other Daphne species and is prized for the aroma of its flowers. Winter daphne has a reputation for being unpredictable. Plant in well-drained soil with part shade; water infrequently during the dry season to promote flowering in spring. Notable selections include the white-flowered ‘Alba’, ‘Aureo-Marginata’ with yellow-edged leaves, and ‘Leucanthe’ with white-throated pale pink flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Loam
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenWhite
  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseMMWD

Dasylirion spp

Desert Spoon
Shrub
Organization

Group of highly drought-tolerant evergreen shrubs with long, narrow leaves and tall flower spikes from southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Dasylirion wheeleri is perhaps the most commonly available species for planting in Northern California and grows 3-5’ x 4-5’.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Partial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

DeschamPartial Shadeia spp

Hair Grass
Grass
Organization

Clumping, cool-season grasses that grow over much of North America and Europe. Tufted hair grass (D. cespitosa, 1-2’ x 2’) is widely available and is also native to California. Tufted hair grass has flower spikes in late spring or early summer on slender stems that begin greenish gold and fade to straw-colored.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Diospyros kaki

Japanese persimmon
Tree
Organization

Small-to-medium-sized deciduous tree with both ornamental and food-production value and low-water requirements. Leaves turn a vivid yellow-orange in the fall before dropping to reveal orange fruits hanging from branches like ornaments from fall into winter or until harvested either by the homeowner or local wildlife. Many cultivars are available with different fruit characteristics and may be purchased either in a container or bare root during the winter months. Rootstock determines overall tree size and is typically labeled as dwarf, semi-dwarf, or standard.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: BronzeGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter
  • Fruit Color: Orange
  • Size: Small
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesSR Climate Forward Tree

Dodonaea viscosa

Hop Bush
Shrub
Organization

Tough and adaptable, fast-growing evergreen shrub with willow-like leaves that is native to warm regions including the American Southwest and Hawaii. While the flowers are inconspicuous, they are followed by attractive, papery seed capsules. Purple-leaved cultivars are the most commonly planted, although green-leaved varieties are also available. D. v. ‘Purpurea’ has both green and purple leaves, D. v. ‘Saratoga’ has deep purple leaves.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenGreen -Light
  • Flower Color: GreenWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense