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.

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Erigeron spp

Beach Aster, Seaside Daisy
Organization

Group of flowering annuals and perennials mostly native to North America. Two species are commonly grown in California gardens. Beach aster (E. glaucus, 12” x 18”) is native to coastal California and Oregon and has purple flowers with yellow centers from spring into summer. Santa Barbara daisy (E. karvinskianus, 10-18” x 2-3’) has white and pink flowers with yellow centers. This plant can self-sow aggressively but is easily pulled.

Examples: E. g. ‘Wayne Roderick’ has deep purple flowers. E. g. ‘White Lights’ is a white- flowering form from Sonoma County.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soil
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: LavenderPinkWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDWater Smart Plants Cards

Eriogonum spp

Buckwheat
Shrub
Organization

Diverse group of flowering, evergreen shrubs and perennials and annuals found throughout the western United States. Most available in nurseries are native to California and generally prefer drier sites. Flowers colors include yellow, white, pink, and red and are held above foliage in umbels that dry over time and are popular in flower arrangements. Buckwheats provide pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies, larval food for butterflies, seeds for birds, and cover for many creatures.

Examples:

  • Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (E. arborescens, 3-4’ x 4-5’) densely mounded with white flowers.
  • Saffron buckwheat (E. crocatum, 1-2’ x 2-3’) with chartreuse-yellow flowers and pale leaves.
  • California buckwheat (E. fasciculatum, 2-3’ x 3’) and its low-growing cultivars such as E. f. ‘Warriner Lytle.’
  • Catherine’s lace (E. giganteum, 4-8’ x 6-10’) with delicate, white flowers and soft pale leaves.
  • Red-flowered buckwheat (E. grande var. Rubescens, 1-2’ x 2-3’) low-mounding perennial with rose-pink flowers, coastal bluff buckwheat (E. latifolium, up to 12” x 1-2’.)
  • Sulfur buckwheat (E. umbellatum, 6-18” x 1-3’) with intense yellow flowers and cultivars E. u. var. aureum ‘Kannah Creek’ and E. u. Var. ‘Shasta Sulphur’.
  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: EvergreenHerbaceous
  • Leaf Color: GrayGreen
  • Flower Color: PinkYellowWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseMMWDSCLLLWater Smart Plants Cards

Erysimum spp

Wallflower
Organization

Short-lived perennials with differing growth habits with flower spikes of small flowers. Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ is a popular hybrid that grows 3’ x 3-4’ and blooms from winter and into spring. Many hybrids with different flower colors are available.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soil
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: OrangeYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Euonymus japonicus

Evergreen Eunonymus
Shrub
Organization

Tough shrubs planted for foliage and often used as a screen or hedge. Evergreen euonymus (Euonymus japonicus) has lower water requirements than most other available species and grows 4-10’ x 6’. Plant in full sun with good air circulation to help prevent mildew.

Examples: Variegated examples include: E. j. ‘Aureo-Marginata’ and E. j. ‘Aureo-Variegatus’, E. j. ‘Silver King’, and E. j. ‘Silver Queen’. E. j. ‘Microphyllus’ grows 2’ x 2’ and has small boxwood-like leaves.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFall
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape Templates

Euphorbia spp

Spurge, Euphorbia
Organization

Large and variable group of several thousand plants that vary in both form and water requirements. Caution: Some euphorbias reseed readily, and all have milky white sap that is irritating to skin and poisonous.

Low-water examples: Mediterranean spurge (E. characias, 3-4’ x 3-4’) and E. c. spp. Wulfenii offer large clusters of flower bracts; creeping spurge (E. myrsinites, 6-12” x 12-18”); Martin euphorbia (E. x martinii & cvs, 2-3’ x 2-3’) offers a more compact shrub form than Mediterranean spurge with brown-centered chartreuse flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Blue Green
  • Flower Color: GreenYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDSCLLLSonoma Super StarWater Smart Plants Cards

Festuca spp

Fescue
Grass
Organization

Large group of mostly cool-season, perennial, bunching or spreading grasses. Bunch grass varieties can be used as a no-mow lawn replacement, help to stabilize slopes, and have ornamental value. Festuca californica (California fescue, 1-2’ wide x 2’) prefers part shade and works wonderfully massed under the dry shade of native oaks. Festuca glauca (blue fescue, 1’ x 1’) is a small, clumping grass with bluish gray-green leaves. Festuca idahoenis (Idaho fescue, 1-2’ wide x 1’) also has bluish gray-green leaves and is more drought-tolerant and longer lived than blue fescue. Festuca rubra (red fescue) grows from rhizomes and has long, fine-textured leaves that lay over to form a pleasing drift effect as a no-mow lawn.

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGray GreenGreen
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDSCLLLSonoma Super StarWater Smart Plants Cards

Gaillardia spp

Blanket Flower
Organization

Low-growing, flowering perennials and annuals with daisy-like flowers in yellows and reds. Gaillardia x grandiflora is a hybrid that grows 2-4’ x 18-24” and may need less water than other hybrids. Many different varieties provide variations in flower color and size.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Sandy
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Flower Color: OrangeRedYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFall
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Grevillea spp

Grevillea
Ground Cover, Shrub
Organization

Group of flowering, evergreen shrubs and trees from Australia with many variations in growth habit and leaf shape. Red is the most common flower color, although some species flower in other colors.

Examples: G. ‘Canberra Gem’ (8-10’ x 10-12’) with needle-like leaves, G. ‘Noellii’ (3-4’ x 4-5’) also with needle-like leaves, woolly grevillea (G. lanigera, 3-6’ x 6-10’), the more prostrate C.I. ‘Coastal Gem’ (18” x 4-5’) and G. l. ‘Jade Mound’ (2’ x 4-5’), lavender grevillea (G. lavandulacea (2-5’ x 6-8’), and rosemary grevillea (G. rosmarinifolia, 6’ x 6’).

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soil
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: CreamPinkRed
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseMMWD

Grindelia spp

Gumplant
Ground Cover
Organization

Group of herbaceous perennials in the sunflower family that are native to the Americas. Grindelia stricta is native to the west coast of America, including California, with yellow daisy-like flowers in the dry summer months. Spreading gum plant (G. s. var. platyphylla) is a low-growing groundcover form that can reach 6-10’ across. Suitable for meadow plantings.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: RedYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Helianthemum nummularium

Sunrose
Shrub
Organization

Low-growing, evergreen, flowering shrub with soft green or gray-green leaves that spreads to about 3’. Flowers in spring to early summer. Many named cultivars provide flower colors that include red, orange, yellow, white, pink, and peach.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soil
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GrayGray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: OrangeRedYellowWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape Templates

Helictotrichon sermpervirens

Blue Oat Grass
Grass
Organization

Mediterranean, cool-season bunchgrass that grows 2-3’ with blue-gray leaves and graceful wheat-colored stems of flower clusters in the spring. Pull out dead leaves rather than shearing.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenSilver
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Helloborus spp

Hellebore
Organization

Shade-loving perennials with attractive foliage that flower in winter and spring and may self-sow.

Examples: Corsican hellebore (H. argutifolius, 2-3’ x 2-3’), bear’s-foot hellebore (H. foetidus, 30” x 30”), H. lividus (18” x 3’), Lenten rose (H. orientalis, variable size), and hybrids.

  • Water: LowModerate
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soil
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: GreenPinkWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Size: MediumLarge
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseMMWDSonoma Super Star