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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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 Soils
  • 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: Low
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • 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

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Toyon
Shrub
Organization

California native, evergreen shrub or small tree often seen growing in Sonoma and Marin county wildlands. Lacy, white flower clusters in spring attract pollinators; red berries in winter provide a splash of color and an important food source for birds. The name “Hollywood” was born from the abundance of toyon in the hills of southern California and its resemblance to European holly. The cultivar ‘Davis Gold’ has yellow berries and may be more disease-resistant than the species.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall
  • Fruit Color: Red
  • Size: MediumLarge
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDSCLLLSonoma Super StarWater Smart Plants Cards

Iris douglasiana & cvs

Douglas Iris, Pacific Coast Hybrids
Organization

Iris are a large and diverse group of perennials that grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. The California native Douglas iris and cultivars known as Pacific Coast Hybrids are an excellent choice for summer-dry gardens and understory plantings. Fall rain brings new growth in the form of thin, upright leaves, followed in late winter to early spring by the first blossoms. Douglas iris commonly ranges in color from lavender to purple, but cultivars are available in a range of colors including white and yellow. Established plantings can be lifted and divided after the first significant fall rain and either replanted or put into containers to share with others.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: LavenderPurpleVioletYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDSCLLLWater Smart Plants Cards

Juncus patens

California Grey Rush
Organization

California gray rush is a go-to species for the summer-dry rain garden. It will thrive in moist conditions and its roots will help stabilize soil and filter stormwater runoff. It is also tolerant of extended periods of drought. Clumps of stiff, upright foliage provide an interesting contrast among other perennials. ‘Elk Blue’ is a widely available selection from Mendocino County. Its bluish gray foliage is shorter than the typical gray rush.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesMMWDSCLLLWater Smart Plants Cards

Kniphofia spp

Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily
Organization

Mostly South African perennials with strap-like leaves and a clumping growth habit that are characterized by striking displays of brightly colored flower clusters on long, bare stems resembling red hot pokers. The majority of plants offered are cultivars of different sizes and various flower colors, including yellows and oranges. Sizes range from about 1-4’ tall.

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

Lagerstroemia indica

Crape Myrtle
Tree
Organization

Crape myrtle has become a ubiquitous street tree due to its attractive bark, fall color, and flowers all helping to provide year-round interest, as well as being of manageable size and tending not to lift sidewalks with its roots. The most commonly available crape myrtles are Lagerstroemia indica and many hybrids and their shrub forms, which may be less prone to mildew than the species. Flowers occur in late summer in white, pinks, and reddish purple. Crape myrtles are naturally multi-trunked, and plants grown as standards with a single trunk have a tendency to grow suckers that should be removed.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: BlueLavenderPinkPurple
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFallWinter
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesSonoma Super StarWater Smart Plants CardsSR Climate Forward Tree

Lantana spp & cvs

Lantana
Ground Cover, Shrub
Organization

Evergreen shrubs and perennials for hot, sunny locations available in both upright and groundcover forms that flower from spring to fall with colors including purple, yellow, red, and pink. Two species, Lantana camara (4-6’ x 6-8’) and L. montevidenis (12-18” x 5-10’), are widely available along with many hybrids and cultivars offering a variety of colors and sizes.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: GoldPinkPurpleYellow
  • Size: SmallMedium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseLandscape TemplatesWater Smart Plants Cards

Laurus 'Saratoga'

Saratoga laurel
Tree
Organization

Small, slow growing bay tree or large shrub. ‘Saratoga’ in the late winter/early spring display small, pale yellow flowers. Can tolerate poor soils but prefers well drained. Leaves have culinary value and are resistant to insect problems.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Partial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: GreenYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Size: Small
  • Function: Food
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden SenseWater Smart Plants CardsSR Climate Forward Tree

Laurus nobilis

Sweet Bay
Tree
Organization

Slow-growing, Mediterranean evergreen shrub or tree with aromatic leaves used in cooking. Naturally multi-trunked so may tend to send out suckers. Often trained as a topiary in containers to provide a formal appearance. ‘Saratoga’ has broader leaves and an upright growth habit.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: Yellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Fruit Color: BlackPurple
  • Size: Medium
  • Featured On A Local List? : Garden Sense

Lavandula spp

Lavender
Shrub
Organization

Classic, aromatic, small, Mediterranean evergreen shrub that works well in a mass or mixed planting in a sunny location with good drainage. Blue-to-purple flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, and seeds provide food to birds. Shear plants by one-third to one-half after flowering to maintain a neat appearance. Vulnerable to root rot in damp locations or if organic mulch is too close to plant crown.

Examples: English lavender (L. angustifolia, 1-2’ x 2-3’) and many cultivars, French Lavender (L. dentata, 3-4’ x 4-6’), hedge lavender (L. x intermedia, 1-2’ x 2-3’), Spanish lavender (L. stoechas, 2-3’ x 2-3’) featuring large and showy bracts on top of flower spikes.

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