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Drought tolerant plants for a Bay Area/Northern California coastal garden.

In the 1500's California went through an 80 year drought. During the winter there were blizzards in Central California, the Salinas river froze solid where it flowed into the Monterey Bay. During the summer there was no humidity, no rain, and temperatures in the hundreds for many  months. During one year in the 1840's there was no measurable rain in Santa Barbara. (The highest measured rainfall in an hour also was in Southern California,  11 inches in an hour)  The same native plants that lived through that are still on the hillsides of California. California native plants that do not normally live in the creeks and ponds are very drought tolerant.

The best way to find your plant is to check www.mynativeplants.com and do not water at all. But if you want a simple list of drought tolerant plants that can work for your Bay Area garden here are a few of the hundreds you can choose from.
This Yarrow was out in one of the driveways in full sun. - grid24_12
Achillea millefolium californica Yarrow
Harmony manzanita is  a selection of the Arctostaphylos densiflora. This is a truly California native plant. - grid24_12
Manzanitas are easy and lively in most Bay area gardens.
Asclepias fascicularis, Narrow-leaf milkweed with Swallowtail butterfly - grid24_12
Milkweeds can jazz up a native garden.
An old  unwatered  groundcover of Baccharis pilularis pilularis, Pigeon Point - grid24_12
Pigeon Point Dwarf Coyote bush can make the appearance of a lawn with no irrigation system.
Ceanothus Concha has many colors, shades, and  tones. Some years the plants are more reddish purple, some years bright blue, some years larger flowers, some years more smaller flowers. Always beautiful. - grid24_12
Ceanothus, California lilac is a show stopper.
Pale swallowtail on a Western Redbud - grid24_12
Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud
Cercocarpus betuloides in the wild. This Mountain Mahogany  is about 30 years old. In most areas of California Mountain Mahogany makes a 5-6 ft. drought tolerant hedge. Useful in places like Los Angeles where green seems to be missing. - grid24_12
Cercocarpus betuloides Mountain Mahogany
Clematis lasthania climbing on Ceanothus. In the coastal valleys of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles this vine can cover a hundred ft.  of fences. - grid24_12
Clematis lasiantha, Pipestem Clematis
A Cupressus sargentii,  Sargent Cypress tree on top of Cuesta  Ridge north of San Luis Obispo - grid24_12
Cupressus sargentii Sargent CypressIn the wild Sargent Cypress is a small gray evergreen tree, with gray bark. In most gardens Sargent Cypress will grow real fast to 10 feet, then slowly (1'/year) to 50'. C. sargentii is easy to hold t ...
Diplacus longiflorus is sometimes called Mimulus aurantiacus, which is what they call almost all the monkey flowers. It's like everyone is Bob and Mary. - grid24_12
Monkey flowers for California gardens.
. Hummingbirds will love your flowers, and so will you.
Encelia californica - California encelia, California brittlebush, bush sunflower  - grid24_12

Encelia californica Coast Sunflower
Perennial shrub, 3-4 ft. high, good large scale ground cover with 2 inch daisy, Native from Santa Maria to San Diego. Not frost tolerant, will recover from 27 deg. F. but will die to ground, at about ...
Erigeron glaucus, Seaside Daisy side view - grid24_12
Erigeron glaucus Seaside Daisy Seaside daisy(Erigeron glaucus) can be found along the coast from Cambria north to central Oregon, ..
Cliff Buckwheat in coastal sage scrub south of Los Osos. Often you can find a trail a few miles from your home full of native plants. - grid24_12

Eriogonum parvifolium Cliff Buckwheat
A perennial, 2 ft. by 2 ft.. Native near coast from Monterey to San Diego, shade to sun, red-green foliage, reddish-pink flowers. This one does well in the San Joaquin and in the warmer areas of the s ...
Fremontodendron californicum California Flannel Bush. Also known as Fremontia. - grid24_12
Fremontodendron californicum California Flannel Bush
(Fremontia)An evergreen shrub fast to 5', can grow to 10 ft.. Explodes with yellow flowers, 3 inches across, in spring. Native to dry slopes, Sierra Nevada, coast ranges, S. Calif. mountains. Likes su ...
Garrya elliptica 'James Roof' - Coast Silk Tassel, the male flowers, catkins, can be a foot long on an interesting bush that can be wonderful hedge.  - grid24_12
Garrya elliptica James Roof Silk Tassel
Silk Tassel is native coast ranges San Luis Obispo Co. to Ore.. An evergreen shrub to small tree with yellowish male catkins 10 inches long in early spring. They turn gray as they age. The name silk t ...
Gnaphalium californicum California Pearly Everlasting - grid24_12
Gnaphalium californicum California Pearly Everlasting
A native biennial or short-lived perennial that grows in disturbed places.This species is a pioneer plant that helps to prepare the site, and aids in the establishment of longer-lived plants in the n ...
Grindelia stricta venulosa, this  Gum Plant makes a small ground cover on coastal bluffs. - grid24_12
Grindelia stricta venulosa Coastal Groundcover Gum Plant
Grindelia stricta venulosa (or pachyphylla) is a coastal bluff plant from the bay area. Coastal Groundcover Gum Plant is a great plant to mix with Baccharis Pigeon Point and Penstemon Margarita BOP t ...
Lepechinia calycina, California Pitcher Plant, has lovely cream flowers that are sometimes tinged with pink/lavender. - grid24_12
Lepechinia is a 5-8' tall and 3-6' wide evergreen perennial or shrub with white digitalis-like flowers in April to June. Pitcher Sage is native to chaparral areas in central and southern ...
Malacothamnus fasciculatus,  Bush Mallow, here shown in full flower in the summer time in our Santa Margarita, garden.  - grid24_12
Malacothamnus fasciculatus Bush mallow
Bush mallow, Malacothamnus fascicularis is a 4-6' evergreen shrub with pink, 1" flowers, cover the gray-green plant. It likes full sun to part shade, little water after established. A hedge plant fo ...
The Pale Swallowtail butterfly loves Monardella villosa, Coyote Mint.  - grid24_12
Monardella villosa Coyote Mint
Coyote Mint is a two-foot-high perennial with gray-green leaves and light purple clusters of flowers in summer. This Monardella is native to the California coast ranges. This coyote mint likes part ...
Muhlenbergia rigens,  Deer Grass, is shown here with flowering stalks on the edge of a garden path. This native grass has all sorts of uses. - grid24_12
Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass
Deer grass is a 3 foot perennial with 2 foot plumes rising above the plant. It looks like a small pampas grass but without the bad leaf cuts and the aggressive seeding. Native to much of Calif. up int ...
Our Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' with a swallowtail butterfly - grid24_12
Penstemons for California gardens
California Penstemons that grow in DRY areas. These Penstemons will grow in California without much water.
Here is a closeup photo of the fragrant flowers of Philadelphus lewisii, Wild Mock Orange. - grid24_12
Philadelphus lewisii Wild Mock Orange
Wild Mock Orange is a deciduous shrub that grows fast to 6 ft. in height.
A young Pinus murictata at the Las Pilitas Nursery. - grid24_12
Pinus muricata Bishop Pine
A fast dark green pine to 40 ft. It is good to use in place of Pinus radiata for fence hedge. It's excellent near coast. We've had very good luck inland.
White chaparral currant  - grid24_12
California ribes, gooseberries are spiny and currants are spineless with flower clusters.
California currants and Gooseberries have berries that the birds love, flowers you'll love, put a few Ribes in your garden.
Rosa pinetorum Whiskey Rose - grid24_12
Rosa pinetorum Whiskey Rose
A beautiful rose that we've seen only twice in the wild, once in the town of Quincy on a north facing slope(can you say COLD) under interior live oak and bays, and once at the edge of a redwood forest ...
A young Anna Hummingbird on Salvia Alpine, Cleveland Sage. Cleveland Sage is drought resistant and can look good with 7-8 inches of rainfall. Your native garden needs very little water in a drought  to  look and smell good. Tolerant of much abuse. - grid24_12
Sages, Salvias, photos, videos and descriptions of the plants native to California.
Yerba Buena, Satureja douglasii is a beautiful flat green ground cover that smells good and some use as tea. - grid24_12
Satureja douglasii Yerba Buena is a creeping flat perennial that can spread to 3' but is easily held to 1'. Yerba Buena is found in woods near the coast and coast ranges from Los Angeles to British Columbia.
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue-Eyed Grass flowers are lavender blue. - grid24_12
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-Eyed Grass
Blue-eyed Grass. Sisyrinchium bellum is a 1 foot tall perennial with 1 inch blue flowers in Jan.-June. It has small, iris-like leaves. It is widely distributed in California on open, grassy slopes.
Purple needle grass - grid24_12
Stipa pulchra Purple Stipa
Purple Needle Grass is native throughout our area. Nice plant. Use simply. Leaves are bright green up close, appear gray from a distance. In the wild it is in the open spots in Oak Woodland.
Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus, Common Snowberry berries. - grid24_12
Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus Common Snowberry is a chin-high, deciduous shrub, gradually forming a thicket by way of its rhizomes, or underground stems.
California fuchsia works well in California gardens from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and into Fresno. - grid24_12
California Fuchsia, Zauschneria or Epilobium is loved by hummingbirds, butterflies and people. California fuchsia plants grow will in most California gardens with no additional water.
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Edited on Jan 18, 2013. Authors:
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