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Not all drought tolerant plants are equal.


We've had desert plants die of drought here because they were not adapted to our long DRY summers. It doesn't rain in most of California from the end of April into the first of November. Nada, not a little as folks back east say, no measurable rain on bad years from March until December.  But it does rain a lot in winter, so many desert species drown in our winter. Moreover, our California plants drown in most other states that get summer rain. So again, the best and most drought plants for your area are going to be the ones that have adapted to your climate, native in your area. If you are in a coastal area these plants may pick up as much as half of their moisture from the morning fogs. If you're on a mountain top the plants may have adapted to blowing clouds. If you're in a desert they have adapted to the five minute downpour and will spring into life that day or the next because their large and shallow root system picks up every drop that hits the ground. Chaparral, forest, many inland coastal plants and even some of the desert species belong to a cooperative where they share their resources and cycle the moisture among themselves for the greater good of all. (That's one of the reasons weed control is so important; weeds do not share.) These drought tolerant plants need to be planted together for that to work; they can't share if they do not recognize each other. Nor can the garden be truly drought tolerant if you plant a bunch of non-native plants in with the native plants. If you wish to mix non-native with native, plant clusters of each with a walk way in between.

If you are in one of the frying pan areas plant a low density native planting with wide spaces (you can walk comfortably between them without touching the plants) between the plants. The wildlife likes this and the planting is fairly fire safe. (As safe you can probably get without paving the whole place.)
California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum  flower clusters. Buckwheat is a very drought tolerant plant. Native plants give food for the wildlife and life to a garden. - grid24_12
Buckwheats work well in a drought tolerant California Garden.
California can be very dry. Drought tolerant or resistant native plants are part of California's history. We been down some interesting roads. The point of this photo is your yard can be tolerant of extreme drought and still look decent. - grid24_12
Unless you live in somewhere like Bakersfield or maybe Imperial Valley you're not that dry, you can plant native plants with little water.
Ceanothus oliganthus makes many of the hillsides blue in spring from Banning to Poway. Drought tolerant to about 6 inches of rainfall, this photo was taken after two 8 inch rainfall years, with our summer heat. - grid24_12
Ceanothus, Mountain Lilacs are more drought tolerant than most of the 'drought tolerant' species in the trade. California had an eighty year drought in the 1500's and the plants are still here.
Sphaeralcea ambigua, Desert Mallow mixed with Ceanothus and Dendromecon. Desert Mallow can live on 3-4 inches of rainfall and is drought tolerant as Barstow. - grid24_12
Drought tolerant plants for many California cities. Desert mallow is the photo
Coastal Sage scrub with Cliff buckwheat, Eriophyllum confertiflorum, Blackberry, Bracken Fern, Coyote Bush, Poison Oak, Coastal Live oak, etc.   - grid24_12
Much of the populated areas of Southern California have a rainfall of 10 inches or less and looked like this before we brought our weeds.
Penstemon spectabilis, Showy Penstemon, with an Anna Hummingbird. Showy Penstemon will tolerate  drought for years.  In the Bay area resist watering much after first summer. - grid24_12
Many Penstemons are showy plants that flower in most of California in spite of drought.
Mexican Manzanita with an Anna's hummingbird visiting the flowers. Mexican manzanita is drought tolerant in most of the populated areas of California. I'd not plant it in the desert without some extra winter water, but most of California it will survive with no water after first summer. - grid24_12
Many of the manzanitas are very drought tolerant and are fine through a drought in most the coastal areas of California.
Hyptis emoryi, Desert Lavender flowers are fragrant and the foliage is fragrant. Drought resistant, but not frost tolerant Desert Lavender grows in washes east of Barstow. - grid24_12
Use our site search with no water added and see if there is something in the nursery that can grow where you are with no water. Desert lavender is the photo
Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) on a dry year. In a California garden  Creosote loves drought and hates regular rainfall or irrigation after the first year. Very drought tolerant, heat tolerant and evergreen. - grid24_12
California is a very diverse state, the photo is Creosote bush.
Here is the first of many videos showing California native plants under extreme drought.This one is of California Buckwheat, Ceanothus Remote Blue, Eriogonum wrightii, Ceanothus Remote Blue, Deerweed, Bakersfield Cactus.
Short version, the Buckwheats and Manzanita look about as good as the Cactus.
Rhus integrifolia, Arctostaphylos glandulosa, Sambucus mexicana, Salvia leucophylla, Arctostaphylos adamsii, Arctostaphylos glauca Ramona, Salvia Pozo Blue, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Opuntia littoralis under drought with no irrigation.
Acer negundo, Sambucus mexicana, Creosote, Golden Currant, Rhus trilobata, Dendromecon rigida, Western Redbud, Eriogonum arborecens under drought stress.
Here are some California native plants under full drought stress during the 2013 drought. Rhamnus californica, Keckiella antirrhinoides, Ribes quercetorum, Diplacus longiflorus Conejo, Salvia spathacea Topanga. Arctostaphylos rainbowensis, Scrub Oak, Mama Bear Manzanita, Paradise manzanita, Harmony Manzanita, Dr. Hurd Manzanita,
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Edited on Sep 14, 2013. Authors:
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