Water Wise Landscaping

Here are some fundamental principles in creating a drought tolerant and water wise garden.

1. Use water conserving plants
There are many low water use plants, trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses to choose from. Some research might be necessary, as certain kinds of lawn grasses, annuals, roses and vegetables use less water than others. The key is to choose plants that are naturally adapted to your region’s climate and conditions.

2. Group plants
Group plants together according to their water needs. Place thirsty plants together and drought resistant plants elsewhere. This allows you to precision-water your garden by area. It also makes the best use of automated irrigation systems, which are most efficient when watering plants grouped by similar water needs.

3. Limit turf (grass) areas
A lawn requires more water than almost any other landscape feature. Choose a grass that is adapted to your climate and limit the size of your lawn to just what you need. Consider replacing at least part of your lawn with a deck, low water use plants or alternative landscaping features.

4. Irrigate efficiently
Make sure your watering practices and devices are as efficient as possible. Water plants only when needed, not by the clock or calendar. Deep, infrequent watering promotes deep root growth. Water at night, when evaporation is much lower and the air is still. Tighten faucets so they don’t leak. Avoid runoff and overspray, which does nothing but waste water and carry contaminants to the ocean. Where possible, use permeable paving such as decomposed granite or flagstones with spaces between so rain water can seep through to the soil beneath.

5. Improve your soil
Routinely cultivate your soil by incorporating organic matter such as compost. Doing so improves the soil’s ability to resist evaporation and retain moisture. For clay or compacted soils around trees, you can improve air and water penetration with a heavy duty drill and screwlike auger. Bore 12- to 18- inch holes, 3 to 4 feet apart, into the ground within the tree’s drip line.

6. Mulch
To reduce weeds, slow erosion and reduce moisture loss through evaporation, apply a layer of organic matter over soil around plants. A 2- to 4- inch layer, spread beneath the canopy of a plant is ideal. Organic mulches such as shredded bark, compost and aged sawdust are preferable.

7. Control weeds
These garden intruders steal water needed by your plants. Regularly hoe or pull them out when they’re young, or use landscape fabrics or mulch to create an unfavorable environment for weeds.

8. Keep plants healthy
If the plants are healthy, they will be able to withstand dry periods better than plants that are troubled by pests, planted in the wrong location or improperly cared for.

9. Container plants
Group containers so they shade one another. During periods of droughts or periods of drying winds, place them in the most extensive shade they can tolerate. A good idea is to mix water-holding polymers into potting soil to improve soil moisture.

These water conservation basics are adapted from “Water Wise Gardening for California”, by Sunset Publishing Corp.

Cleveland Sage
Cleveland Sage

Drought tolerant landscaping need not be cactus and rocks as there are plenty of California natives and California friendly plants that are colorful and beautiful year round. Native and California friendly plants are not only attractive and water wise, they also restore biodiversity by providing habitat, attracting beneficial insects, birds and butterflies. There are many reasons to consider a shift in landscaping practices, from the water intensive lawns, often requiring pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, to beautiful and beneficial plants well adapted to our lovely Mediterranean coastal climate.

Natives and California friendly plants also tend to be low maintenance, which can save you time and money, due to lower utility bills. Keep in mind that 50-70% of our potable water consumption is used for outside irrigation. The City of Huntington Beach receives on average only 12 inches of rainfall per year. A 1,000 square feet lawn requires 22,500 gallons of water per year, whereas the equivalent area planted with water wise plants only requires 7,500 gallons, or less!

By drawing on the rich native plant life of Southern California, we can design and create enchanting gardens that are multi functional, practical, supportive of the regions biodiversity and adapted to our climate, whether it’s for social gatherings or peaceful moments of serenity.


Lose the Lawn: 21 gorgeous and inspiring yards from Sunset Garden magazine


An example of a drought tolerant garden

The parkway is included in this gorgeous garden, blending succulents,

various grasses and California native plants

Beautiful and practical low water use garden

Functional and beautiful low maintenance and low water use garden.

Native gardens are alive since the plants attract bees and butterflies!

Low water use garden

A great looking low water use garden creating a dramatic look by combining

plants of different shapes, textures and colors.

A water wise garden

A tranquil family garden with a variety of low water use plants

Water Wise Garden

A beautiful dry creek garden with an exciting array of low water use plants

California native flowers and plants

A lush and colorful California native garden attracting plenty of bees, birds and butterflies

A water wise garden

A dramatic and artful low water use garden consisting primarily of succulents

Colorful water wise plants

A colorful display of low water use plants

Terraced display of low water use plants

A playful mix of texture, color and design

Water Wisdom

A low water use version of the white picket fence

Water wise plants creating privacy on busy street corner

A gorgeous display of water wise plants used to create privacy on a corner lot

California Native Plants

Contact Information

City of Huntington Beach
Public Works Department
2000 Main Street
Huntington Beach, CA
Phone: (714) 536-5431
Fax: (714) 374-1573

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