For a lot of Californians it is landscape crunch time. As water becomes more restricted, landscapes that were once lush and green are showing signs of stress. This is a great opportunity to explore new plants which can be not only more water conserving than traditional landscapes, but are also more beautiful to look at and provide a more complete eco system of life in your garden.

There are, however, some important considerations when choosing waterwise plants.

1. Be open to new experiences. Some of these plants you may be familiar with and some you may not.

1. Pick the right plant for the size of your space. If you are replacing existing landscape plants, consider the space they take up now and pick an appropriate waterwise plant of the same mature size. While a good rule of thumb is that the plant will get as wide as it gets tall, this is not always the case. For instance, Cleveland Sage gets about three feet tall but can spread to five feet or more in width. You may prune plants to fit your space to a point, but if you are constantly pruning because the plant is always in the way, this is a bad situation for you and the plant. Annual or biannual pruning is fine, but pruning a shrub more often can make it look like a pile of sticks.

2. Get the plants started properly. Now that you have chosen your plants and have your new little starts to plant, it is important to understand their watering needs. Small plants dry out quickly and should be checked often to insure the plant's root ball remains moist. It can take a month or more for a new plant to become established into the soil around it. Until this happens the plant can only use the moisture in its root ball. If the ground around the root ball dries out, the dry ground will take the moisture from the root ball. Once the small plant puts roots out into the soil around it, the moisture and nutrients from the ground become available to it. If you have planted in spring, usually by the time the plant starts to take off, it is the hot summer months. This is not the time to pull back on the water. Continue to water regularly through the first growing season.

3. Learn when to water. This is probably the most difficult aspect of waterwise gardening to learn. Unless you are planting cactus, most plants need water at some point during the summer to stay attractive. The second spring, after you have planted, observe the plants to see how often they really need water. Most, but not all, plants will show some sign of water need before they die. Often it is a wilting of the leaves but sometimes it can be a change of color in the leaves. For instance, Rosemary will start to have a yellow cast. We  know at this point we had better water or we may lose branches or the entire plant if it goes too much longer without water. This can be as often as once a month or as little as twice a summer, depending on our temperatures. While some plants can go all summer without water, most plants look much better when they receive some summer water, especially in hotter areas. We have had Yellow Lavender and Silver Germander go through summers with no water but they weren't terribly attractive. And, really that is the point; to have an ATTRACTIVE waterwise garden. How much water your plants will need will depend on your sun, wind and soil.




   African Wormwood in the garden.  
(Artemesia afra) African Wormwood
(Cistus purpurea) Orchid Rockrose
(Lavandula viridis) Yellow Lavender
(Rosemarinus officinalis) Upright Rosemary
(Salvia clevelandii) Cleveland Sage