Now that the drought has done a number on our lawns, what are the choices for long-term water savings?
Mandatory water restrictions put landscapes a little lower on list of priorities. Most of us enjoy a lush landscape, so it’s good to know water restrictions don't make it impossible to create a very functional and enjoyable garden space without lawn. While so many gardeners are faced with replacing dead lawns this fall, it’s probably a prudent time to consider other options.
There are endless possibilities for lawn substitutes, and making the change is easy to do.
Take a look at a few of the options we suggest for long-term water savings:
The popularity of edible gardens has grown substantially in recent years, often taking the stage in front landscapes. The average gardener waters their tomato plants a little bit every day. Did you know a tomato planted in the ground prefers water just a couple of times a week in the height of the Sacramento summer? Most fruiting plants enjoy a deep soaking occasionally.
Vegetable gardens and fruit trees with mulch or traffic-friendly groundcovers make beautiful landscapes with the benefits of some shade, a variety of edibles, and considerable water savings.
Citrus and fruit trees are notable accents to an edible garden. A not-so-well-known fact is both are quite drought tolerant once established. Whether you enjoy oranges, apples, Australian finger limes or Jujube’s, the options and combinations are endless.
Groundcovers and Sub-Shrubs
Groundcovers are some of the more obvious choices for lawn replacements. They are best
suited for areas where there is light foot-traffic. Mix with a permeable surface, such as decomposed granite, gravel for paths. Sub-shrubs are placed where there is no traffic. They make the perfect filler for large areas.
California natives are high on the list of recommendations, although there are a number of non-native options. The benefit to natives is their built-in tolerance to the soils and water conditions in our area. Local wildlife thrives amongst native habitats.
California Natives Make Drought Gardening Easy and Beautiful
- California Wild Lilac (Ceanothus) ‘Carmel Creeper’ and ‘Centennial’ are two evergreen varieties that spread and stay fairly low. Blue flowers come in spring and bees love it!
- Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) ‘Emerald Carpet’ and ‘Massachusetts’ have pinkish white blooms that develop in spring. The dark green foliage contrasts well with dark red stems.
- California Fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) comes in a few varieties that
fit the bill for sun/part-shade, summer to fall bloom, and, the hummingbirds love them.
- Ornamental Strawberry (Fragaria) is a tight, very low perennial groundcover for rock gardens and slopes.
- Dwarf Coyote Bush (Baccharis pililaris ‘Pidgeon Point’) is an evergreen sub-shrub that grows to about a foot tall, but spreads wide. Ideal for slopes!
Non-Native Groundcovers Well-Suited for the Sacramento Area
- Thyme is an aromatic groundcover with varieties that are perfect for
areas with foot traffic. Try 'Elfin' for a very tight cover, or a number varieties of Creeping Thyme between pavers.
- Sedum ‘Angelina’, ‘Dragons Blood’, and ‘Ogon’ offer color interest and require low water.
- Senecio ‘Dwarf Blue Chalks’ can add fun contrast and texture. Mature size is 1'x2'. Minimal water is required for this succulent, shrubby perennial.
Plant trees for reduced temperatures and cooler soil. Once established, many trees require less frequent watering. The cooler soil temperatures will benefit everything planted in the soil below.
- ‘October Glory’ Maple
One of the most desired maples, with dark green leaves in spring, turning radiant red in late fall. A fast-grower with a mature size of 45'x30'. It provides a beautiful shade canopy for larger landscapes.
- ‘Pacific Sunset’ Maple
A maple hybrid, its smaller size and tolerance for urban conditions makes this tree perfect for patios or small yards. Mature size is 25'x25'. Initially, it requires moderate to regular water but is drought tolerant once established.
- ‘Emerald Sunshine’ Elm
This Elm variety is highly resistant to disease. Its vase shape is well-suited for a street or landscape accent tree. Mature size is 35' x 25'. Deep green leaves turn to yellow in the fall.
- Arbutus 'Marina' (Strawberry Tree)
A one-of-a-kind evergreen tree. The mahogany bark peels back to reveal a cinnamon bark in the summer. Clusters of urn-shaped flowers draw hummingbirds, followed by bright orange-red fruit. Its mature size is 25'x25' and requires very little water once established. An eye-catching tree for smaller areas.
If you joined us for part one you know that now-a-days there are lots of of smartscaping plants to choose from. Thanks to new introductions of plants from all around the world, Californians have access to a plethora of new water-wise AND good looking plants. Join us for part 2 to learn about more of these drought tolerant gems.
Shark Bay Boronia
Boronia crenulata ‘Shark Bay’
This Australian native is a dense, compact dwarf shrub with small green licorice-scented leaves. It has dainty pink flowers bloom year round.
- Low maintenance, requires little pruning.
- Prefers sun or part shade. Good choice for containers.
- Needs regular watering weekly or more often in extreme heat until established.
- Hardy to 20-25 degrees.
- Grows 2-4 feet all by 2-4 feet wide.
Wooly Blue Curls
A native to California! This plant has narrow aromatic leaves that are shiny green above and wooly white underneath with 1 foot long clusters of fuzzy blue flowers that bloom in spikes from May-August.
- Perfect for using as cut flowers.
- Plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
- This plant needs full sun and good drainage.
- Cold tolerant to 10 degrees.
- Grows 4 feet by 4 feet.
Shrub grows 4-6 feet high by 6-10 feet wide. Leaves become aromatic when brushed against or windblown. Foliage scent is a cross between lemon and mint. Beautiful yellow orange flowers resemble marigold blooms.
- This plant will grow in very hot and dry locations.
- The Mexican Marigold is deer resistant.
- It is great for rock gardens and container gardening.