Much of California has a “Mediterranean” climate, with minimal winter rains, hot, dry summers and autumns with hot, drying winds. The lack of winter frosts and imported water makes growing an extremely wide range of plants possible in California. However, gardeners wishing to live in a sustainable way will want to plant water-wise plants in their gardens. Indeed, many cities may soon require it. What is a Waterwise Plant? The palette of waterwise plants consists of plants native to the five Mediterranean climates of the world: the Mediterranean region, the South African Cape, Western Australia, California and coastal Chile. These areas have similar soils and remarkably similar climates. Plants native to these regions require much less water than traditional garden plants and tolerate high temperatures and drying winds. Waterwise plants have developed qualities that help them tolerate low rainfall, high heat and drying winds. These characteristics are taproots, leaves with fine gray hairs or high oil content, and bulbous, water-storing roots. Top Waterwise Plants Bulbs- Mediterranean-climate bulbs are some of the very best low-water plants. If necessary, they can survive long periods with no water at all. However, as with all bulbs, good drainage is essential. Some of the best unthirsty plants with bulbous or bulb-like roots are bearded irisnarcissus, freesia, Amaryllis belladonna, African corn lily, Oxalis purpurera, Crinum, Homeria, Sparaxis, and one of the very best: Alstroemeria Perennials - There are many perennials that require little water, and some of them are favorites such as lavender, rosemary and sage, all classic Mediterranean plants. Other top waterwise plants are yarrow, coneflower, Jupiter’s beard, gaillardia, gaura, coreopsis, Russian sage, sedum and plumbago. Also included in this group are perennials with fleshy roots like agapanthus and fortnight lily. For shade, top unthirsty perennials are hellebore, acanthus, bergenia, and clivia. Groundcovers - To cover large areas, swaths of groundcovers are ideal. They also are great “fillers”, weaving in and around taller plants to give gardens a full, abundant look. Gazania, snow-in-summer, Myoporum, low-growing sedum, Osteospermum and thyme are excellent, low-water groundcovers. Red apple (Aptenia) and Santa Barbara daisy both grow in full sun and adapt well to shade. Shrubs - Shrubs are the workhorses of low-maintenance, waterwise gardens. Flowering shrubs provide seasonal color and year-round interest. Some of the most popular are blue hibiscus (Alyogyne), Callistemon, Ceanothus, pineapple guava, Cistus, pride of Madeira, Nandina, Pittosporu (there are many varieties), pomegranate, Pyracantha and Rhaphiolepis. Aloe and yucca can be added to the waterwise shrub category. For waterwise privacy hedges, whether formally trimmed or not, use purple hopseed bush, Osmanthus, Carolina laurel cherry or Xylosma. Trees - Classic Mediterranean trees are all waterwise: olive, acacia, crape myrtle, sweet bay, catalpa and Italian cypress.  Low-water California classics fill out the list: goldenrain tree (great for parkways—won’t lift walls or sidewalks) eucalyptus, ginkgo, arbutus, cedar, redbud, red-leaf plum, Catalina cherry, Chinese pistache, oak, black locust, honey locust and Melaleuca.  Well-established citrus trees can be quite drought-tolerant but require regular water to establish. Don’t remove old citrus trees, as they will tolerate dry soil. Vines - If you’re looking to hide an unattractive fence or structure, or just provide romantic lushness, vines will do it. Some of the best waterwise vines are some of the most colorful and dramatic: Campsis radicans, blood red trumpet vine, Hall’s honeysuckle, cat’s claw vine, cup-of-gold vine, potato vine, Australian bluebell creeper, cape honeysuckle and wisteria. Waterwise Plant Care Although all waterwise plants require little water once they are well-acclimated to your garden, all require regular water to become established and unthirsty. It takes an entire year for a plant to become fully established and waterwise. At planting time, create a dirt “well” about 3- to 4-inches deep around each plant to hold sufficient water to penetrate the entire root ball. Water regularly. The very best planting times in California are late fall (after temperatures have cooled) and early spring before the weather heats up. You can plant at any time of the year, but during the hottest months, you may need to give plants daily attention so they don’t dry out. In general, waterwise plants are not heavy feeders, and a yearly application of fertilizer is sufficient. Waterwise plants, by their nature do not require heavy pruning. With the exception of formal hedges and the removal of spent flowers on perennials, you will only need occasional light pruning to keep plants well-shaped.  Waterwise Home Consultation - Book Today Click to read more about Waterwise Gardens in our Garden Living Blog >   Read on to save water in your garden >