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With the drought continuing to put pressure on water supplies and many Southern Californians facing outdoor watering restrictions, some may be thinking about making changes to their lawns.

One way to save water is to rip out your water-guzzling lawn and opt for a more drought-friendly yard that boasts native California plants.

Plants native to the state are naturally drought tolerant, and help provide a habitat for birds, butterflies and pollinating insects, according to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

A California native garden is also meant to be easier and less expensive to maintain than traditional landscapes. The water district says drought tolerant plants use up to 85% less water per year than a traditional lawn.

And since the state has more than 6,000 types of native plants, homeowners have a wide variety to choose from to make some eye-catching gardens.

California native plants range from succulents and shrubs, to colorful flowers and trees. Here are some examples, all of which require different watering levels:


Clarkia (Clarkia-unguiculata): This plant has green foliage with pink flowers. It does well in full shade to part sun.

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica): This plant has small blue green leaves with gold and orange flowers that bloom in spring and summer.

Shrubs and groundcovers:

Emerald Carpet (Arctostaphylos): This is an evergreen groundcover that grows to 1 inch tall by 6′-8’wide. It is favoredfor inland situations and is relatively tolerant of adverse soil conditions.

Coastal Sagebrush (Artemisia californica ‘Canyon Gray’): This groundcover can reach 1-2 feet tall and can spread up to 10 feet wide. It has threadlike gray green, finely divided leaves.

Pigeon Point Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis): This compact, evergreen ground cover grows 18′- 24′ tall and 10′-12′ wide. Its leaves are green with white flowers that bloom in the fall.

Blue Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Skylark’): This ceanothus shrub has dark blue flower clusters that bloom in the spring.

Concha California Lilac (Ceanothus): This is a lilac that grows 6′-8′ in height and width. It is tolerant of coastal and inland conditions. 

Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum): This is an evergreen shrub that reaches 3′-5′ high.


California Meadow Sedge (Carex pansa): This plant can be used as a lawn substitute but requires significant water to get good coverage. Once that happens, water can be reduced.

California Gray Rush (Juncus patens): This plant can tolerate fairly dry conditions and can adapt to various watering needs.

Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): This warm season perennial grass has spike-like flower stalks that grow 2′-3′ tall in the summer.


Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana):Douglas iris is an evergreen perennial that tolerates full sun in coastal areas but needs afternoon shade in warm inland valleys.

Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’): This plant has pale yellow flowers.

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata): This is a fast growing plant has bright, yellow daisy-like flowers that appear spring through fall.

Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus): This is a drought tolerant evergreen shrub that grows 4′ tall with lots of orange-yellow flowers in spring and summer. It is a California native that attracts hummingbirds.

Cedros Island Verbena (Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’): This perennial quickly reaches 2′-3′ tall. It has lavender blue clusters of flowers that attract bees and butterflies.


Dudleya-brittonii: This succulent with a large open rosette of waxy, chalk-like leaves that does well in coastal areas and needs no summer irrigation. 

Catalina Live-Forever (Dudleya hassei): This is a succulent ground cover with gray, swollen leaves.

Chalk Live-Forever (Dudleya pulverulenta): This is a succulent that slowly forms 1′ wide and tall rosettes.


Desert Willow (Chilopsis-linearis): This is a small tree that, with age, develops a shaggy bark and twisting trunks. It has pink to lavender colored, fragrant flowers that appear in spring and through the fall.

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia ): This is an evergreen, round-headed tree with regal bearing. It can grows well from the coastal areas to the interior valleys and attracts wildlife.

Mexican Palo Verde (Parkinsonia aculeata): This fast growing tree has sparse foliage and very long narrow leaves and yellow flowers that bloom sporadically.

Here’s a list of native plants by county:

There’s also an online tool that lets you know which native plants are perfect for your garden after you enter your zip code and choose a design.

All the plants are available to buy at these local nurseries.