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.
Although all waterwise plants require less water once they are well-established to the landscape, all require regular water to become established. This can take an entire year. In general, waterwise plants are not heavy feeders. A yearly application of fertilizer is sufficient and do not require heavy pruning. With the exception of formal hedges and the removal of spent flowers on perennials, waterwise plants are extremely low maintenance.
Perennials - There are many perennials that require little water, 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, and plumbago. Also included in this group are perennials with fleshy roots like agapanthus and fortnight lily. For shade, top unthirsty perennials are acanthus, bergenia, and clivia.
Succulent Perennials – For interesting color and dramatic textures, succulents play a striking role in the waterwise landscape. Choose from sedums or, Portulacaria or Calandrinia for low growing ground cover applications. Succulents aloe and yucca can be used where medium height shrubs are required.
Groundcovers - To cover large areas, swaths of groundcovers are ideal. They also are great “fillers”, weaving in and around taller plants to give landscapes a full, abundant look. Gazania, snow-in-summer, Myoporum, and thyme are excellent, low-water groundcovers. Red apple (Aptenia) and Santa Barbara daisy both grow in full sun and adapt well to shade. For eye popping color choose annuals that can beat the heat. Waterwise options include low growing, hardy Cora vinca and Mercardonia.
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. For waterwise privacy hedges, whether formally trimmed or not, use purple hopseed bush, Osmanthus, Carolina laurel cherry or Xylosma.
Grasses - Specific grasses add great texture and foliage color through the waterwise border. Look for low growing top peformer Bouteloa in fall. Consider taller Muhlenbergia for use in mass plantings or in tight locations were its narrow and upright habit makes it the perfect fit.