Colorful and Lush Waterwise Plants
Low-water doesn’t have to be desert-like
Thoughout the year Armstrong Growers offers a wide selection of waterwise plants that are not only lush, but also full of color and can fit into any landscape. View our Online Availability to see what is currently available.
Acacia – Medium Growing Perennial –Underappreciated in California, but beloved in France, the many acacia trees and shrubs all have clusters of cream or yellow flowers, many of them fragrant. Search out the ones that meet your needs.
Achillea – Low Growing Perennial – Yarrows have low, ferny foliage of gray-green, and flat-topped bunches of tiny flowers on skinny stems in shades of pale to intense yellow. (Modern hybrids also have flowers in white, pink, reddish tones and terracotta.)
Anigozanthus – Low Growing Perennial – Mounds of dark green spikey foliage anchor spindly (but very sturdy) stems ranging from 18-inches to 6-feet tall, with clouds of fuzzy, curiously shaped flowers on top. The most popular kangaroo paws seem to be in the yellow and greenish tones, but there are pink, red and orange kangaroo paws, too.
Oenothera – Low Growing Perennial – Bright, single, clear yellow flowers look a bit like poppies. Oenotheras (pronounced “ee-NO-thur-a”) are a great addition to a California cottage garden.
Asclepias – Medium Growing Perennial – Pronounced “a-SKLEE-pee-us”; but butterfly weed is easier to remember. Clumps (3-feet tall and 1-foot wide) of narrow leaves become covered with clusters of bright orange flowers that butterflies love. There’s a popular yellow-flowering butterfly weed, too. Both look best with regular water, but will hang tough with little water once established.
Gazania – Low Growing Perennial – Gazanias are classic, low, mounding, water-thrifty plants with bold daisy flowers in wonderful Mexican hues. Orange is the most common, but there are pink, red, yellow and cream varieties, too. Flowers close up in late afternoon.
Aloe – Medium Growing Succulent – You’d plant aloes just for their architecture, but come winter, you’ll be stunned by their beautiful, long-lasting flowers on tall stems.
Gaura – Low Growing Perennial – Gaura looks best in mixed plantings with other perennials and annuals. The entire plant is wispy, and the effect of the flowers along the tall, narrow stems is like clouds of tiny white or pink butterflies.
Lagerstroemia – Medium Growing Shrub – Crape myrtles are signature Mediterranean plants. They are perfect small trees for urban gardens and come as shrubs too. Some gardeners plant the shrubs in mixed borders and whack (the technical garden term is “coppice”) them to the ground each winter for a sensational, small blooming shrub.
Phormium – Tall Growing Shrub – True New Zealand flaxes—not hybrids of mountain flax and New Zealand flax—are waterwise. But you still have wonderful choices of reds, purplish-browns, burgundy-bronze, and gray-green with yellow stripes. ‘Radiance’ has green leaves with a strong yellow stripe down the middle and orange edges.
Coprosma – Medium Growing Shrub – Truly beautiful shrubs with shiny evergreen leaves that turn coppery-red in fall. Until the autumn, enjoy it for it variegated gold, cream and pink and orange leaves.
Grevillea – Tall Growing Grass – Native to Australia, the many types and sizes of grevilleas can be difficult to keep track of. So just choose your favorites, as virtually all are waterwise. They have finely-textured foliage and clusters of odd-looking flowers that are most often red, but also pink, with cream often mixed in.
Nandina – Medium Growing Shrub – This is a common shrub in California gardens, but there are lots of newer varieties that have interesting red and gold foliage color and vary in size, with most being smaller in size. All nandinas are great for small gardens and require no care beyond watering.
Pelargonium – Medium Growing Annual – Geraniums are the most popular perennial garden flower in California for a reason—for several reasons. They bloom almost year round (ivy geraniums do bloom 12 months a year); they require little to no care beyond watering, (they’re forgiving if you forget to water occasionally); and they really thrive in our heat. What’s not to like?
White, Cream and Silver
Alyssum – Medium Growing Perennial – One might wonder what an annual is doing on a low-water list. But if you’ve ever grown alyssum and it’s reseeded in some un-watered, out-of-the-way place you’ll know why. This is one tough annual.
Artemisia – Medium Growing Perennial – The mounding, finely-cut, silver or silvery-green foliage of Artemesia is stunning when mixed with perennials—especially with shades of pink and purple. It can look delicate, but it’s can take heat and drought.
Erigeron – Low Growing Perennial – Santa Barbara daisy is a California native and will reseed in all the right places. Its tiny, white daisies appear in all the right places—even in dry, poor soil.
Westringia – Medium Growing Shrub – This beautiful waterwise shrub gives the effect of more refined rosemary. Especially if you plant the lovely, misty-looking ‘Morning Light’ variety, with white edged leaves and white flowers.
Agastache – Low Growing Perennial – Agastache’s are just beginning to get the attention they deserve. They have a wild, untamed look, a bit like lavender and yet not. The color range certainly exceeds that of lavender, with purples, reds, oranges, pinks and yellows.
Bougainvillea – Medium Growing Perennial – A bougainvillea in full flower is a breathtaking sight, one that 90% of gardeners in the U.S. will never see in their own yard. There are huge vining types and small shrub types (suitable for pots) and everything in-between. They are waterwise only if established in the ground. There are many colors.
Buddleia – Medium Growing Perennial – Butterfly bush is one of the most colorful waterwise shrubs for California gardens. If not cut almost to the ground each winter, they can be large and ungainly. But new dwarf forms are now available. Also comes in lavender, white and rosy-purple.
Lavandula – Medium Growing Perennial – Lavenders are classic, Mediterranean waterwise plants. For year-round color, plant Spanish, French or fernleaf types.
Lavender and Blue
Penstemon – Medium Growing Perennial – For waterwise plants, you’ll want foothill penstemon, P. heterophyllus, a California native. This dainty, sophisticated perennial has bluish-green foliage and bright blue or blue-purple dainty bells.
Perovskia – Medium Growing Perennial – Russian sage, when grown against a contrasting backdrop is spectacular. Plant it by itself or where it’s the tallest flower, it’s ho-hum. Like Gaura is in the same situation.
Salvia – Medium Growing Perennial – (S. apiana, S. chamadryoides, S. clevelandii, S. ‘Dara’s Choice’, S. greggii, S. leucophylla, S. spathacea) – Not all sages are low-water, but these are. Most have undistinguished foliage, but pretty spectacular flowers.
Rosemary – Low Growing Perennial – This tough-as-nails shrub, depending on the variety, can be used as a groundcover, mixed border perennial, kitchen garden plant or background/hedge plant. It can even be formally clipped.
Nepeta – Low Growing Perennial – Catmints form long-lasting mounds of gray-green foliage topped with 12-inch spikes of beautiful lavender-blue flowers. A white form is available too.
Bouteloua – Low Growing Perennial – Most grasses are not waterwise, as is widely assumed. But this American native is. Blue grama, as it’s commonly called, has unusual flowers that flicker above the leaves, and can be used as a drought-tolerant lawn grass—mowed or unmowed.
Euphorbia – Medium Growing Perennial – There are lots of different spurges (Euphorbias), most of which are drought-tolerant. Almost all have striking chartreuse flowers which look great combined with white flowers in bouquets.
Muhlenbergia – Tall Growing Grass – There are a handful of Muhlenbergia varieties. All are narrow-leaved, large, showy and often colorful. When in full flower, it looks as if a mist is hovering above the foliage.
Portulacaria – Low Growing Succulent – This plant looks a bit like a mini jade plant, with fleshy stems and tiny round leaves. They look innocent in pots, but can become 12-feet tall, although they’re easy to keep small.
Sedum – Low Growing Succulent – Sedums (there are many!) are almost all low-water plants. Especially valuable are the interesting and very colorful groundcover types, with fascinating textures.