10 Beautiful Plants for a Drought-Tolerant California Garden

Beautiful plants are an essential part of any California drought-tolerant garden, whether you live in the desert or at the coast. If you’re interested in growing drought-tolerant plants but don’t know where to start, this guide will give you 10 easy-to-grow plants that are guaranteed to thrive even in the aridest parts of the state. Additionally, these plants are beautiful and won’t require much watering, saving you time and money!

1) Coastal Rosemary

beautiful plants coastal rosemary

Coastal Rosemary

First on our list for California xeriscape gardens is Rosemary. Not only does it work great in pots, but when pruned correctly it makes a stunning ground cover as well. And while roses may need lots of water and fertilizing to thrive, rosemary needs very little care once established. You can also use rosemary in cooking!

2) Lavender


Lavender is one of my favorite drought-tolerant plants. It’s beautiful and fragrant, with numerous uses around your home—from homemade sachets to cooking! Plus, it attracts bees and butterflies to your garden.

3) Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Also known as wild bergamot, bee balm makes a stunning addition to any garden with its magenta blossoms. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, so consider planting it near your patio or other space where you can enjoy them. Bee balm is also deer-resistant and drought tolerant, so you won’t have to worry about watering much. It can even handle poor soil!

4) Salvia

Purple Salvia

Salvia is commonly used as an xeriscape plant in California. It requires little watering, thriving in well-drained soils that have full sun exposure. Its color ranges from red to purple, and its flowers attract hummingbirds. You can also try coral bells, which are drought tolerant and produce pink and white blooms year round. Another option is echium plantagineum ‘Colorata’—it also has pinkish petals but shows off a contrasting yellow center.

5) Ceanothus


Also known as California lilac, ceanothus is an extremely hardy plant that tolerates most climates—except frost. The beautiful purple flowers and green foliage are great in sunny gardens or under trees, and because they don’t need much water, they make great additions to xeriscape landscapes. Give them full sun and water once every two weeks or so. You can also prune back your ceanothus over winter to stimulate new growth.

6) Manzanita


With its distinctive red bark and upright, branchless form, Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) is one of the most common native shrubs in Central and Southern California. These drought-tolerant plants prefer full sun and sandy soil with good drainage, but they can tolerate infertile soils as well. They are also known for their fire tolerance, surviving forest fires that take out surrounding vegetation. The woody base makes propagation easier by allowing you to easily collect new root growth.

7) White Sage

White Sage

Sage is a desert plant and does not like wet conditions, making it an ideal choice for drought-tolerant gardens. The leaves and stems of sage are covered in fine hairs, which gives it its silvery sheen. White sage is most often used to promote spirituality and cleansing during Native American rituals. It’s also great as ornamental plant that can be easily grown in warmer climates. The leaves have strong minty taste and aroma similar to eucalyptus when crushed or brushed with your fingers.

8) Cone Flower (Eriogonum Species)

Cone Flower (Eriogonum Species)

Wildflowers are an excellent choice, particularly natives that are drought-tolerant and relatively low maintenance. Cone Flower (Eriogonum Species) is just one of many native wildflowers you can grow in your drought tolerant garden. A native to North America, it’s usually found on rocky outcrops or sandy soil and has been known to survive with no water for months at a time.

9) California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum x hybridum ‘White Cloud’ Hybrid)

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum x hybridum ‘White Cloud’ Hybrid)

This drought-tolerant fuchsia can be grown in garden beds or containers. It grows to about 12 inches tall and blooms from late spring through summer with tiny white flowers. Epilobium canum x hybridum ‘White Cloud’ Hybrid can withstand some shade, but it will look its best in full sun, especially if you plant it in soil that is well drained.

10) Bromeliad


Our personal favorite was saved best for last! Bromeliads are highly drought-tolerant and require very little maintenance, making them an ideal choice for those in warmer, dryer climates. This family of plants is widely recognized by their rosette shape and has various species including air plants (epiphytes), terrestrial (they grow in soil) and miniature types. They range from small to huge with bright colors and uniquely designed flowers.

Design Your Drought-Tolerant Dream Garden

At KB5 Design Studio, we have 17 years of experience making homeowners’ dreams come true with colorful landscaping designs. Now, it’s more important than ever to transform water-wasting grass yards with low-water xeriscape gardens. We specialize in helping homeowners apply for the Turf Removal Rebate Program in California. Contact us for a consultation or view our other landscaping sites in your area to learn more about rebates specific to your area and ways we can help you transform your basic yard into a beautiful home sanctuary!






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