Xeriscaping: Conserve Water While Maintaining a Lush Landscape

Posted on: January 2, 2014

This is certainly no surprise for San Diegans, but the City of San Diego recently approved a measure that will increase water costs by 15 percent over the next two years.

This means that homeowners may be looking to modify their landscapes using the latest water-saving irrigation designs to reduce water waste, remove turf and select regionally appropriate plant materials which consume less water.

The question is, what can homeowners do to soften the blow to their budgets while at the same time adding beauty to their properties and increasing the value of their homes?

Xeriscaping in San Diego doesn’t have to mean a ‘desert’ look,” said Bethany McDonnell, senior landscape designer at Eco Minded Solutions. “One of the great things about San Diego is our climate, which allows homeowners to use lush, beautiful green landscape that requires very little water. Our design objective is to educate homeowners and help them create a stunning landscape while reducing their water consumption.”

Beyond the well-known succulents, such as cacti, aloes and agaves, McDonnell suggests using the following water-wise options:


  • Eco Minded Solutions emphasizes the use of smaller trees that won’t outgrow the size of the landscape, such as Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo); fruitless olives, Coast Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) and other native oaks; Mexican blue fan palms (Brahea armata); Guadalupe palms (B. edulis, best replacement for those who still want a green, tropical look);Mediterranean fan palms (Chamerops humilis, best replacement for pygmy palms); Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani); Cypriot cedars (C. brevifolia); and Mugo pines (Pinus mugo). Consider dwarf and weeping cultivars also, but check for their appropriateness for Southern California.

Mid-sized plants:

  • Shrubs such as Silverberry variegated cultivars (Eleagnus pungens); Pittosporum tenuiifolia variegated cultivars; Coprosma; and Westringia.
  • Flowering shrubs and perennials: Lavatera spp., especially native L. assurigentifloria; Leonitis; Phlomis spp.; and Kangaroo paws (non-dwarf yellow and orange cultivars of Anigozanthos).
  • Vines: it’s hard to top Bougainvillea for flower display and drought tolerance. Best cultivars are ‘Barbara Karst,’ ‘La Jolla Red,’‘California Gold’ and the ‘Bambino’ series for smaller shrubs.

Smaller plants: When selecting ground cover plants, determine the amount of foot traffic. Consider:

  • For groundcovers: Dymondia; Myoporum ‘Pink’; Sedum spp.; and Trailing gazanias.
  • For turf grasses: Low- and no-mow alternatives are best, such as no-mow fescue, UC Verde buffalo grass and Zoysia (or Korean) grass.
  • For accent grasses: Pennisetum ‘Fireworks,’ blue oat grass (Helicotrichon sempervirens) and sedges such as Carex buchannii, C. comans and C. testacea (which are great replacements for invasive Mexican feather grass).

For more planting tips, check out our List of the Best Plants for San Diego Residents.

View Portfolio