10 Best Landscaping Plants for the San Diego Climate

Posted on: November 22, 2013

A beautifully crafted landscape will transform your home’s curb appeal. But selecting the right landscaping plants for your San Diego landscape architecture will create a tranquil oasis, fanciful paradise, or a flourishing garden.

The vast selection of vivid colors and textures found in desert climate plants makes these choices even more challenging.

San Diego Planting Guide

In this planting guide for San Diego, learn about our frequently recommended plants for use in tropical and desert climates. Contact us online today to schedule a consultation for a gorgeous custom landscape design in the San Diego area!

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After an intense process of finding the right Design Build company we choose Eco Minded Solutions for a large home remodel project for our Carlsbad home. From the initial consultation to the completion of the project, everything ran smoothly. The crew was always on time and often worked longer than expected to keep the project on track. Loving our newly remodeled home and would highly recommend Eco Minded!

Which landscaping plants are best for San Diego climates?

This San Diego climate, while conducive to year-round growth, also provides a unique challenge when making smart landscaping choices during a drought. We have compiled top tips for year-round San Diego planting and growing.

“One of the best things about landscaping in San Diego is its Mediterranean climate. The growing season lasts all year around here. With the right plants and timing, you can truly have a 12-month growing season.” explains Josh Rosenthal, Principal of Eco Minded Solutions.

Due to very low rainfall, Southern California is categorized as a desert, yet the ocean nearby influences mild winters and warm summers producing a tropical environment. As severe drought conditions persist, it is necessary to choose plants that are not only picturesque, but are also drought-tolerant.

A succulent garden with a low-water-use plant palette and colorful flowering plants.

Drought tolerant landscaping includes low-water, low-maintenance xeriscaping or “zero-scaping” and is a popular solution for arid climates prone to dry spells. These gardens feature beautiful- yet hardy- plants and require minimal maintenance while conserving water. Other options to reduce your water consumption include hardscapes and pavers installation.

10 Best Landscaping Plants for San Diego

Over the years we have sought out the best plants to bring beauty while conserving water for San Diego landscapes without sacrificing luxury and aesthetics. We’ve rounded up the 10 best plants for landscaping in San Diego to help you create the perfect garden for your home, whether you’re looking for potted plants, tree plantings, or other shade plants.

We use a variety of plants in our designs—when you work with us, we will help to find the perfect plant for your home’s exterior. Contact us to learn more about our landscaping services in the San Diego area.

Salvia species (perennials/shrubs)

Blue Hill Salvia for San Diego Landscapes

Blue Hill, a type of Salvia plant.

Salvias, also known as sages, are an easy-to-grow desert plant. Many varieties bloom abundantly in the summer, adding color and beauty to your garden. They thrive in many different soil types and climates, making them a versatile addition to any landscape.

Leucophyllum species (shrubs)


Silver Leaf Plant for San Diego Landscapes

Silver Leaf, a type of Leucophyllum shrub

These shrubs are known for their ability to forecast rain, blooming a couple of days before rainstorms in response to humidity. Since they require minimal water to thrive, this species is the perfect plant to grow in San Diego. Blooms range from white to magenta or deep purple.

Agave species (succulents)

Agave Plants for San Diego Landscapes

Blue Agave is popular in San Diego for its beautiful blue, silver, and turquoise color.

Agave species are one type of succulent, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and shades ranging from jewel greens to pale blues. Their leaves are typically long and triangular with sharp tips. Known for their hardiness, agave plants require very little water to thrive. They add a stunning geometric element to your landscape.

Aloe species (succulents)


Aloe Plants for San Diego Landscapes

Icicle Plants are a type of Aloe plant.

Aloe species of succulents range in sizes from small tabletop plants to large landscape staples. Most varieties feature spiky leaves that are thick and waxy to the touch. These plants require very little water and also grow well in pots. Used as medicinal plants for centuries, the sap inside aloe leaves is known to soothe burns and moisturize the skin.

When remodeling your home and performing landscape construction, remember plants aren’t just for the outdoors! A vertical arrangement of succulents creates a beautiful living wall, the perfect backdrop for your outdoor dining and entertainment area. Indoor displays in your dining area or living room bring life and color inside your home.

Bougainvillea (vine)


Bougainvillea Vine for San Diego Landscapes

Also known as “Scarlet O’Hara,” this vine brings vibrancy to fences and borders.

Bougainvillea is an ornamental vine that thrives in San Diego climates. The vine’s delicate flower blossoms and deep green leaves provide a pop of life and color, weaving across fences and walls with ease. Drought-resistant and evergreen in warm climates, bougainvillea is a great addition to any San Diego landscape.

Let them grow free along fences in the backyard or wind around the posts of your backyard pergola to add a colorful, natural element.

Muhlenbergia species (grass)


Pink Muhly Grass for San Diego Landscapes

Pink Muhly Grass

Commonly known as a hairawn muhly, this hedge-like grass grows tall with feathery, pinkish-purple flowers emerging in the late summer and early autumn. Tall grasses add texture and height to your landscape, and since these plants survive well in drought conditions, they are the perfect addition to any San Diego landscape.

They also do well in shady areas, such as lining the patio for your outdoor living room. This versatile grass was voted as the 2012 Garden Club Plant of the Year.

Rosmarinus species (groundcover)


Rosmarinus Plant for San Diego Landscapes

Ground cover form the Rosmarinus plant family.

This prostrate rosemary plant is a low-growing herbaceous shrub, reaching heights of 2 inches to 1 foot tall, and will grow 4-8 feet in width. Reminiscent of pine needles and topped with light purple flowers, this shrub gives off the refreshing aroma of rosemary. Rosemary in partial to full sun and well-draining soil to thrive. Plant them near your Jacuzzi or outdoor lounge to scent the breeze with a burst of fresh rosemary aroma.

Lantana species (groundcover)


Lantana Perennial for San Diego Landscapes

Also known as shrub verbenas or lantanas, these flowering perennials produce clusters of tiny bright blossoms among their green leaves, attracting butterflies to your landscape. A hardy plant, they survive well in Southern California landscapes even during water shortages

Olea europaea ‘Swan Hill’


Olive Trees for San Diego Landscapes

Also known as an Olive tree, this evergreen tree is native to the Mediterranean, yet adapts easily to temperate zones. The Swan Hill variety produces no fruit and little to no pollen, eliminating allergens and requiring minimal maintenance. These trees are noted for their wispy greyish-green foliage and are staples in California landscapes. They look beautiful planted in groupings such as lining driveways or streets. Olive trees thrive in medium to low water climates and full sun, reaching 25-30 feet tall and spanning 25-30 feet wide when mature.

Cercidium X “Desert Museum”


Desert Mueseum Trees for San Diego Landscapes

The Desert Museum palo verde is a shade tree that produces large yellow blossoms in the spring. Originally native to Arizona, this variety thrives in low-water drought conditions and grows quickly. Green trunks and green branches give way to an airy canopy, producing a dappled shade below. Their unique shape enhances tranquil landscapes and makes a great addition to meditation gardens.

Best Time to Plant in San Diego

The months leading up to the rainy season, September through December, are the ideal time to begin planting in San Diego. New plants require constant watering to establish during their first year, and the rain provides the ideal environment for them to thrive in naturally.

Ensuring your garden is properly irrigated even during a drought is necessary for the survival of your plants and allows for conservation of water.

Expert San Diego Landscapers

Ready to bring your dream landscape to life? Eco Minded Solutions is here to help! As the CCLA award-winning design experts in San Diego, we are happy to advise you on selecting the best plants for your landscape design.

From design to construction, Eco Minded Solutions provides landscape design as well as whole home remodeling services. Contact us today for a free design consultation or give us a call.

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