Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Weathering the Drought: Water-Wise Landscaping Tips

Drought-tolerant landscaping is essential, especially in California, because it focuses on efficient ways to save water while still ensuring your home is attractive and functional. “It’s important to plan landscapes that will thrive in low-water years, as well as years where water may be abundant. Anticipating the unexpected will set you up for a successful garden,” explains Tami Kint, director of marketing at Green Acres Nursery & Supply (

“Drought-tolerant landscaping is reducing or eliminating irrigation. The common term is xeriscape, and it includes the removal of grass/sod, capping sprinklers, and converting the irrigation system to a drip system,” explains Chad Glass, owner of Shear Perfection Landscape (


Don’t rush into turning your yard around. Instead, take some time to examine what plants need to be swapped and what irrigation systems need to be put in place. “I encourage everyone to [plan], because it’ll save you money in the long run and you’ll get a better finished product,” says John LaFlaur, nursery manager at Bushnell Gardens Nursery ( First, you’ll want to identify the plant material that needs to come out. This could be exotic shrubs or vines that suck up tons of water. Ultimately, the goal of drought-tolerant plants is to maintain an aesthetically pleasing yard while lowering water usage. You can do this by switching irrigation methods, amending your soil, and picking plants that thrive in our zone. LaFlaur begins by advising his clients to figure out where due-North is so they can see where the sun will beat down on the yard at its highest point. “Once you have that figured out, you can put together a plan based on topography, soil, and exposure.” After, think about your soil. “One of the best things you can do for drought-tolerant plants is increase the water holding capability of the soil.” Don’t forget about commercially available soil amendments, either, which increase water-holding capability of the soil and its texture. For this, LaFlaur recommends using soil testing kits.

Opt for drought friendly plants.


According to Kint, “Once you’ve selected the right low-water plants for your landscape based on sun exposure, mature sizes, existing soil, and low-water requirements, it’s time to think about how they will be watered. Drip systems are the best way to ensure you’re only watering the roots of the plants and there is no overspray or water lost to evaporation. The best part about installing a drip system is that you can allow additional water for plants you haven’t replaced yet and accommodate the new water-wise plants using the same system. As you replace thirsty plants with new plants, you can cut back on the emitters and reduce water use as you go.” Just remember: All new planting will require some watering, says Tim Bell from Capital Landscape ( “After the plants have been established and begin to mature, then you can cut back on watering them. In fact, some of the plants can be watered once a week!” says Bell.
For irrigation efficiency, consider reducing the amount of synthetic fertilizer you use, as it contains high levels of salt and will drain the water from your plants. Instead, opt for organic mulch or wood chips, which will slow the evaporation of water from the soil, cool plant roots in the summer, and insulate them in the winter. If you increase your soil’s water-holding capability, then transitioning to a drip irrigation system makes even more sense, says LaFlaur. Lastly, you’ll want to put mulch on top of your plants, which prevents evaporation of water, keeps topsoil cool and moist, and crowds out weeds that compete with the plant for the water. As your mulch breaks down, it begins to feed the soil and voila (!)—you’re one step closer to a water-smart yard.

Consider using Mulch


LaFlaur recommends planting dianthus, fountain grass, and sage. Kint suggests grevillea, aka “coastal gem,” as well arbutus (marina). You can also utilize vertical elements in your yard, like trees, vines, or high shrubs. When planted strategically, these elements provide the shade needed to protect certain plants when the sun is at its highest.
The City of Roseville offers a rebate program to exchange your grass for cash. They will rebate customers $1 per square foot of turf grass removed and replaced with water-efficient landscape up to $1,000 per address. Program funding is limited, and rebates are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, visit The City of Folsom will rebate customers $1 per square foot of turf grass removed and replaced with water-efficient landscape (up to $2,000 per address); what’s more, water customers can receive 50% of the cost of qualifying material (up to $500). For more information, see For more on rebates in Placer County, visit


Top photo ©Joanne Dale - Bottom photo ©jollier_ - Bottom photo ©maryviolet - Top photo © Jit