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Landscape and Plant Guidance

The following references provide an overview and general guidance for creating low-water landscaping anywhere in the state.

California Statewide Resources

California Department of Water Resources
Create nice-looking, low maintenance, water-efficient landscapes using typical backyards designs that can also be applied to front yards.
More information: Water efficient landscapes


University of California, Davis. Landscape Architecture
Create a sustainable and low-water landscape using compost and recycled wood instead of highly refined materials.
More information: Appropriate California residential landscaping


Sunset Gardens – Easy Water-Wise Gardening
Design elements of a low-water landscape using decomposed granite in place of thirsty lawn grass and ornamentals plants that are adapted to arid climates. Discuses design, irrigation, and other tools for developing low-water landscape. Also includes other sources of information.
More information: Easy water-wise gardening


Save Our Water, Making Your Landscaping Drought-Tolerant
Six basic principles of a water-wise landscape: limit your grass, appropriate plant selection, right plants, efficient irrigation, mulch, and maintenance. There is a link with information about how to help trees survive the drought.
More information: Landscaping 101


Sunset 24 Inspiring Lawn-Free Yards, CA
24 inspiring lawn-free yards designs in different parts of California.
More information: Sunset | Your guide to living in the West


Water-Smart Landscapes - EPA
Apply water-smart landscaping by using California native plants to help locate local information sources and possible technical assistance. Recommends the use of water-efficient technologies, such as, rotary spray heads and weather-based irrigation controller.
More information: Water-smart landscapes


Eco Landscape California, Bringing Landscapes into Harmony with Nature.
Several examples of landscapes that use Eco-landscaping principles.
More information: Ecolandscape



University of California, Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture.
Water conservation and drought in the landscape, what you can do to save water in landscape, when is the best time of day to irrigate, how often newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered.
More information: Center for landscape & urban horticulture


Water Smart Gardening Websites, California
Drought tolerant garden designs through California, Arizona, Oregon and Utah.
More information: Water smart gardening


University of California–Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Best management practices (water efficient, protect ground and surface water quality), which can enhance the beauty of your landscape.
More information: Sustainable landscaping in California


UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
Tips for landscape survival during drought, such as, use of mulch, compost, focus on your trees, tune up your irrigation and reduce your watering scheduling.
More information: UC Davis arboretum and public garden


Eco-Friendly Landscape Design Plans for the New California Landscape
Eco-friendly landscape design, including diverse aesthetic qualities, to facilitate efficient resource management. Use less water, labor fewer hours and generate less green waste.
More information: Eco-friendly landscape design


Garden of the Week
Drought tolerant garden designs in different areas of California.
More information: Garden of the week


California Native Plant Society, California
Reasons and resources for removing turf. Learn to organize your space, draw your design, pick the appropriate method for removing lawn, planting tips, watering strategies, seasonal maintenance, etc.
More information: California Native Plant Society


Built to Last: Imagining a New Landscape for California.
Nine steps toward a mutually beneficial landscape.
More information: Built to Last


The New California Landscape Drought Toolkit.
Learn how to conserve water in your home landscape, adjust irrigation, and keep your plants alive under water restrictions.
More information: Landscape Drought Toolkit


Suggested Alternatives for Invasive Garden Plants.
Identifies alternatives to invasive plants commonly planted in California.
More information: Invasive garden plants


Retail Nursery and Garden Center. University of California.
Provides home gardeners with the latest information on how to reduce aphids.
More information: It’s aphid season


The New Front Yard. UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
List of attractive, front yard compatible plants that save water and support wildlife.
More information: The new front yard