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Xeriscape California Plant List

blooming desert image by Tonda from

How you xeriscape your California garden, says the state's Department of Resources Recycling, will depend on where you live. Xeriscaping is landscaping with plants that grow slowly, drink little and produce little disposable debris. Plants that meet those criteria and will survive along the damp northern coast may not be at all suitable for San Bernardino County's desert conditions. Finding the right plant choices may require looking beyond California's native plants.

Desert Honeysuckle (Anisacanthus quadrifidus)

Desert honeysuckle, or hummingbird bush, is an up-to-5-foot shrub. Its eye-catching display of fragrant, brilliant orange red blooms lasts from July to October. Irresistible to hummingbirds, the flowers make a stunning contrast with the shrub's pale green leaves and light peeling bark. Flowers are at their peak following rainy periods.

A plant that grows wild in the grasslands of south central Texas and northwestern Mexico, desert honeysuckle has somewhat fragile branches but tolerates shearing. It makes an outstanding ornamental hedge, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Smaller specimens do well as container plants. Desert honeysuckle tolerates a wide range of soils including sand, clay, loam and those high in limestone. Plant it in a well-drained location with full sun to part shade.

Chocolate Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata)

Chocolate daisy may have you resisting your sweet tooth on warm days when it releases its chocolaty perfume. This perennial is native to the dry, limestone-rich soils of the Texas Panhandle. It grows 1 to 2 feet high and up to 2 feet wide. Its velvet-textured grayish green leaves are responsible for the plant's chocolate aroma.

Chocolate daisy's leaning stems have maroon-centered yellow flowers from April to October. Two inches in diameter, they open in early morning and wilt in the afternoon heat. Cupped seedpods follow the flowers. Plant chocolate daisy in dry, well-drained soil and full sun. It may develop root rot in continuously wet soil.

Shrimp Plant (Justicia californica)

Native to southeastern California, shrimp plant is another hummingbird magnet. A shrub standing up to 4 feet high, it has with sparse grayish green succulent leaves and arching green branches. Showy spikes of yellow, orange or red blooms resembling shrimps cover it between March and June. Hummingbirds drink the nectar, while linnets and sparrows eat entire flower heads. Shrimp plant likes full sun and dry, rocky soil. Growing wild in desert washes, it's not completely drought-resistant. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension advises watering it once a week.

Wooly Butterfly Bush (Buddleja marrubiifolia)

Wooly butterfly bush is a drought-loving perennial shrub native to the high desert slopes of southern Texas. Standing from 3 to 6 feet high, it has striking velvety, white to silver serrated foliage. Between June and November, this aromatic woolly butterfly bush has lantana-like clusters of orange flowers attractive to butterflies. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends this shrub for xeriscaping, but cautions that it needs freeze protection. Plant it in dry sand, loam, clay or limestone-rich soil and part shade.

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