Top 10 Plants for Designing a Water Wise Landscape

Reprinted from RIS Media’s Housecall

By Krystal Rogers-Nelson

Wait! Before you spend thousands on landscaping—or on water-guzzling plants—try planting a DIY drought-tolerant garden. With the right plants, your landscape will be cost-effective, low maintenance, and beautiful.

Here is a list of ten plants that won’t break the water bank but will still let you enjoy lush greenery and flowers without having to replant every year. Just be sure to check your hardiness zone and your zone’s growing calendar before planting anything not mentioned on this list to ensure it can withstand your climate.


Goldenrod is so easy to grow that some people call it a weed; it springs up practically everywhere once planted. If you don’t mind prolific yellow tufts that look cheerful in the late summer afternoons, then you’ll love goldenrod. These flowers top out at a couple feet high and bring lots of pollinators like butterflies and honeybees to your garden, so other plants will naturally grow and flourish.

Juniper bushes are evergreen, providing a perfect backdrop for other plants during their growing and dormancy cycles. Whether it’s in the dead of winter or summer, you’ll have these fragrant and green bushes to look at. If you’re into attracting nature, you’ll especially love juniper; it was named one of the top 10 wildlife-friendly plants.


Baby’s Breath
Baby’s breath is ideal for garden filler flowers, bouquets, drying, and water-conscious people. This low-growing plant blooms all throughout summer and comes back each spring to do it all over again.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
For a flower with healing powers, it’s amazing the purple coneflower doesn’t need much TLC itself. This flower loves full sun and soil that’s part sand, clay, and silt (loamy). Plant purple coneflowers in the summer, water until they’re established, and then enjoy purple, red, pink, and white flowers every summer and fall thereafter. Echinacea is beloved by butterflies too and grows well in nearly all hardiness zones.


Desert Zinnia
Seeing lush, beautiful blooms in the desert is a real treat, which is what makes the desert zinnia so rewarding. Just plant the desert zinnia once, and you can watch it bloom for months out of each year with little to no effort on your part. It’s perfect for hot, dry, and sandy southwestern states because it can withstand droughts and it comes back each year. Plus, its flowers are bright white, so they integrate easily into your other landscaping plans and color schemes. Start these plants from seeds and enjoy them for years to come.

Prickly Pear
The prickly pear is a cactus—ideal for desert climates. It also provides your landscaping with added security. These plants grow one-to-seven feet tall and may be planted around entrances to limit burglar hiding places and deter access. The prickly pear also looks pretty—with vibrant flowers in summer—and produces fruit for your family. No one other plant on this list has all these benefits.


If you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll love the daylily. It grows perfectly well in most hardiness zones and doesn’t have a soil preference. Add on the fact that daylilies don’t have diseases or chronic pests, and it’ll be one of your favorite plants on your property. Once planted, enjoy brightly colored blooms without worry.

The lilac is a low-water tree that never grows more than fifteen feet tall, making it perfect to add depth and dimension to your garden. Lilacs rely on the hard frost of the Midwest and Northeast to set its buds and return with velvety soft purple and pink flowers each spring. After the root system develops, you won’t need to do much more than pruning and fertilizing once per year.


Sage is a perennial drought-tolerant herb. Though sage dies off in the winter, you can cut it back at the end of the summer, dry the leaves for cooking, and watch fresh new shoots emerge in early spring. The honeybees go crazy over the bright purple flowers that bloom in late spring, helping the plant double and triple in size in just a few growing seasons.

Yarrow is a lovely, bushy perennial that shows off yellow, red, orange, white, and pink flowers each year. It’s perfect for southern areas because it can stand the heat and some cooler temperatures. Yarrow loves full sun and well-drained soil. If given ideal growing conditions, you won’t have to water it at all and it’ll still grow to about four feet tall. Plus, local deer and rabbits don’t generally find yarrow appealing, so it’s less likely to get munched on.

Planting with purpose saves you money, time, and precious water. Plus, in some cases, the plants you choose can enhance your yard’s security or offer medicinal and nutritional value. Get to planting so this season and seasons to come will be more water-conscious and beautiful.

About marilynsellshollisterrealestate

I am a native Californian born in Los Angeles and have resided in San Benito County since January 30, 1959. I attended the University of Southern California. I am a licensed Real Estate Broker, license #00409787, active for almost 45 years. I started my career in 1972 and still am totally committed to the highest level of service to my clients. I am currently associated with Intero Real Estate Services. I am Past President of the San Benito Association of Realtors, serving in the role on numerous occasions. I was a Director of the California Association of Realtors for over 18 years, having served on numerous committees. I also served 2 terms representing the California Association of Realtors at the National level, NAR. I am a certified SRES (Senior Real Estate specialist), since 2005. My community involvement has included membership in the Hollister Rotary Club, serving as their first woman President in 2002. In the late 1960's, I became a member of the El Torillo Chapter of Children's Home Society, and served as President, and was also President of the Tri-County Council of CHS, which is today Kinship Center, and I am currently a Senior Active. I am a member of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce. From 2002-2008, I served on the Board of the Hollister Downtown Association and was their President from 2006-2007, and still serve on sub-committees of this organization. And, I am currently serving my 3rd term on the Community Foundation. My record of performance and my reputation have made me who I am in the industry. I am a household name in San Benito County, when you think of Real Estate. My name is recognized not only in Hollister, but in our neighboring counties, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. I have been involved in land development, marketed several subdivisions, sold ranches, commercial leasing, bank-owned properties, short sales and own a Property Management Company, Hollister Rental Properties, for more than 35 years. I am proud of my sales record and for the majority of my career I have been in the top 1% of major Real Estate Companies including Van Vleck Realtors, Cornish and Carey, Contempo, Seville-Contempo, Century 21, Coldwell Banker and finally Intero Real Estate services for the last 15 years. Using my skills in negotiating, mediation and transaction closure, during 2010 and 2011, I was involved with the City of Hollister's First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program. The program was the City's Redevelopment Agency, under Bill Avera, with the assistance of CJ Valenzuela who was working with the County of San Benito. CHISPA, a non-profit, was responsible for restoring homes to equal to new condition that the City had taken back in foreclosure, or that they had acquired. When the homes were restored, we put them on the Multiple Listing Service and we went out and promoted the City's Down Payment Assistance Program. Buyers were screened and qualified by our preferred lenders. I facilitated workshops for First Time Buyers explaining the programs. I negotiated the contracts for the City of Hollister and with the Buyers. With this program, I closed 2 homes in 2010, and 4 homes in 2011. On a personal note, I am married to Richard Ferreira, a retired General Contractor/Developer. We have a combined family of six daughters, six grandsons and 3 granddaughters. We share commons interests in travel, movies, entertaining, and Richard has picked up my love of cooking. Our spare time is spent with family and enjoying our grandchildren.
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