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11 Best Xeriscape Plants for Southern California

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If you’re planning to move to a hotter climate for a change, then consider relocating to southern California. The locals already know how it feels to live in this region with its Mediterranean climate.

When September comes, the weather starts to become hotter and drier than in any other month. In fact, according to the L.A. Times, Southern California experienced its worst heat wave of the year in September 2022, with temperatures reaching 115°F.

And this begs a question; how can we plant anything that has the ability to survive or thrive in a scorching hot environment? Is Southern California not a viable place for avid gardeners and plant lovers to live?

This is where xeriscaping comes in.

If this is your first time hearing this term, xeriscaping is the practice of planting drought-resistant plants in a designated landscape that doesn’t require frequent watering or irrigation.

Here are eleven xeriscape plants that can grow and thrive in a dry region like Southern California.

1. California Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus sp.)

Beautiful blue blossom shrub. Ceanothus shrub aka California Lilacs

California mountain lilacs are commonly found in North America, especially in California! They are also called wild lilac, California lilac, and mountain lilac.

These small to medium-sized shrubs have clusters of bright blue flowers and oval-shaped glossy green leaves. Other varieties may also produce flowers with different colors such as pink and white.

California mountain lilacs typically grow between 2 and 20 feet tall in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.

These plants are one of the best species for Southern California’s climate. They are highly adaptable to hot and dry summers and can grow under partial or full sun.

Moreover, they don’t require a highly advanced irrigation system and can even tolerate various levels of soil acidity.

2. White Sage (Salvia apiana)

Sage plant in closeup

Being one of the most common native plants in Southern California, white sages are popular for their medicinal properties and health benefits.

Native Americans used white sage as a medicinal herb to cure sore throats and stomach pain.

White sage grows between 3 and 5 feet tall with the same spread. They have waxy, silvery green elongated leaves and spiky white flowers. The spring-borne flowers have small lavender spots or speckles.

White sages thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11.

These evergreen shrubs prefer to grow under full sun. They are also drought tolerant and don’t require frequent watering. However, it is still better for you to keep the soil properly drained and water it at least once a month.

3. Rock Purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora)

Rock Purslane flowers

These flowering plants are native to temperate Mediterranean climates, specifically in Chile. They are also known as Cistanthe and Calandrinia grandiflora ‘Jazz Time’.

Rock purslane plants possess bluish-green or grayish-green pointy leaves and oval-shaped purple flowers that measure around 2 inches wide. These plants typically grow between 1 and 3 feet tall and spread between 2 and 3 feet wide.

Like most evergreen plants, rock purslanes can tolerate partial or full sun, and prefer to grow in well-drained soil. Being a drought-tolerant species, they don’t require frequent watering like most flowering plants.

Rock purslanes also thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 and are adaptable to different levels of soil acidity.

4. Dymondia (Dymondia margaretae)

Silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae)

Dymondia, also known as silver carpet, is indigenous to South Africa. These low-growing perennials typically grow around 1 to 3 inches tall and spread between 1 and 2 feet wide.

They have grayish-white curly leaves and daisy-like yellow flowers that bloom in the summer.

Dymondia flowers attract insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Dymondias thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11. They prefer growing under full sun and in well-drained soil.

Being a drought-tolerant species, these plants can adapt to different types of soil and acidity level. However, the best medium to grow Dymondia would be sandy and slightly alkaline soil.

5. Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Apricot mallow growing in Mojave Desert by road

Apricot mallows are native to the United States, particularly in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Baja California. They are also known as desert globe mallow, desert mallow, globe mallow, and apricot globe-mallow.

These perennial shrubs have hairy, silvery green leaves and cup-shaped flowers consisting of five petals.

Depending on the variety, the flowers are dark orange, white, lavender, or pink. These flowers also produce pollen and nectar that attract insect pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Apricot mallows typically grow between 3 and 4 feet tall and spread between 2 and 3 feet wide. They grow best under full sun and in loamy, well-drained soil.

These shrubs also thrive in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9 and are highly resistant to drought.

6. Cordyline (Cordyline australis ‘Renegade’)

Beautiful red cordyline plant by fence, outdoors.

These evergreen shrubs are native to New Zealand and highly adaptable to arid regions. They are also known as cabbage trees and cabbage palms.

‘Renegade’ typically grows between 3 and 5 feet tall and spreads between 2 and 3 feet wide. These plants possess long glossy brownish or dark purple leaves and cream-colored fragrant flowers that bloom in winter.

These plants also thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11 and can tolerate partial or full sun. Although they are considered a drought-tolerant species, Cordyline australis ‘Renegade’ should still be planted in properly drained soil.

7. California Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Medicinal perennial herb-Yarrow ordinary (Achillea millefolium )

California yarrows are indigenous to California and many places in North America. They are also known as common yarrow, devil’s nettle, nosebleed plants, soldier’s woundwort, and gordaldo.

These perennial shrubs grow between 1 and 3 feet with the same spread.

California yarrows have small, green pinnate leaves and clusters of small, four-petaled flowers that usually bloom from late spring to early summer. The flowers also produce fragrance and come in assorted colors including white, cream, and light pink.

These plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10. They are highly tolerant to drought and dry weather and adaptable to acid or alkaline soil.

Native Americans used California yarrows to alleviate pain and treat fever and other minor illnesses.

8. Black Mondo Grass (Ophipogon planiscapus ’Nigrescens’)

Winter Foliage of the Perennial Evergreen Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens')

These low-growing plants are native to Asia and are highly versatile as garden plants, ground covers, or even potted plants. They are also known as black lilyturf plants.

Black mondos are grass-like perennials with tiny, long dark purple or black leaves, bell-shaped pink flowers, and clusters of tiny dark blue berries.

They usually bloom in late spring to early summer. These plants grow between 6 and 8 inches tall and spread between 9 to 12 inches.

At maturity, their leaves can grow up to 12 inches long. So, the optimum spacing for these plants would be between 9 to 12 inches.

Black mondos can tolerate partial or full sun and prefer moist, well-drained soil. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 11 and are highly tolerant to drought and salty regions.

9. Myrtle Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

Rollers spurge, Euphorbia, myrsinites

Myrtle spurges are indigenous to Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean. They are also known as creeping spurge and donkey tail spurge.

These medium-sized succulent plants typically grow between 4 and 6 inches tall and spread between 1 and 2 feet wide. Myrtle spurges have clusters of waxy, bluish-green leaves and star-shaped yellow flowers that grow in between those leaves.

These plants bloom in the spring through early summer and thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 and 8. They are easy to maintain but considered invasive to other species living in the same environment.

Being drought- and salt-tolerant plants, myrtle spurges thrive in Southern California.

However, they are considered toxic and harmful, especially if you’re exposed to their sap. So, keep your children and pets away from these plants.

10. Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Mexican fleabane flowers - Latin name - Erigeron karvinskianus

Santa Barbara daisies are native to North America, specifically in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. But they can also be found in other regions including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and India.

Some people called them Mexican daisies, Spanish daisies, and fleabanes.

These flowering plants have hairy grayish green leaves and daisy-like white flowers. At maturity, these flowers turn light pink and bloom from spring to fall.

On average, Santa Barbara daisies grow between 1 and 2 feet and spread between 3 and 5 feet wide.

They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11 and perform best under full sun. Like most flowering perennials, they prefer well-drained soil and occasional deadheading to promote the growth of their flowers.

11. Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis)

Purple love grass in sunny October

These ground-covering plants are indigenous to North America, particularly in the central and eastern regions. They are also called tumblegrass, petticoat climber, spectacular love grass, and purple plains lovegrass.

Purple lovegrass has long, narrow green leaves and airy purplish-red flowers that bloom in the late summer until early fall. These plants typically grow between 1 to 2 feet with the same spread.

Purple lovegrasses thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10 and can tolerate partial or full sun. However, the optimum medium for them to grow is in dry but well-drained soil.

Purple lovegrass is drought tolerant and easy to maintain.

They don’t perform well in colder climates and grow much slower when they don’t receive enough sun exposure.

Final Thoughts

Although xeriscape plants aren’t as popular as other heavy blooming or foliage-rich species, they are adaptable to the weather in Southern California. Xeriscape plants are easy to maintain and don’t require frequent watering or as much pruning as other plants.

In fact, some species only need a little compost, hummus, and other soil conditioners to thrive. And the best part is that you don’t have to worry about these plants wilting or dehydrating, in case you forget to water them for many weeks!


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