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Check out our Water-Wise Gardening website, based on climate and other factors specific to the Tri-Valley region. The site will help you design your landscape and includes photographs, a searchable plant database, water-saving tips and more!



Guidelines for Landscaping and Irrigating Wisely

In the average California home, as much as 60% of water used goes to gardens -- which most people overwater by 20-40 percent! If we design our landscape with water conservation in mind, and then water those plants wisely, we would make a serious dent in water demand -- and still have beautiful gardens to enjoy.

Resources for Designing your Water-Wise Native Garden 

Preparing your planting area: How to Sheet Mulch

Tips for Beginners

Native Design Basics

East Bay Chapter - California Native Plant Society

Resources for Native Plants

Get Incentives with the Water Efficient Lawn Conversion program

Integrated Pest Management 

Where to purchase native plants and seeds in the Bay Area

Native Here Nursery - a non-profit nursery with plants that are “locally native,” grown from seed and cuttings collected in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

Find a Bay Friendly Landscape Professional

Fundamentals of Water Conservation in the Yard

(These tips are adapted from Sunset Magazine's "Water Wise Gardening for California" and information from the California Association of Nurserymen)

  • Use water-conserving plants in your landscape (examples listed below).
  • Choose plants that are naturally adapted to your area's climate.
  • Group plants wisely. Place thirsty plants together and drought-resistant plants elsewhere. This practice is known as hydro-zoning.
  • Limit turf areas. Lawns need more water than most other types of plants. Consider hard-scapes like patios and decks or use groundcovers to supplement grassy areas.
  • Where possible, use permeable paving, such as gravel or flagstones with space between them, so water can run off and be more available to nearby plants.
  • Improve your soil. Cultivate it regularly, and add organic matter to help the soil resist evaporation and better retain moisture.
  • Mulch to slow erosion, retain moisture, and reduce weeds. Weeds steal water from other desirable plants. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch spread beneath the canopy of a plant is ideal.
  • Keep plants healthy. They'll be better able to withstand dry periods and pests.
  • Care for container plants by grouping them to shade one another. Keep them as shaded as they'll tolerate to reduce moisture loss.
  • Aerate (punch holes) in the lawn and de-thatch (rake) to remove dead grass. Spread organic material in holes to draw water down to root zone. This will also help reduce runoff.
  • Set the mower height higher during the hot season to allow grass to grow 2 to 3 inches long. Longer grass cools the surface and reduces evaporation.
  • Keep lawn well fertilized with a well-balanced mix that encourages deep roots. Nitrogen-only products stimulate thirsty, new growth.

Community volunteers tend to Granada Native Gardens, located near Stanley and Murrieta boulevards in Livermore, which features many drought-tolerant plants.





Choosing Plants Wisely

Some plants are better suited to California's arid climate than others. By choosing plants that can survive on minimal water once established, you will reduce your long-term demand significantly. Listed below are dozens of groundccovers, shrubs, flowers, trees and grasses that  require only minimal amounts of water. 

Plant right and protect the native habitat. Check the invasive species list before you buy.

The drought-tolerant plants below were photographed right here in Livermore, Pleasanton & Dublin!       



 Orange Sticky Monkey


douglas_iris dudleya_cymosa_kasa
Douglas Iris Dudleya Cymosa

Ground covers

  • Yarrow
  • Manzanita
  • Snow in Summer
  • Chamomile
  • Indian Strawberry
  • Fleabane
  • Sulfer Flower
  • Coral Bells
  • Spreading Juniper
  • Evening Primrose
  • Lavendar Cotton
  • Santolina
  • Thyme


  • Manzanita
  • Strawberry Tree
  • Sandhill Sage
  • Dusty Miller
  • Ceanothus
  • Rock Rose
  • Sunrose
  • Juniper
  • Mountain Mahogany
  • Smoke Tree
  • Oregon Grape
  • Toyon-Christmas Berry
  • Coffee Berry


  • Allium
  • Alyssum
  • Windflower
  • Thrift (Sea Pink)
  • Cosmos
  • Foxglove
  • Blanket Flower
  • Daylily
  • Iris
  • Daffodil
  • California Poppy
  • Rose Moss
  • Lamb's Ear


  • Maidenhair
  • Golden Rain
  • Crape Myrte
  • Holly Oak
  • Locust
  • Hackberry
  • Japanese Pagoda
  • Chinese Flame
  • Chinese Pistache
  • Western Redbud
  • Incense Cedar


  • Tall Fescues
  • Hybrid Bermudas
  • Zoysia 

Ways to Reduce Irrigation Water Waste

It is quite possible to maintain beautiful yards with green grassy areas, lush floral beds and wonderful shade trees, without using tons of water. The trick is to use water judiciously. Here are some tips for irrigating your garden efficiently:

  • Only water when plants are dry. Push a finger down in the soil an inch or two to check.
  • Water your lawn early in the morning or in the evening, when the sun is not hot and the winds are low. This will minimize evaporation, which wastes water and deposits salts and minerals in the soil.
  • Water deeply to improve roots growth, which will help plants and trees survive drought periods better.
  • Study your soil and watch to see if it drains well or not. If you have clay soil you can avoid wasteful run-off by pulse-irrigating, which means watering the lawn in short intervals allowing for a break in between so water can soak in. This works well on slopes, too.
  • Build basins around trees and shrubs to minimize run-off. This is also especially important on slopes.
  • Adjust watering schedules with the season and the weather. Don't let your auto-sprinkler system stay on one schedule year round, and don't let it go off on a rainy day.
  • Water only the target areas. Adjust sprinkler heads to avoid driveways and sidewalks or the sides of the house.
  • Keep your sprinkler system is good shape. Check it regularly for leaks, clogs or misdirected emitters and heads.

Find out about the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, which can help people refine the amount of water used for local irrigation.  The data is available online at

To view Zone 7's water conservation page,click here.