Tag Archive for: Low Water Use Plants

Diane Krupnak's smart planning and design helped her win the 2023 Vista Irrigation District landscape makeover contest. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Vista Irrigation District Landscape Winner Complements Home Design

Vista Homeowner Diane Krupnak redesigned her front yard to save water and won the 2023 Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding waterwise residential landscapes based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient irrigation methods.

Workshops provide homeowner know-how

Concerned by the severity of the last drought, Krupnak removed the water-thirsty grass from her front yard to reduce water use. She began her project by enrolling in the free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover series of workshops for homeowners offered by the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies.

The workshops gave Krupnak the knowledge to move forward with her makeover, including soil assessment, creating a landscape plot plan, and drip irrigation basics, and mulching.

Colorful plant palette replaces grass

Diane Krupnake wanted a landscape that would complement the Mediterranean aesthetic of her home. Photo: Vista Irrigation District landscape

Diane Krupnake wanted a landscape that would complement the Mediterranean aesthetic of her home. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Krupnak started by researching the plants she wanted to add to her yard. She focused on the plants’ characteristics and water needs to make sure they would be compatible in her landscape.

She also wanted a landscape to complement the Mediterranean aesthetic of her home. Krupnak selected a base color palate in greens and whites highlighted with pops of color. Once the plan came together, she hired landscape professionals to install the new landscape and hardscape.

The green hues in her landscape design come from shaggy Cousin Itt Acacias, Wheeler’s Dwarf Pittosporum, dwarf daylilies, and Italian Oregano. Each plant provides contrasting textures and structure creating visual interest. A fruitless Olea Swan Hill olive tree stands as the focal point of her yard.

White tones include flowering Scaevola White plants adjacent to Krupnak’s new permeable walkways accentuating the earth tones of the pavers.

The base colors in the winning landscape design are accented with bright reds from plants like Caliente Deep Red Geraniums and Tecoma Stans Bells of Fire Esperanza, as well as yellow foliage from Sunset Gold Coleonema pulchellum.

Beautiful results reduce water use, saving money and time

The landscape makeover replaced grass with new low water use plants and a patio area. Photo: Vista Irrigation District landscape

The landscape makeover replaced grass with new low-water-use plants and a patio area. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

“I chose a landscape of moderate to low water use plants that complement the Mediterranean influence of my home,” said Krupnak. “I save money on my water bills and no longer pay to have my yard mowed.”

The hardscape included in Krupnak’s design plan provides functional living space. The patio replaces a flat lawn area near the home’s entranceway and transforms it into an inviting place to sit and admire the rest of her new landscape.

Free WaterSmart landscape workshops – online or in-person

“Free regional WaterSmart landscape workshops are available online and in person to assist homeowners in upgrading their home’s landscape to reduce water bills,” said Brent Reyes, VID management analyst. “Additionally, turf removal rebates can help with the cost.”

Participating San Diego County Water Authority member agencies include the Vista Irrigation District, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Water District, and the cities of Escondido and Oceanside. Customers of California American Water also can access the workshops.

For more information about the contest and to see more examples of waterwise landscaping, visit www.landscapecontest.com. Visit the district’s website to learn more about free landscape workshops and incentive programs.

Vista Irrigation District is a public agency governed by an elected five-member board. The district provides water service to roughly 134,000 people in the city of Vista and portions of San Marcos, Escondido, Oceanside, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

(Editor’s note: The Vista Irrigation District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego County region.) 

Joy August's winning landscape design is perfectly suited to the historic 1925 La Mesa home shared with her spouse, Marta Luisa Sclar. Photo: Helix Water District

Historic La Mesa Home Wins Helix Water District’s 2023 Landscape Contest

A charming 1925 La Mesa home featuring a rich tapestry of thriving low-water use plants won the 2023 Helix Water District Landscape Makeover Contest.

Homeowner Joy Andrea, a retired schoolteacher and La Mesa resident for more than 50 years, created a landscape with a tremendous amount of curb appeal, reflecting the character of the home. Andrea’s design includes a balanced mix of shrubs, ground cover, potted plants, large stones, and decorative statues.

Natural look compliments historic home

Joy Andrea says she enjoys maintaining her new landscape. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Home

Joy Andrea says she enjoys maintaining her new landscape. Photo: Helix Water District

Andrea transformed the previous all-lawn landscape into a low-water-use front yard with a thriving fruit and vegetable garden in the back yard.

“When I first moved here, all this was grass that you would have to water with a hose, or it would go brown in the summer,” said Andrea. “The neighbors that used to live around me would have to be outside watering with a hose. Bless their hearts, I never wanted that. It is more rewarding for me to plant, prune and maintain this space than a flat lawn.”

Joy Andrea selected plants with a consistent grey-blue theme showing pops of color throughout her La Mesa home. Photo: Helix Water District

Joy Andrea selected plants with a consistent grey-blue theme showing pops of color throughout her La Mesa home. Photo: Helix Water District

“I wanted to create an old-fashioned, natural look to compliment my 1925 historic home,” said Andrea. “That’s what I tried to create and the plants take on a character of their own.”

Andrea selected plants with a consistent grey-blue theme showing pops of color throughout. Plants featured in the landscape include pride of Madeira, gazania, blue fescue, bottle brush, felt plant, jasmine, and various succulents.

Numerous wrought iron statues decorate the landscape. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Home

Numerous wrought iron statues decorate the landscape. Photo: Helix Water District

Andrea placed numerous wrought iron statues within the landscape, inspiring imagination and life from every angle. She also included a bottle brush tree and used larger shrubs bordering the landscape. Containers are filled with succulent groupings spilling out.

The landscape design shows how smaller spaces commonly found in front of most residential homes can feel bigger by creating points of interest and using a variety of plants and trees to add color and character.

Design advice for a landscape you love

The landscaping uses drip irrigation and spray emitters to direct water where it is needed. Photo: Helix Water District

She has some advice for others wanting to makeover their landscapes.

“Pick hardy drought-resistant plants that you love and enjoy seeing,” she said. “Remember to keep your small plants in the front and have your taller plants toward the back and if you don’t like what you have, don’t be afraid to take it out, replant it or get something else.”

The irrigation system uses efficient drip emitters for the larger plants and tall pop-up sprays for the groundcover. Andrea enjoys tending to her potted plants by hand-watering them.

“Water is our single most important commodity on the planet,” said Andrea. “We must all use it carefully and not just in our yards and landscapes, but with everything we do.”

Annual competition invites residents to share their projects

Share your landscape makeover skills in next year's contest to inspire your neighbors. Photo: Helix Water District

Share your landscape makeover skills in next year’s contest to inspire your neighbors. Photo: Helix Water District

The annual landscape makeover competition recognizes residents for outstanding water-efficient landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, appropriate plant selection, and maintenance.

Photos of Andrea’s yard will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with past winners of the Helix Water District contest and those of other participating water agencies in San Diego County.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego County region.) 

Matilija poppies, or Romneya coulteri, have the largest flower of any poppy. It's native to dry, sunny areas from California to Baja and are good choiices for successful sustanable landscaping. Photo: Kimberly Rotter / Pixabay

How to Pick Your Plants for a Successful WaterSmart Landscape

Once your WaterSmart Living Landscape design starts coming together, pick your plants for each water-use category to ensure you meet your WaterSmart water conservation goals. Focus on local native plants or plants from similar climate regions.

Let this video help you choose the right plants for our Mediterranean climate

 Once you’ve chosen your plant types, there are additional important considerations.

Design for mature plant size: Allow enough space for the plants you select to grow to their full size to avoid overcrowding or the need for excessive pruning.

Growing conditions: Select plants suited for your microclimate, soil type, and drainage to achieve optimum plant growth.

Even the strictest drought restrictions allow for watering trees on residential and commercial properties. Photo: Otay Water District tree care tips

Even the strictest drought restrictions allow for watering trees on residential and commercial properties. Photo: Otay Water District

Tree placement: Typically, a planting design will include a tree or two for shade. Placing a deciduous tree on the south or west side of your home will shade your house during the summer to keep it cool and allow more light and sun exposure in the winter. Keep trees at least 10′ from foundations. In fire hazard areas, trees should be placed, so the mature canopy is at least 10 feet away from any structures.

Shrub placement: Shrub and groundcover planting is typically designed with various heights. Medium size (three to four foot) shrubs are usually placed closer to the house to create a “foundation” or backdrop. Smaller shrubs are then placed in front of the foundation planting and low groundcovers in the area closest to the sidewalk or street.

Accent shrubs can provide a unique texture, color, or flowers. Place them so they provide interest and focus views on locations in the landscape. Highlight your entrance walk with special accent plants. This places a higher emphasis on your entry, which is where you want visitors to be directed.

Be bold and have fun. Don’t be afraid to express your individual tastes.

Using water features and higher water use plants

Determine water use before choosing plants for your new sustainable landscaping. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water has been a precious resource throughout history in arid regions of the world. This perspective has been integrated into Mediterranean landscapes by using water only in the most important areas.

If you have some high water use plants you particularly want to include, they can be used. Strive to include no more than 10% high water use plants or water features in your landscape, so choose carefully.

Hyrdozones and water-efficiency

If you choose to include plants not classified as very low or low water use, be sure to group these moderate or high water use plants together. Grouping plants of similar water use together, known as planting in hydrozones, makes it easier to irrigate efficiently by letting you concentrate additional water only where it is needed.

Higher water use plants should be on a separate irrigation valve so you can water them differently than the rest of the garden.

Mediterranean landscapes also historically used water features for a pleasant and calming sound. The water area of the fountain will lose water at about the same rate as cool-season turf grass or another high-water use plant. By minimizing the square footage of open water, a water feature can fit well into the WaterSmart landscape.

Minimizing turf use

Limit the amount of turf in your design as much as possible. If you choose to incorporate turf, consider a warm-season turf that uses less water than traditional cool-season turf. Warm-season turf such as Hybrid Bermuda or UC Verde Buffalo Grass thrives in the hot months of the year and naturally go dormant in winter. Another less thirsty grass to consider is Carex praegracilis or California Field Sedge.


WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart choices are a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.)

Scotch broom's blooms are pretty, but it is a non-native invasive species and should be avoided. Photo: Armen Nano/Pixabay

Five Pushy Plant Pests To Avoid

San Diego County’s mild Mediterranean climate allows nearly any type of plants to flourish with adequate irrigation. But when non-native plants are planted alongside native plants, they do their best to take over.  These are plant pests. The worst of them overrun valuable native plant species. They drain limited rainfall and soil nutrients away from native plants which have developed the ability to better manage limited resources. The natives are not as aggressive and can’t compete with the non-native bullies.

Public enemies of your landscaping

Brazilian pepper trees are invasive with damaging roots. Photo: Sabine Schmidt/Pixabay

Brazilian pepper trees are invasive with damaging roots. They are non-native plants you should avoid in a watersmart landscape plan Photo: Sabine Schmidt/Pixabay

Plant pests

You may have planted a few of these common choices in your landscaping without knowing it. They are still sold commercially. These non-natives take up too much space to co-exist with native low-water use plants. If your landscaping gives pushy plant pests a home, remove them at the soonest opportunity.

  • African Fountain Grass
  • Periwinkle
  • Brazilian Pepper Tree
  • Scotch Broom
  • Mexican Feather Grass

Very few non-native specific offer any benefits to the San Diego region’s environment. Local animals and insects prefer native species for food and habitat. Invasive species should also be removed from commercial nursery stock, and shouldn’t ever be planted in the first place. You can help weed them out by removing them.

How to identify non-native plants

The California Invasive Plant Council maintains a list of invasive plants that cause problems throughout the state. This list only addresses plants that are a problem and may miss regional problems. For a list, visit the Plant Right website.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.