Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Find the Right Plant for Your Landscape Plans Online

If you’re looking to upgrade your landscape or just love gardens, it can be challenging to choose the right plant that will thrive within your WaterSmart Living landscape plans for your specific conditions.

The online plant finder WaterSmart Landscaping in San Diego County can assist you through a comprehensive database of choices well suited to this region’s Mediterranean climate.

Pollinators and birds are attracted to native plants like this Stonecrop (Crassulae). Photo: City of Escondido

Pollinators and birds are attracted to native plants like this Stonecrop (Crassulae). Photo: City of Escondido

This interactive gardening tool has thousands of pictures of plants and garden designs. Take visual tours of beautiful, water-efficient landscapes through photographs that include hotlinks to plant information screens.

Photos are organized by landscape category to make them easy to find. Explore galleries of ideas for back yards, front yards, hillsides, patios, planters, and other outdoor living areas.

If you’re simply looking at plants, the online guide offers more than 1,000 plants and search tools that make plants easy to find.

Online guide features specialty plant sections

right plant

Beach strawberry makes an attractive lawn substitute. Photo: Flickr

Specialty sections include:

  • Lawn alternatives: Create non-traditional lawn space without thirsty turf.
  • Pollinator attracting plants: Pollinator gardens with flowers that provide pollen and nectar for pollinating insects provide vital nutrients to support the pollinator population, and preserve agriculture, ecosystems, and biodiversity.
  • Plants for fire safety: trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, and perennials that can help reduce fire intensity and do not contribute significantly to fuel the fire due to moisture or chemical content, or total volume.
  • California natives: Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water. They also provide vital habitat for birds and other wildlife and preserve’re exploring, save plant and garden images you like to your plant list, then print reports about them before you shop.
Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Go to the website to get started

Click through the navigation bar to see the lists and available resources.


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

In the November Garden, Carry On Cool-Weather Planting, But Cut Back on Water

While fall rains have already begun, climatologists predict a dry winter, courtesy of the long-anticipated La Niña conditions. Reservoirs are at dangerously low levels. There’s little chance of their being replenished this winter, according to predictions used by federal forestry and fire agencies.

Our governor has asked all Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15 percent. San Diego County Water Authority asked residents to reduce water use by 10 percent. No matter where in California we garden, it’s time we look hard for ways to use less water.

New Partnership Promotes WaterSmart Landscapes, Healthy Watersheds in San Diego County

Residents and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County are eligible for increased water-use efficiency rebates under a new partnership between the County’s Watershed Protection Program and the San Diego County Water Authority.

The County’s new Waterscape Rebate Program will save money for residential, commercial, and agricultural customers who make landscape upgrades that improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

Helix Water District-Demonstration Landscape-WaterSmart

Helix Water District Demonstration Landscape Blossoms

The plants are thriving at Helix Water District’s demonstration landscape just eight months after the project was completed. The WaterSmart plants at the District’s administration office in La Mesa beautify the neighorhood while inspiring people to install sustainable, WaterSmart landscaping.

“Everything is growing in beautifully,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “We started with smaller plants to reduce costs and planned for growth. We’re happy to share this resource with our customers and community.”

Demonstration landscape includes water-wise gardens

The demonstration landscape includes three unique water-wise gardens on the streets around the building, including a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native landscape along the building’s main entrance on Quince Street. Each garden started with smaller plants of varying colors, flowers and textures.

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Desert landscape on Lee Avenue at Helix Water District in La Mesa. Photo: Helix Water District

“The grasses in our native garden are filling in the mulched areas, creating a soft meadow-like appearance,” said Lugo. “We are also seeing the canopies of the Palo Verde trees expanding, and underneath, the succulents and agaves are blanketing the hillside, filling the landscape with color and texture.”

Helix Water District-Landscape-WaterSmart-Grasses

Grasses create a meadow-like appearance in some of the Helix Water District demonstration landscape gardens. Photo: Helix Water District

Plants provide wildlife habitat

The plants in all three of the gardens are adapted to San Diego’s climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. In addition to requiring less water, WaterSmart landscapes also require less maintenance and provide habitat for local wildlife like honeybees, birds and butterflies.

In each garden, plant markers provide the name of each plant and a QR code, which when scanned with a smartphone, provide each plant’s name, sun and water needs, mature size and photo.

Customers can also use the district’s interactive webpage to make a list of their favorite plants and download each garden’s design plan. Information on efficient irrigation and rebate programs is also available.

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Native, water-wise plants thrive on Quince Street in one of the Helix Water District gardens. Photo: Helix Water District

The project was completed in June 2020 and partially funded through a grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Helix Water District provides water treatment and distribution for 277,000 people in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas of Lakeside – east of downtown San Diego. Helix is also a founding member of The Water Conservation Garden, a nearly six-acre water-wise demonstration garden in El Cajon.

Plants on the Nifty 50 list have been selected because they are attractive, available in retail nurseries, non-invasive and thrive in San Diego County. Photo: Capri23auto/Pixabay

The Nifty 50: Best Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes

Are you looking for new plants or trees to upgrade your WaterSmart landscape? Check out the Nifty 50. These 50 plants and trees thrive in San Diego County’s arid climate, and the rainy fall and winter are a perfect time to introduce them into your landscape. They are attractive, non-invasive, easy to maintain and drought-tolerant.

Timing is important

During the first 12 months in your garden, called the establishment period, new plants need extra water. Before bringing them home, make sure to check your irrigation system and water pressure.

A good resource for estimating the right amount of water for your landscape is the City of San Diego’s Landscape Watering Calculator.

The calculator is based on historical weather data for your zip code and can tell you more about water requirements for the plants, soil and sprinkler type in each of your irrigation zones. It will work for any location in San Diego County.

Map out your landscape

Once you have an efficient irrigation system set up, choose your new plants. Trees are a great way to line your property and block out the sun, noise and wind. They can help you collect rainwater and provide a beautiful backdrop for other plants.

Certain types of shrubs pair well aesthetically and attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. California Lilac, Manzanita, and Toyon are good examples of shrubs that will bring pollinators and other wildlife to your garden.

To add some texture and dimension to your landscape, look for colorful groundcovers like Trailing Lantana or Stonecrop.

Authentic means sustainable

Plants native to the region have adapted over thousands of years, and native animal species depend on them as well. There are thousands of ground covers, grasses, succulents, perennials, shrubs, vines and trees to choose from in addition to the Nifty 50. For more information, go to