Water-Wise Plants

Plants native to the Mediterranean climate offer a richness and variety of species not found elsewhere, and California is one of only five areas in the world with such a climate. There is no shortage of attractive, colorful plants that require minimal watering once established.

To make sure you choose the right plants for your garden, familiarize yourself with the following before heading to the nursery:
  • Your soil type: Clay, sandy, loamy, or something in between. Unless amended, nearly all soils in Marin are clay.
  • Your climate: Full sun, partial shade, wind and temperature range.
  • Plant watering requirements: High-water-users should be grouped together, as should low-water-users.
  • The plant's role in the garden: Is it to provide a screen, focal point, background, or shade?
  • The characteristics you want the plant to have: Evergreen, deciduous, flowering, leaf type, color, shape, texture, and size at maturity
  • City or county regulations, such as height restrictions

Water-Wise Plant Links

Whether you choose native plants or imports, make sure you select plants that are compatible with Marin's Mediterranean climate. Mediterranean plants require warm, dry summers and receive most of their moisture during the winters. Our Watershed Approach to Landscaping handbook provides a list of more than 110 water-wise plants, landscape design tips, gardening how-to, local nurseries and other resources for MMWD customers. The Marin Master Gardeners Plant Guide and the California Native Plant Society's Calscape websites are also great resources for water-wise plants.

Avoid Invasive & Fire-Prone Plants

When selecting plants for your landscape, there are many factors that should be considered in addition to water conservation, including avoiding invasive plants and reducing fire hazards. Invasive plants introduced into local landscapes often end up invading surrounding natural areas, choking out natural plant communities and sometimes creating fire hazards. For more information on plants to avoid, visit the California Invasive Plant Council's website. The PlantRight website offers recommendations for beautiful, climate-appropriate alternatives in place of common invasives.

With regard to fire safety, some plants are more fire-prone than others. Check with your local fire department for information before selecting plants for your landscape. In addition, use online resources, such as FIRESafe Marin, to learn how to reduce landscape fire hazards.