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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Woodland Hills, CA
Region: California
Topic: Turf
Title: Low maintenance, water and height lawn
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We would like to replace our lawn that covers a large area of our front and back yard and is watered daily and twice a day in summertime with drought resistant plants. Mr. Smarty Plants, could you recommend several low maintenance,low growing plants that need much less watering? Thank you.

ANSWER:

You've come to the right place. One of our jobs at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to advance the use of native plants in the landscape, because they require less fertilizer, less water and less care, and are much more resistant to the quirks of Nature, because they are already adapted to those quirks. So, here are several plants that should fit your needs in Southern California:

First, grasses that are not lawn grasses, but will give texture and movement to your garden are Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass, Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn), Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), and Muhlenbergia porteri (bush muhly).

Next, how about some flowers? Consider Abronia villosa (desert sand verbena), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed), Calochortus kennedyi (desert mariposa lily), Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed), Erysimum capitatum (sanddune wallflower).

This can go on and on, but you can make up your own lists. Go to "Combination Search" in the Plant Database, put in your requirements and press the "Submit" button. For grasses, when we used the requirements of sun, dry soil and grass, we got a list of 24 suggestions. For blooming plants, we checked "herbs" and received 101 hits. You could select succulents, shrubs, whatever you want to consider for your lower maintenance garden.

Now, you probably want to know where to find these plants. Go to "Suppliers" on this website, again, list your state and you'll get a list of approved native plant vendors. When you click on the name of a nursery, you'll get a page with addresses, phone numbers, e-mail address or website address.

Finally, need more help? Go to "How To Articles" and read up on wildlife gardening or landscaping with native plants, or whatever you need.


Carex texensis

Coreopsis lanceolata

 

 

 

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