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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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Wednesday - August 08, 2012

From: Tujunga, CA
Region: California
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Groundcovers
Title: Groundcover for clay soil in Southern California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Southern California and have hard packed clay soil in my yard. Could you recommend ground cover that would be green, low to the ground, require little water and survive in clay? I can't afford heavy watering or would plant a lawn.

ANSWER:

Las Pilitas Nursery (with nurseries in Santa Margarita and Escondido, California) has a page with the title "Some of the California native plants that can be used as less than a foot high ground cover".  Here are some suggestions from that page—you can find other possibilities there as well:

Baccharis pilularis (Coyotebrush) is very drought tolerant and Las Pilitas has a Dwarf Coyotebrush (Baccharis pilularis pilularis Pigeon Point) that grows to a foot high.

California Buckwheat plants (there are many) are also a good possibility.   They are very drought tolerant and maintain their flowers for long periods.  In particular, take a look at Eriogonum fasiculatum polifolium (Interior California Buckwheat) and Eriogonum grande rubescens (Red buckwheat) and you can see photos and more information from San Marcos Growers.com.

Salvia sonomensis Farmar-Bower (Golden creeping sage) grows well in clay.

Artemisia californica Canyon Gray (Trailing sagebrush) is very drought tolerant, grows to 1 foot high and tolerates clay soil.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coyotebrush
Baccharis pilularis

Eastern mojave buckwheat
Eriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium

Eastern mojave buckwheat
Eriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium

Creeping sage
Salvia sonomensis

Coastal sagebrush
Artemisia californica

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