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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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Thursday - July 18, 2013

From: San Jose, CA
Region: California
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Perennials in San Jose, CA
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Hello I am a SLT home owner in San Jose, Ca. and want to plant drought tolerant shrubs and perennials. We don't have irrigation but plan to put a timer on a nozzle and run some lines. At least I am told we are able to do this. What are some shrubs that are indigenous to our area and grow in part sun/shade? To beautify the area I plan to purchase some boulders to complement the area as well.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: California, Habit (shrub or herb), Duration – Perennial, light requirement (part shade and shade), soil moisture (dry).  You can narrow down this search further by indicating blooming time, blooming color and height specifics.
Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list. Think about including plants that have interest during a variety of seasons and that have more than one attractive feature (flower, fruit, foliage, bark, etc.) so you can get more benefits out of fewer plants. 
Some of the shrubs to consider are:
Atriplex canescens (chamiso)

Ceanothus velutinus (snowbrush)

Fallugia paradoxa (Apache plume)

Forestiera pubescens (stretchberry)

Larrea tridentata (creosote bush)

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)

And some perennials to consider are:
Anaphalis margaritacea (Western pearly everlasting)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterflyweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf coreopsis)

Eriophyllum confertiflorum (golden yarrow)

Geum triflorum (old man’s whiskers)

Glandularia bipinnatifida (purple prairie verbena)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Chamiso
Atriplex canescens

Snowbrush
Ceanothus velutinus

Apache plume
Fallugia paradoxa

Elbow bush
Forestiera pubescens

Creosote bush
Larrea tridentata

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Golden yarrow
Eriophyllum confertiflorum

Old man's whiskers
Geum triflorum

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida

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