En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - September 26, 2013

From: Temecula, CA
Region: Select Region
Topic: Plant Lists, Drought Tolerant
Title: Water-wise plants for clay soil in southern California
Answered by: Nan Hampton


My yard is clay. I'm removing turf to put in water-wise plants and bushes. I need some low growing bushes and medium height bushes that will grow in clay and that will stay green in the summer. Hopefully there are some that flower and that attract butterflies. Thank you, Lilly


Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita and Escondido has a guide to Easy Garden Design:  Dry Clay with an extensive list of plants.  Here are a few recommendations of various sizes:

Arctostaphylos manzanita (Whiteleaf manzanita) is evergreen and grows 6 to 12 feet in dry soils.

Artemisia californica (Coastal sagebrush) grows to 1 to 3 feet in dry poor soils and is evergreen.

Baccharis pilularis (Coyotebrush) grows in dry soils up to4 to 8 feet high and wide and is evergreen.

Dendromecon rigida (Tree poppy) is evergreen and grows 6 to 12 feet in dry rocky or clay soils.

Ephedra viridis (Mormon tea) is evergreen and grows to 3 feet in dry soils.

Penstemon heterophyllus (Bunchleaf penstemon) is a 1.5 feet evergreen that grows in dry soils.

Rhus integrifolia (Lemonade sumac) is evergreen and can grow to 8 feet.

Solanum umbelliferum (Bluewitch) is a rounded subshrub that grows 2 to 3 feet in dry soils.

Sphaeralcea ambigua (Desert globemallow) is a perennial that grows 1 to 3 feet.

You can check out the other plants on the list on their web page and in our Native Plant Database (search by scientific name).


From the Image Gallery

Bigberry manzanita
Arctostaphylos glauca

Coastal sagebrush
Artemisia californica

Baccharis pilularis

Tree poppy
Dendromecon rigida

Mormon tea
Ephedra viridis

Bunchleaf penstemon
Penstemon heterophyllus

Lemonade sumac
Rhus integrifolia

Solanum umbelliferum

Desert globemallow
Sphaeralcea ambigua

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Eight Foot Screen for Austin, TX
September 01, 2011 - I'm looking for a fast-growing shrub to "extend" the height of my fence and provide privacy in my yard in Austin. My lot is pretty much full sun and very dry, mostly clay soil. 8' is my goal. Than...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for clay soil in Southern California
August 08, 2012 - 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 a...
view the full question and answer

Long Island Barrier Beach Plants
April 22, 2013 - I live on the south shore of Long Island on a barrier beach and am landscaping my property as a result of Sandy damage. I am going with a sand base, and I am looking for suitable trees and shrubs for...
view the full question and answer

Alternative to swamp sunflower for Austin
June 15, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I love this forum and have learned so much from it! Do you know of an alternative to Helianthus angustifolius L. (Swamp sunflower) that requires less water and would be m...
view the full question and answer

Finding a manzanita species suitable for Fort Worth, TX
April 28, 2015 - Which manzanita shrub would thrive best in the Fort Worth, Tx. area? I was thinking of planting it in a large pot. Thank You!
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center