Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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



Creeping sage
Salvia sonomensis

Coastal sagebrush
Artemisia californica

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Landscaping plant for Austin
September 01, 2011 - Great site! Have gotten lots of ideas. We're about to start construction on a fairly major landscaping project: raised beds/privacy screen. We're at the top of a hill in the Hill Country just wes...
view the full question and answer

Sun loving plants for flower bed by the pool in Weatherford Texas
October 03, 2011 - We have a 40' long x 2 1/2' wide flowerbed along our pool. It is in full sun with the pool deck across the front and a 6' privacy fence across back. Also, the level of the bed is 18" below the l...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover and Butterfly attractants for LaRue Texas
May 02, 2012 - LaRue, TX - Would like a native low growing plant as a groundcover. I would like it for six+ hours of sun, drought tolerant, and ones that butterflies might enjoy, while deer won't. Some winter int...
view the full question and answer

Ilex vomitoria Sufering from Drought?
January 19, 2012 - My Ilex vomitoria has always thrived. It is about ten years old. This fall, a portion of the leaves on the ends of the branches have turned yellow on the edges with green veining in the center. Othe...
view the full question and answer

Plants Needed for a Shaded, Rocky Slope in Alabama
July 06, 2016 - I live in Alabama where the soil is clay and rocky. I've tried planting on a rocky slope I have but, it's also shaded. Not even Juniper will survive on this slope. I've spent thousands of dollars tryi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.