Governor Brown's call for mandatory water cutbacks for all Californians leaves a lot of us wondering what more we can do to save water, especially outdoors.

Water-wise landscapes are devised to use as little irrigation as possible and to use that water as efficiently as possible. This can be done by designing landscapes that capture and efficiently use rainwater; amending and improving soil so it retains moisture better and longer; grouping plants with similar water requirements together to most efficiently use irrigation water (also known as hydrozoning); and mulching around plants and in garden beds to hold moisture around plant roots.

While all of these practices are important to implement in a water-wise garden, one of the most effective water-wise practices is to use the right plants—ones that are labeled drought and heat tolerant and “water-wise.”

Keep in mind that drought tolerance, heat tolerance and “water-wise” mean different things.

Water-wise plants may need extra water when they are first planted, but once established they require moderate or less than moderate amounts of water compared to other, thirstier plants.

Drought tolerant plants need very little water.

Heat tolerant plants can endure and sometimes even thrive in high temperatures.

Does having a water-wise garden mean resorting to a desertscape design filled with cacti and tumbleweed? Not at all!

Water conserving plants offer a diverse array of blooms, foliage, size and growth habits that can suit many landscape plans. 

Looking for a drought tolerant edging or border grass? Try the Evercolor® ‘Everillo' Carex.

Sunset's ‘Silver Shadow' Astelia, ‘Design-A-Line' Cordyline, ‘Diamond Heights' Ceanothus, Blush Pink™ and Flirt™ Nandinas, Chef's Choice® Rosemary, and ‘Soft Caress' Mahonia are all water-wise choices. ‘Amistad' Salvia is both drought and heat tolerant, and Black Adder Phormium is a triple crown— drought and heat tolerant and water-wise.

Explore these and other Sunset plant possibilities that can offer beauty and diversity to a sustainable garden. It's a fun way to design with water savings in mind.