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Water Efficient Landscaping Resources

A Smart Landscape Evaluation is a free service designed to assist residential, multi-family, and business customers with identifying inefficiencies and water waste as well as water savings opportunities indoors and in the landscape. Single-family participants can expect to have technicians review indoor fixtures and evaluate the performance of the site’s irrigation system. Multi-family and commercial customers are eligible for a free landscape survey. Participant will receive a list of site specific irrigation and maintenance recommendations and a proposed watering schedule. There is no obligation to implement recommendations and no solicitations. To schedule an appointment that is convenient for you, please call Mission Resource Conservation District at 866-883-1332 or visit 

Mulchin the landscape can save water by helping to prevent the moisture in the soil from evaporating. The El Corazon Compost Facility provides free compost, mulch and compost tea to Oceanside residents. Bring your drivers license, utility bill or other identification showing an Oceanside address. Self loading hours are Monday-Friday, 7:30 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and located at 3210 Oceanside Blvd., Oceanside. El Corazon also offers free community gardening classes “Home Grown” each month. For more information, please contact 760-439-9920 or 1-800-262-4168 x4.
For more information, visit

An interactive guide designed by local landscape and irrigation experts exclusively for San Diego residential landscapes. Includes design advice, plant information, and maintenance tips for when your California-friendly landscape is installed. 

For questions on home gardening and pest control, the Master Gardeners of San Diego have a free telephone “Hotline” that the public can call Monday-Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at 858-694-2860.

A great resource for information on native plants - where to buy them, how to install them and how to maintain them.
For more information, visit

The Buena Vista Native Plant Club is a recognized resource for north county native plant gardeners. The club meets on the 3rd Sunday of the month at the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center, 2202 S. Coast Hwy, Oceanside.  For more information, visit Native Plant Club

Garden spot Logo

A great resource for information on plants, design and irrigation tips.
For more information, visit

WC Garden Logo

The Water Conservation Garden has nearly five acres of displays that showcase water conservation through a series of beautiful themed gardens, such as a native plant garden and a vegetable garden, as well as how-to displays such as mulch and irrigation exhibits. Admission is free, and the Garden can be viewed on a self-guided tour, or through one of their programs. For more information, visit

Tips for Water-Efficient Landscaping

  1. Seasonal reminders:

    1. Winter is a great time to establish new landscapes or plants and make major changes or repairs to irrigation systems. If winter rains are adequate, you may be able to turn off the automatic sprinkler system.
    2. Spring is the time to check the battery in your irrigation controller. Without a battery backup, a power failure could cause your irrigation timer to default to a built-in schedule that will apply more water than your landscape needs.
    3. In summer, continue to monitor water use and the irrigation system to make sure plants receive the moisture they need in an efficient manner.
    4. Fall is the time to gradually decrease water to your garden. Check soil moisture and condition of plants, especially during the Santa Ana winds.
  2. Hardscaping (patios, decks, play areas, walkways, barbecue pits) can be a beautiful water-saving alternative to turf. Busy homeowners can incorporate low-maintenance designs into their yards without sacrificing beauty.
  3. Irrigate only if needed to maintain some moisture in the soil – increase or shorten irrigation times as the amount of daylight increases and decreases.
  4. You can add splashes of color to your garden with only small quantities of water-loving plants.
  5. Pull weeds as soon as they appear.
  6. Choose low-maintenance plants that require little irrigation.
  7. Groundcovers are an excellent substitute for turf, and generally require less water and labor to maintain.

Benefits and Savings:

  1. Save money on your water bill. Using less water could mean significant potential cost savings.
  2. Lower landscaping costs. Your site looks healthier and more attractive when plants get the amount of water they need. Healthy landscaping needs fewer plant replacements, less fertilizer, and fewer chemicals. Properly watered landscape is better able to resist drought or temporary water shortages.
  3. Lower irrigation system maintenance. A balanced system needs less maintenance and requires a smaller repair budget.
  4. Fewer hardscape repairs. Sidewalks, driveways, wall, fences and buildings last longer with fewer repairs when overspray and runoff are reduced.
  5. Increased property value. Attractive landscaping is one of the best investments you can make and produces higher than average revenue and return on investment.

Before beginning your low-water-use garden, take the following seven steps:

  1. Planning and Design. Planning and design require the skilled coordination of all seven Xeriscape principles. Organizing a garden for aesthetics, practicality, and most of all, water efficiency, can be complicated, and is easier with the assistance of a professional. Work with your landscape architect or designer to create a tropical, cottage, Mediterranean, or any style Xeriscape garden you desire.
  2. Practical Turf. Turf is the most water-thirsty landscape component. Design lawn areas for practical purposes; play, maintenance access, and light traffic. For some homeowners, a front lawn is unnecessary and can be replaced with trees, shrubs, boulders and pathways, or mulched areas.
  3. Efficient Irrigation. Many recent innovations in irrigation technology enable slow, steady, and specific water application. Look for words such as “low gallonage” or “low application rate.” Consider drip systems for shrubs and trees, and always locate turf on a separate valve.
  4. Soil Analysis. The addition of organic matter to the soil increases water retention and penetration. Get to know your soil and amend it prior to planting.
  5. Mulching. Two to three inches of mulch will keep soil cool and reduce evapotranspiration and weed growth. Mulch can be rocks, wood chips, bark, or shredded wood.
  6. Appropriate Plants. There is a place for every plant in a Xeriscape garden—when located correctly. Group plants according to their water and sun needs. This is called hydro-zoning. There are many interesting and colorful low-water-use plants now available. Take advantage of these whenever possible!
  7. Ongoing Maintenance. Seasonal irrigation adjustments and efficiency checks are maintenance practices that save water. Organic fertilizers and composting will improve soil texture and maintain vigorous plant growth.

 Recommended Plants for Low-Water Gardens:


Gazania “Sunrise Yellow”


Trailing Iceplant

Lampranthus spectabilis

Trailing African Daisy

Osteospermum fruticosum

Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium peltatum


Hemerocallis hybrids


Agapanthus africanus

Mexican Evening Primrose

Oenothera berlandieri


Rosmarinus officinalis “Prostratus”


Verbena rigida


English Lavender

Lavendula augustifolia

Sword Fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia

Tam Juniper

Juniperus Sabina “Tamariscifolia”

California Lilac

Ceanothus “Concha”

Heavenly Bamboo

Nandina domestica

Yew Pine

Podocarpus macrophyllus




Xylosma congestum

Natal Plum

Carissa grandiflora

Wild Lilac

Ceaonthus spp.


Cistus hybrids

Pride of Madeira

Echium fastuosum

Cape Plumbago

Plumbago auriculata




Heteromeles arbutifolia


Nerium oleander


Pittosporum tobira

Dwarf Mock Orange

Pittosporum t. “Wheeler’s Dwarf”

Creeping Coprosma

Coprosma kirkii


Lantana camara “Carnival”

Indian Hawthorne

Raphiolepis indica

Prostrate Acacia

Acacia redolens


Pink Melaleuca

Melaleuca nesophila

Canary Island Pine

Pinus canariensis

Floss Silk Tree

Chorisia speciosa


Eucalyptus spp.


Jacaranda mimosifolia

Catalina Ironwood

Lyonathammus floribundus

Lemon Gum

Eucalyptus citriodora

Mexican Fan Palm

Washingtonia robusta

Aleppo Pine

Pinus halepensis

Australian Willow

Geijera parviflora

Lemon Bottlebrush

Callistemon citrinus




Common Trumpet Creeper

Campis radicans

Hall’s Honeysuckle

Lonicera japonica “Halliana”

Cup-of-Gold Vine

Solandra maxima

Cape Honeysuckle

Tecomaria capensis


Wisteria spp.




Blanket Flower

Gaillardia grandiflora

Sea Lavender

Limonium perezii


Salvia spp

California Fuchsia


Gardens to Visit for Education and Inspiration

    MiraCosta College
  • The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College – call 619-660-0614 for information or visit
  • Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas – call 760-436-3036 for information.
  • MiraCosta College, Horticulture Department – call 1-888-201-8480, for more information.