Transform Your Garden: 17 Drought-Tolerant Plants Southern California

Having drought-tolerant plants Southern California might be not that difficult to find one. Since there are various California native plants that you can choose for your houseplants. Most of them are drought tolerant plants, like full sun exposure, and no worries about its maintenance.

Unless for the cacti or succulent type, the plants in Southern California are fast growing as well. So that it is good for you to enjoy the beautiful and different view in all seasons.

Check out our top selection of drought tolerant plants Southern California.

BEST Drought-Tolerant Plants Southern California

Looking to create a vibrant and sustainable garden in Southern California’s arid climate? Embrace the beauty and resilience of drought-tolerant plants! These remarkable flora have adapted to thrive in low-water conditions, making them perfect choices for conserving water and reducing maintenance efforts. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting your green journey, these best drought-tolerant plants will add an array of colors, textures, and fragrances to your outdoor space, all while embracing the unique charm of Southern California’s landscapes.

Let’s explore the top choices for your drought-resistant oasis:

1. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum Esculentum)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum Esculentum)

This is the best selection of drought-tolerant plants Southern California you can choose. Choosing Buckwheat to be planted inside your garden will not only good choice of drought tolerant plants, but also will attract birds, bees and insects to come.

So that the small ecosystem of life can be done perfectly in your garden. Besides, you can choose whether the small, medium or big version of buckwheat. You can adjust it based on the space of your garden.

2. Toyon (Heteromeles Arbutifolia)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Toyon (Heteromeles Arbutifolia)

You may call it Christmas Berry since the color of the flowers look like a redberry, and produces wild berry for the birds as well. This variety is a drought tolerant plants in Southern California, with a very easy maintenance including the less water usage for this shrubs.

This perennial shrub produces the berries that become favorite for California’s animals such as birds and coyote. Furthermore, after it is grown and established, this plant doesn’t need water in the summer. What a tough plants!

3. Lemonade Berry (Rhus Integrifolia)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Lemonade Berry (Rhus Integrifolia)

A hint of aromatic fragrance appears from this shrub plant type. The Lemonade Berry can be planted under the full sun exposure. Also, it is a cold hardy up to 10°F. You can enjoy the dark green leaves and leathery textured. This plant is one of native California plants as well, so that you can find it easily for your garden.

4. Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus Sericea)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus Sericea)

When you are looking for something that can be your house companion during all seasons. The red bright branched will stand beautiful and tough groundcover during winter. While on Spring, the Red Twig Dogwood will bloom beautifully, and from Summer to Fall, you can see the berries appear.

Although this plant likes full sun, you better choose the moist soil to plant it. Furthermore, there are three types of Red Twig Dogwood for you to be planted, while the Cornus Sericea or you can call it Red Osier Dogwood is the most common in California.

5. California Cholla (Cylindropuntia Californica)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
California Cholla (Cylindropuntia Californica)

Talking about drought-tolerant plants Southern California, you cannot deny to include the succulent type to be planted. For instance, there is California Cholla. This plant is native to Southern California and often found in coastal sage scrub, and many more. As the shape that looks like snake, people also call it snake cholla.

Some people may think it is less attractive plants, but there are three colors of flowers appear from this variety. There are yellow, purple, and red flowered. Besides, you already understand that planting succulent will the water efficient level becomes better. Because you don’t need to worry about watering it.

6. Blue Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra ssp Caerulea)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra Ssp Caerulea)

This plant is deciduous shrub or small tree with small flowers rise beautifully. The flowers colors are cream and yellow. While the berries are blue that produce perfectly during fall. The blue elderberry is tough plant and drought tolerant since the trees appear more attractive than the one that gets watering regularly.

As long as there is full sun, this plant is happy! If you loves birds coming to your house, then get this Blue Elderberry to your yard. Because the berries are very important for the birds in California.

7. Shaw’s Agave (Agave Shawii)

Another succulent plant as a drought-tolerant plants Southern California. The Shaw’s Agave can be your best choice for the ground covers since it is tough, need less water, prefer full sun to partial sun, and can be found easily in California, particularly in San Diego.

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Shaw’s Agave (Agave Shawii)

This succulent grows very slowly, but you can see the beautiful and gigantic flowers rise once they are mature. You need well-draining or sandy soil to plant Shaw’s Agave with a full sun exposure, so that this variety will grow happily without any worries.

8. Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea Ambigua)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea Ambigua)

Enjoy a beautiful orange flowers that will bloom in early spring. This drought tolerant plant is an evergreen shrub that can be found along Southern California and the central area. Dry area is a favorite place for Desert Mallow to grow.

Moreover, this plant will attract hummingbirds as soon as the flowers bloom. If you plan to add the plants collection into your plants container, then this one will be an excellent choice.

9. Globe Gilia (Gilia Capitata)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Globe Gilia (Gilia Capitata)

At a glance, you will think that Globe Gilia is a dandelion in a blue version. The perfect blooms of this flower reminds you of the dandelion. Although the common color for this variety is blue, there are other colors that you can enjoy through this plant. There are pink, white and lavender that can bloom beautifully as flowers clusters.

This is not only easy to take care, but the most beautiful drought-tolerant plants Southern California. Most people successfully planting this native flower, so that you can do too.

10. Catalina Mariposa Lily (Calochortus Catalinae)

drought-tolerant plants southern California
Catalina Mariposa Lily

Is it possible to enjoy Lily blooming in Southern California? The answer is yes, definitely! You can see the stunning Lily of Catalina Mariposa Lily inside your garden. The big white petals and dark red base will turn your yard into something impressive to look at.

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11. Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)

Crape Myrtle
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)

You can get the amusing view in all seasons by planting Crape Myrtle in your yard. This drought tolerant plant will produces colorful fall foliage, cool exfoliating bark during winter, and in spring until summer, the blooming pink flowers can be seen.

For this plant, you can choose the exact size or the smaller size, because there is dwarf size for Crape Myrtle, so that your small yard is still suitable for this variety. Furthermore, this plant can be planted in all season, but they prefer for more sun exposure. More sun means happier!

12. Catalina Cherry (Prunus Ilicifolia Ssp. Lyonii)

Catalina Cherry
Catalina Cherry (Prunus Ilicifolia Ssp. Lyonii)

Although this tree grows into a large evergreen shrubs, when blooming time, the creamy white flowers spike beautifully as the flowers clusters. During summer, this tree will produce edible cherry fruit.

That’s why the birds will love to come to the tree to eat the fruits. Moreover, this plant loves full sun, so it is good for you who have a spacious open backyard and choose Catalina Cherry as your drought tolerant plants in California.

13. Baccharis


A stunning perennial shrub you can have by planting Baccharis in your yard. There will be a pure white flowers bloom in spring and summer. This plant is salt-water tolerant as well, so that if you live near from the ocean, this plant can beautify your garden.

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14. Deergrass (Muhlenbergia Rigens)

Deer Grass
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia Rigens)

This grass is different from the ordinary grass since the color is light silver-green to purple, depend on the season. Only by seeing the appearance, you will know that this plant is drought tolerant plant.

You can find this variety easily in Southern California, because they grow perfectly in coastal area. If you want to plant this, you should consider that this one is a fast growing, so that trim it regularly will be the best way to make it look neat.

15. Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntias)

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntias)
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntias)

As you see the look of this plant, you know that cacti won’t need much water. This pretty Opuntia produces amazing purple flowers with unusual shapes. Besides, Opuntias are good in adapting in all climates. Hence, you can get it in your house as your favorite plants.

16. African Sumac (Rhus Lancea)

African Sumac (Rhus Lancea)
African Sumac (Rhus Lancea)

A stunning evergreen tree will turn your house into more shady. This drought tolerant plant has a beautiful canopy through its branches and foliage. Moreover, the fruits can be eaten by the birds, so that you can hear the birds chirping as they enjoy the fruits from this African Sumac. Although this tree does not need much water, it is still a fast growing plant.

17. Olea Europaea Wilsonii

Olea Europaea Wilsonii
Olea Europaea Wilsonii

This plant enjoys the full sun all day long. It doesn’t need much water since this one can be easily found in California and Arizona. This plant produces olive fruit, but sometimes it is not. The edible fruits can be eaten by the birds as well.

Final Thought

As you embark on your journey to create a drought-tolerant garden in Southern California, remember that these resilient plants are not only water-wise but also full of character and beauty. Embracing drought-tolerant plants allows you to express your creativity while contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment. Whether you’re aiming for a vibrant floral display or a serene desert oasis, the diverse selection of drought-tolerant plants offers endless possibilities for your outdoor space.

With their ability to thrive in low-water conditions, these plants prove that a water-wise garden can be just as captivating and inviting as any other. So, roll up your sleeves, get your hands in the soil, and let these remarkable plants transform your garden into a picturesque haven that not only survives but thrives in the arid climate of Southern California. Happy gardening!

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are all California native plants drought tolerant?

Most California native plants are drought tolerant, since the plants already adapted to the weather and climate there. Drought tolerant, enjoy the full of sun, low maintenance to take care of are the significant characteristics you can see through California native plants.

Moreover, Californian native plant species have not only stunning qualities, but they can withstand droughts as well. The plants help sustain ecosystems in the area, and give habitat for birds, butterflies, and pollinator species.

What plants grow year round in California?

What plants are growing throughout California? Crape Myrtle will spoil your eyesight with beautiful view. The blooming flowers in spring, fruits in summer, fall foliage, and stunning exfoliating bark when the winter comes.

What is the most drought tolerant plant?

Buckwheat and Agave Shawii are the most drought tolerant plants. Buckwheat is strong and best drought tolerant plant in California. While, the succulent type plant will not only beautify your garden, but also becomes your best companion. 

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