mandatory water reductions taking effect in cities across southern California,
it is time for homeowners to look at ways to reduce water consumption. One of
the quickest and easiest means of cutting back on water use is planting a low
water use landscape.
Numbers vary, but the average Southern California family uses about 500 gallons
of water every day, with 70 percent of that water going to outdoor uses,
according to the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts. "Replacing
high water use plants with drought tolerant plants can quickly meet the state's
20 percent voluntary water reduction level and any mandatory reductions a city
might impose," says Bill Camarillo, Agromin CEO.
| Azalea blooms|
Tropical and exotic plant species including hibiscus love water. Ferns and some
types of groundcovers such as lily of the valley also soak up water. "Typically, the larger the leaves, the greater the need for water," says Howard
Schau, director of TLM Services, Inc., a landscape management company serving
southern California. "Other big water users are annuals. While they are
beautiful in summer, they need lots of water to keep them that way, and then
they’re gone. Outdoor container plants also are water wasters. They dry out quickly
because they don’t have the ability to store water."
Schau suggests a landscape with a variety of native plants. "Contrary to what
many people believe, many of these plants create beautiful flowers that enhance
the garden." Flowering shrubs and plants include Russian sage, lantana, azalea,
Bougainvillea, bluebeard, hydrangea, lavender, daylilies and snapdragon.
Groundcover that does well in drought conditions are festuca, ice plant and
"Check with your local nursery. Just about all nurseries now carry a large
assortment of low water usage plants," says Schau. "My clients who have
switched to a drought tolerant landscape tell me that they’ve saved on their
monthly water bill. With water costs going up, the savings will be even more
The biggest users of outdoor water are lawns. "A lot of us water incorrectly so
we use more water than we should," says Camarillo. He suggests watering no more
than two times a week (three times during hot months) for approximately 15
minutes in the evening or in the early morning hours so evaporation is minimal. "You want the water to penetrate deeply into the soil to force roots to grow
downward. Roots will stay cool and moist the farther down they grow. Watering
for five minutes a day does nothing. The roots remain near the surface, which
means they will easily dry out and your lawn will wither," he explains.
Better yet, says Camarillo, reduce or remove your lawn altogether. A number of
cities are offering lawn removal rebates of $2 a square foot or more. "Reduce
or replace your lawn with drought-friendly plants and with mulch," he suggests. "Barks and mulches are a beautiful addition to a landscape as well as water
savers. A three-inch layer keeps the ground cool and holds in moisture. When it
does rain, it prevents soil erosion. It also stymies weed growth."
Both Camarillo and Schau believe homeowners do not have to give up on their
landscape because of drought conditions. "I've seen many homeowners just
letting their lawns and gardens die as their answer to high water prices," says
Schau. "You can still maintain a beautiful landscape with minimal cost and
maintenance. We've experienced drought conditions off and on for a number of
years. It's the new normal. It’s time our landscaping reflect this reality."
Labels: cutting back on water outside, drought-tolerant landscape, drought-tolerant plants, how to reduce water use, replacing lawn, Southern California drought