• Heat-proof your Sierra foothill garden

    by  • June 8, 2014 • Drought tolerant plants

    In our third year of drought in the Sierra foothills, we search for ways to allow our gardens to survive.   Here, you’ll see how to make your garden thrive!  Learn which plants to grow, how to water and how to preserve that water once it’s in the soil.  Included is a print and keep ‘ideal’ plant list.

    Number one: Plant the right plants

    Mediterranean climate has rain in the Winter and no rain in the Summer. Such a climate is rare on our planet. In addition to parts of California, it only exists in some places in the Mediterranean, in South Africa, and in parts of Chile and Australia. Those places have plants that are adapted to at least six months of dryness.
    Mediterranean plants will feel right at home here. In reality, the most drought tolerant plants are usually the native plants of your area.

    Cleveland sage and Rudbeckia

    Cleveland sage and Rudbeckia


    • Plant in zones…group sun loving plants together with shade lovers under the oaks ad pines (but ten ft away from the trunks) Place plants that need more water nearest the house.
    • Water only before dawn and after dusk to reduce water loss due to evaporation and wind


    Drip watering uses very little water

    Drip watering uses very little water

    Drip systems made simple:

    1. Arrange the drip hose in a circle around a flower or shrubbery bed.
    2. Attach flow regulator and a timer and connect the hose to a water faucet.
    3. Fold the end over and attach the ‘figure eight’ drip hose end.
    4. Assemble drip sprayers with a stake, a riser and a sprayer tip.
    5. Attach in evenly spaced intervals along the hose with thin tubing and connectors


    • Maintain sprinklers, valves and pipes. A broken spray sprinkler wastes 10 gallons per minute or 100 gallons in a typical 10 minute watering cycle.


    Think about adding a dripper to your birdbath!


    Shasta daisies, Monarda and Russian sage

    Shasta daisies, Monarda and Russian sage

    • Deep watering, less often,…the exact opposite that many schedule their irrigation.
    • Place a 2- or 3-inch layer of mulch over bare dirt to reduce water evaporation, improve the soil, and help control weeds. Weed seeds cannot germinate without sunlight. Each year, I turn mine under and add new for better and better soil.
    • Replace lawn areas with paths and ‘water-smart’ groundcovers, trees and shrubs whenever possible.


    Give your trees a deep watering with a hose about every two weeks. If you lose your lawn, it’s not the end of the world, but if you lose a tree, you’ve lost years of a shade canopy, and a nice wildlife habitat.


    Sedum 'Vera Jameson' with Purple culinary sage and lavender Million bells

    Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’ with Purple culinary sage and lavender Million bells

    Discover succulents! Succulents saved me when we’d travel and my patio pots suffered. I had tried annuals, then perennials and finally had success with succulents. The only caution, make sure they are at least Zone 6 or cold hardy to 10 degrees OR see what your neighbor can grow. Great for pots and in the ground.

    Some cold hardy succulents are sedum, echeveria, aloe, sempervivum, agave, yucca and graptosedum.


    2014 Lavender field

    Spanish lavender field


    An ideal list of plant perfect for the Sierra foothills

    If you stick to this list, you’ll have the most easy care, unthirsty and colorful garden ever!

    Lavender, Spanish
    Lavender, French
    Lavender, English
    Rosemary, upright and prostrate
    Rockrose, Orchid and Sunset
    Santolina, grey and green
    Black-eyed Susan
    Ceanothus(wild lilac)
    Salvia, Autumn sage, Blue oak sage
    Catmint, Nepeta
    Day lilies
    Hummingbird mint, Agastache
    Blue fescue
    Russian sage


    More Ideal plants for the Sierra Foothills

    Our climate is typical Mediterranean where summers are dry and winters wet. We’re having the driest Spring since 1895, so drought tolerant plants and good watering practices will be key this summer.

    PRINT and keep this list!  All these plants thrive in my garden,…we have deer,…lots of deer.


    Covering the ground (To prevent weeds)

    Germander (Teucrium), sun to part shade

    Snow in Summer, sun to part shade

    Creeping thyme, sun

    Lamb’s Ears, sun to part shade

    True geranium, part shade

    Creeping sage, ‘Bee’s Bliss’


    The big guns

    ’Sunset’ Rockrose, sun to part shade

    Rosemary,..the standby

    Wild lilac, (ceanothus) creeping form, sun

    Pyracantha, (Firethorn) pinned to the ground and pruned, sun


    Dry shade:

    What to plant under oaks and pines. (4-5ft from the trunk)

    Iris, sun to part shade

    Coral bells (Heuchera), part shade

    Western Sword fern, part shade

    Rosemary, sun

    Bergenia, sun to part shade

    Bugleweed (Ajuga), sun to part shade

    St John’s Wort, sun to part shade


    Part shade

    Foxglove, part shade

    Rhododendrons, Azaleas, part to open shade

    Campanula (Bellflower), part shade

    Penstemon, sun to part shade

    Abelia, ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Frances Mason’



    Some plants may be new to you!

    Catmint, sun

    Spirea, sun

    Santolina, grey and green, sun

    Wild lilac (Ceanothus), all forms, sun

    Wallflower, sun to part shade

    Russian sage, sun

    Butterfly bush (Buddleia), sun

    Euphorbia, gopher repeller! sun to part shade

    Artemisia, Dusty Miller, most herbs

    Standbys: Lavender, rosemary, rockrose



    Sycamore, sun

    Box Elder, sun

    Redbud, part shade

    Japanese maple, part shade


    More on perfect plants for our Mountain Community:

    An ideal plant list for a Sierra foothill garden


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.