Growing a water-conserving garden in California does not mean you have to throw a bunch of cacti in your yard. There are plenty of flowers, both native and otherwise, that do splendidly in Southern California’s environment, and you can find blossoms in most colors.
Start with hoary California fucshia (Epilobium [Zauschneria] canum), a low-growing but spreading perennial. Tubular or trumpet-shaped red to orange-red flowers hang down from this plant, which requires little water once you get it established.
What else would go with orange but the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)? This bright orange flower is drought-resistant and grows well as long as frosts don’t damage it.
If you prefer something darker, try desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), a (leggy if not controlled) shrub that has multiple cuplike blooms on stalks.
Try the good old sunflower (Helianthus spp.). You can get cultivars that produce edible seeds, and it’s easy to harvest them once the blooms are mature and drying out.
Maybe a little cacti could be a good thing. For green flowers, try a cactus variably known as golden cholla, silver cholla, or Wiggin’s cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa). (Note: Not the jumping cholla.) Some of these have pink flowers, but many have yellowish-green blooms. Be aware that this cactus grows fairly tall — keep it in back in your garden.
Try annual phacelias (Phacelia spp.). There are hairs on the leaves and stems that can cause a skin reaction in sensitive people, so wear a long-sleeved smock when cutting these. Other than that, these are beautiful blue flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators.
For purple, go for rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). These small succulent rosettes produce one flower on a tall stem. The blossom is cuplike and hard to miss. Plant a whole bed of these for an interesting show.
To ensure you have enough water for all the flowers you want, switch out your lawn for artificial turf. Aside from an occasional wash, the turf needs no water itself.
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