Skip to main content
Buzz-words: Digging Deeper Into Environmental Garden Lingo
Buzz-words: Digging Deeper Into Environmental Garden Lingo Image

With all of the new gardening lingo, even the most experienced gardener may be intimidated by today’s nurseries. It doesn’t help that one nursery may call a plant drought-resistant and another call the same one drought-adapted! Cut out the confusion by reading the list of gardening terms, definitions, and applications below. 


“Drought-tolerant,” “Drought-resistant,” “Drought-adapted,” 


In all practical terms, these phrases mean the same thing! A drought tolerant garden is one that is able to thrive in high heat and low water conditions without demanding large extra quantities of water. In other words, it is a plant that can get by on just rainfall. That being said, not all locations are created equal. A drought in the valley can look very different from a drought in the desert. Because of this, when planning your own drought tolerant garden, you need to first understand your own microclimate (the climate conditions specific to your backyard). Watch the way the sunlight hits your space and where shade appears — not all drought-resistant plants like direct sunlight! Also consider how windy your space is because plants lose water faster in places with hot, dry winds. Lastly, check the drainage of your soil by digging a foot-deep hole and filling it with water. You want the water to be gone after an hour — not too fast or else the plant will dehydrate, but not too slow or else the roots will rot. While you may be very eager to start your drought-resistant garden as soon as possible, summer is not the best season to put in this type of garden. Plant between November and February to catch the winter rains and allow the roots to establish before the dry season. In the meantime, feel free to collect plants from local nurseries and store them until planting time. 


Cacti may be the most famous drought-resistant plants; however, they are not the only drought-resistant plants! Look for the following species the next time you are at a nursery to start your own drought-adapted garden: 


  • Evening Primrose: This is an herbaceous perennial that grows flat on the ground and in full sun. It has fragrant prink-white flowers between spring and fall. 
  • Hummingbird Sage: This easy to grow plant is also an herbaceous perennial and grows in full sun or partial shade. Look for its dark rose-lilac colored flowers between March and May. 
  • Big Berry Manzanita: This plant can be grown as a large shrub or small tree and requires full sun. This plant also flowers during winter and spring. 


Looking for more drought-resistant plants? Find a longer list here




Water-wise gardening (or ‘xeriscaping’) is the use of landscaping and gardening techniques to help conserve water while maintaining a beautiful garden. This can be done in many ways, but here are four water-wise gardening examples you can achieve in your garden today!


  1. Create hydrozones — A hydrozone is a section of your garden that groups together plants that require similar amounts of water. For example, groundcover plants require less water than plant beds, so they should be zoned separately. Doing this allows you to avoid watering the entire garden and focus on specific areas, reducing your overall water usage. 
  2. Shrink your lawn— To stay green, lawns need very large amounts of water. Reduce your lawn’s size or replace it altogether with a drought-resistant garden to reduce your water usage. 
  3. Irrigate efficiently — If you must irrigate, don’t overdo it! Install efficient sprinklers, drip emitters, and timers so that your plants only get the amount of water they need. Also consider watering at night, to prevent loss of water from evaporation. 
  4. Mulch it up — By placing a 3 inch cover of mulch around your plants, along walkways, and on bare areas, you can help conserve the water already in your soil and reduce your water use. Mulch can also help prevent weeds which can steal water from your desired plants. 




A native garden is a garden that only has plants that would naturally occur in that environment. So why plant native? Native gardens in Southern California have been shown to use 85% less water per year, produce 60% less green waste per year, and require 70% less maintenance per year! They also can provide a habitat for the local wildlife and attract pollinators like hummingbirds and bees. However, just because a plant is native, does not mean that it is drought-tolerant. Many California plants are used to being near streams and actually require a lot of water. Be sure to review a plant’s water and light needs before purchasing it for your garden. Below are some ideas of California native plants you can plant:


  • California Fuschia: This plant is found in full to partial sun and dry areas. Its scarlet, tubular flowers that bloom in the summer attract hummingbirds.
  • California Poppy: The iconic state flower can easily be identified by its pale yellow to deep orange annual flowers. This plant requires no irrigation and grows in full sun. 
  • California Buckwheat: This small evergreen shrub attracts butterflies. Plant it in partial sun. 


Looking for native plants specific to your area? Find a longer list here.


“Sustainable gardening”


A common buzzword heard around gardens these days is “sustainable.” Sustainable refers to the ability to be supported. To have a sustainable garden, you must have a garden that does not hurt the environment nor remove all of its natural resources. In essence, sustainable gardening is a holistic gardening approach that blends practices together to achieve the happiest, most environmentally-friendly garden. One method of sustainable gardening is to compost. Composting not only enriches your soil, it also reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers which can pollute our waterways. It also prevents green waste from going to landfill and instead returns those nutrients back into your soil. Start collecting garden clippings, food scraps, and paper towels to create your own compost. You can also have a more sustainable gardening by changing your plant selection. Rather than reaching for the pesticide, consider planting a diverse selection of species. By creating biodiversity in your own backyard, your plants will be more resilient towards pests and diseases. Plant drought-resistant and native species wherever possible!


Have ideas for more environmentally-friendly garden tips? Email us at lastormwater@lacity.org

Comments has been closed for this post.