To aid water conservation efforts in drought-stricken California, local and state water leaders are touting the benefits of native plants that require less water to maintain and help restore biodiversity. 

Amidst a nursery filled with plants native to California at the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley,  Executive Director Evan Meyer recently welcomed water leaders from across the state to discuss the benefits of water conservation, and how his nonprofit organization is helping to spread the message. 

The primary way the foundation is doing so is by growing and selling many different types of plants that need 25 percent less water than conventional plants.  Each of the hundreds of plants has its own characteristics that make them suitable for different environments, needs, or interests.

For instance, the Canyon Grey Sagebrush is excellent for erosion control or parkway plantings. The Southern Manzanita — a shrub adorned with a showy mass of light pink flower clusters — is known to attract hummingbirds.

The W.R. Seaside Daisy is a perennial plant (a plant that lives for more than two years) that is recommended for flower borders, parkways, and containers.

“The plants have a long history with the people of Southern California going back thousands of years and they restore the habitat and the biodiversity of this region, which is completely unique in the world,” Meyer said. “We live in a biodiversity hotspot and these plants are necessary to restore and retain that biodiversity.” 

In partnership with the California Native Plant Society and US Green Building Council Los Angeles, the foundation offers a free nine-week program for professional gardeners and landscapers to learn how to manage California native plants and drought-tolerant landscaping. More than 300 professional landscapers have graduated from the program.  

Brandy Williams

One such graduate is Brandy Williams, a licensed landscape design contractor who runs a business in South Central LA called Garden Butterfly. Her business model is to plant pollinators and encourage others to plant with pollinators in mind.

She says doing so helps in creating a place for other plants like succulents and sage plants.

“It’s just about planting with these [pollinators] in mind when you are incorporating those plants in the landscape,” Williams said. “You are naturally saving water because you aren’t watering as much.”

The foundation also provides a Native Plant Garden Tour where guests are guided across numerous LA gardens that highlight the unique and biodiverse plants of California.

This year’s tour takes place in person for the first time in two years on April 23-24. The lineup includes more than 10 gardens new to the tour and an after-party at LA State Historic Park.

Williams’ garden is among them. 

“I wanted to make sure that I am part of this conservation movement, and being in my community, I just wanted to be a great representative of this charge,” Williams said.

The leaders at the presentation hope these native plants will help to mitigate the drought problems that have plagued the Golden State for years. Amid calls to reduce water usage statewide, water leaders hope more and more Californians will adopt these plants into their gardens.

“The folks here [at Theodore Payne] are helping landscapes, helping yards across Los Angeles transform into vibrant, colorful water-smart landscapes and yards that, as we talked about, conserve this incredible nature we have across California and Los Angeles,” said Secretary Wade Crowfoot of the California Natural Resources Agency.

“We can create yards, we can create parks, we can create mediums that not only make better use of water, but support this remarkable biodiversity we have in Los Angeles,” Crowfoot said.

For more information about the Theodore Payne Foundation, visit its website at To sign up for the Native Plant Garden Tour, go to