Heat & Drought Tolerant Plants for Central Valley, California


California's Central Valley experiences long, hot summer days in the triple digits for much of the season. Native California plants need no amending or irrigation in the rich, fruitful soil. The Sunset Western Garden Book lists the Central Valley as zone 8 and 9. Winter low temperatures average 28 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

California Lilacs

  • Plant the native California lilac (Ceanothus spp.) for a highly fragrant shrub with striking blue flowers. Native plants do best in their natural habitats and this plant is adapted to California's Mediterranean climate with its hot and dry summer days. This plant lives for 20 to 25 years when cared for properly, which means no drip irrigation, no soil amendments, no summer water. These low-water plants do best when grouped with native plants having the same growth requirements. They grow from 7 to 9 feet tall and wide.


  • Grow California flannelbush (Fremontodendron) as a tree or shrub in the same grouping with California lilacs. This native perennial has high drought tolerance and high fire tolerance. Its yellow saucer-shaped flowers will bloom spring through late summer. It reaches a height of 20 feet and width of 12 feet. Planting on hillsides is recommended, with no summer irrigation needed. It grows in any native soil.

Amaryllis belladonna

  • Amaryllis belladonna (Brunsvigia rosea), a bulb native to South Africa, thrives in Central California's hot, dry summers. It grows in any well-drained soil and receives all the water it needs from winter rains. It grows strap-like leaves that drape into a fountain-like clump with rosy-pink trumpet-shaped flowers. Amaryllis grow to 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide. Plant bulbs 1 foot apart. All parts of this plant are poisonous, so don't plant these where children or pets are present.

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  • Photo Credit california poppies image by Karin Lau from Fotolia.com
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