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Southern California Gardening: Withstanding Hot, Windy Weather

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

When the Santa Ana winds hit Southern California, they can blow a garden into oblivion. These strategies will keep your garden thriving.

Layered plantings of succulents, fine-leaf plants, grasses

By Nan Sterman

Santa Anas arrive in the long, hot days of late summer and early fall, and sometimes again in spring. These hot, dry “devil winds” blow into Southern California from the desert, bringing single-digit humidity that dries out lips, hair, skin and plants.

red brick wall with tree behind and aloe in front

Though short-lived, Santa Anas can wreak havoc on the garden. Fortunately, planting and maintenance strategies can help your garden survive with the least amount of damage.

If your garden is open on the east side, build a wall, or plant a protective layer of trees and shrubs to act as a windbreak.

multilayered planting, with pavers and grasses growing between

Plant the sturdiest plants in the background. Nestle the more vulnerable ones on the inside of the windbreak.

Tall oak

Avoid eucalyptus and other plants notorious for dropping brittle branches in the wind. Instead, plant trees with strong wood, such as strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) and Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum).

red aeoniums and other succulents

Choose plants whose leaves resist desiccation. Succulent leaves store water and have protective outer layers to help resist evaporation. Good examples include Aloe, Aeonium, and Euphorbia.

manzanita with white flowers

The tough, leathery leaves of Manzanita (Arctostaphylos), California lilac (Ceanothus) and bottlebrush (Callistemon) don’t have much water to lose.

bronze urn amid grasses

Grasses that naturally flex and sway in the wind survive unscathed. I’m thinking of Berkeley sage (Carex divulsa), Miscanthus, and Festuca.

Since Santa Anas arrive with plenty of warning, help your garden by watering it before the winds start. Set your irrigation system on manual and run an entire cycle. Though we can’t stop plants from losing water in a Santa Ana, irrigating just before they start and just after they end helps keep plants hydrated, and minimizes permanent damage.