UC Davis CA&ES

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Keeping Plantings Alive Under Drought or Water Restrictions

A PDF version of this page can be viewed here.

The California drought is a very serious issue that impacts all Californians.  Even with the recent rainstorm and snow, we will be fortunate to surpass the rain level of 1976-1977, one of the worst droughts on record in California.   Drought restrictions can be complex and confusing.  Since voluntary or mandatory drought restrictions are often drafted and implemented locally, the best way for you to stay informed is to contact your local water provider.

The purpose of this webpage is to provide you with general information on landscape management during drought conditions.  For more specific regional information, refer to the following resources:

  • For specific information on your particular landscape, please contact a certified University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener serving your county.
  • For water conservation information by region, please consult our resources maps.


Plants that do not receive enough water due to drought or governmental restrictions aimed at water conservation will eventually show signs of water stress.  Although plants vary in the amount of water they require for optimal growth and development, most exhibit characteristic symptoms when they are in need of water.  Because plants need to be watered at an early stage of water deficit to prevent irreversible damage, it is crucial to check plants regularly for symptoms of drought, preferably during the afternoon when symptoms are most evident.

Common symptoms include:

  • wilting or drooping leaves that do not return to normal by evening
  • curled or yellow leaves that may fold or drop, or foliage that becomes grayish and loses its green luster
  • new leaves that are smaller or stem sections that are closer together than normal
  • lawn grasses that retain a footprint for several minutes

For suggested methods on keeping various landscape plants alive during water restrictions and drought, select the plant type of interest below:


Should your agency mandate a “no landscape irrigation” policy in your region, you can consider using graywater as an alternative water source.  More information about proper graywater irrigation is available through the California Institute for Water Resource's “Use of Graywater in Urban Landscapes.”


  • Ben Faber, UC Cooperative Extension
  • Dave Fujino, CCUH, UC Davis
  • Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension
  • Darren Haver, UC Cooperative Extension
  • Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension
  • Anne Schellman, CCUH, UC Davis
  • Jennifer Tso, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis


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