FROM THE EDITOR: Need Water Wise? Try WUCOLS



Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset'. Photo courtesy of San Diego Botanic Garden.

By Susan Starr.

WUCOLS is the somewhat unwieldy acronym for Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. In spite of its odd name, WUCOLS is actually a very easy-to-use database that helps you identify water wise plants for your garden. The WUCOLS project was initiated and funded by the Water Use Efficiency Office of the California Department of Water Resources. Now in its 4th Edition, WUCOLS provides evaluations of the irrigation/water needs for over 3,500 taxonomic plant groups used in California landscapes.


To begin a search in WUCOLS, simply select the region of interest, such as South Coastal, and then the city, e.g. La Jolla, Claremont, or San Diego. On the next screen (see left), you can search by botanical name (genus), common name, plant type (e.g. ground cover, shrub), or water use. You can also list all plants for your region.

A search for low water ground covers in La Jolla, for example, yielded 93 entries, including varieties of manzanita, germander, and salvia. The same search for Cloverdale, in the North Central Coast, turned up 108 possibilities to consider.

You can search for the water needs of a specific plant as well. A search for Cuphea yielded nine varieties, all with moderate to medium water needs, while a search for Leucadendron resulted in two entries, one for a tree and the other for all species of conebush, both of which were rated as low water plants.

I am planning to bookmark this page on my computer and my phone. Then next time I fall in love with a plant, I can check on water use before I buy.