Skip to main content

Ten exotic plants that grow in drought-stricken Los Angeles


Beautiful stone-like Lithops

Drought-stricken Los Angeles is still the envy of gardeners everywhere because of its long growing season. Although it has not rained for months, there are still many possibilities for producing a beautiful garden using exotic plants. Here are ten unusual products for zone 9 and 10:
Leonatis leonurus (Lion’s Tail) needs very little water and survives in light to medium well-drained soil. The Hottentot Tribe dry the leaves or extract the liquid and smoke it. Its orange, tubular blooms are shaped as a lion’s tail, hence the name. It is very easy to grow.
Ligustrum japonicum (Japanese Privet) survives in very poor conditions. It is fragrant with white blossoms similar to lilac. It can be trained for bonsai. Keep it trimmed as it can grow up to 12 feet. Trimming makes it a nice hedge.
Limnanthes dougslasil (Fried Eggs) is a California native plant. It is great for edging as it grows very low and blooms within 8 to 10 weeks. This plant attracts bees. Perfect for wildflower gardens.
Lithops (Living Stones) are beautiful succulents that do not need water in the fall or spring and very little in the summer. They are not cacti but store water in their leaves. Lithops look like small stones and their seeds are fast germinators, 3 to 14 days.
Lunaria bienis (Money plant) lives in poor soil and under drought conditions. Biennial, they also tolerate partial shade. The outside can be rubbed away to reveal light satin discs that look like coins.
Mimosa pudica (Sensitive plant) is a novelty plant that puts on a show with its leaves if it is touched. They have the same reaction with heat or wind. It is an annual and grows to around 12 inches high. Special care must be taken to not disturb its roots. Perfect for tropical environments and zones 9 to 10.
Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland) are hardy and tall. A beautiful and fragrant plant, it is named because of its color. It grows well in all zones. A single plant can produce enough seeds to fill an entire flowerbed in following seasons. Use them fresh or let them dry for use in other decorations. They take full sun very well and only need moderate watering. Left to dry where planted, they will self-sow but that means not letting any stray pods get into the lawn.
Musa ornata (Lavender Banana) is not for eating and is strictly ornamental. A beautiful plant, it grows to 10 feet and is easy to cultivate. Plant in full sun or partial shade. Great for zone 10.
Adansonia gregorrii (Australian Baobab) is an imposing tree that can be trained as a bonsai. Perfect for zone 10 and above because it does not tolerate frost.
Anacardium occdientale (Cashew Nut Tree) produces nuts from seeds within 2 years. It is an amazingly attractive tree that bears both nuts and fruit (Cashew apple). It re-roots itself by sending out shrubs. It too can be trained as a bonsai. Be sure to read the information on this tree in the link below.

All of these plants and trees do well in our dry zone 10 climate. It is one more reason why southern California, especially Los Angeles, is the perfect environment for the unusual.

To purchase exotic plants, seeds and trees:
More information on Cashews:


  • Jen 5 years ago

    Great article! My favorite plant to grow with my students is the Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant). Now it is actually known as the TickleMe Plant as the leaves fold up fast and even the branches droop when Tickled. My Students can't wait to run back to class to tickle the plants each day and its so much more fun then growing a lima bean. I believe it might even make them more sensitive to plants and nature.
    I use the party favors and TickleMe Plant Greenhouse as gifts year round. Just search THE TickleMe Plant to grow your own