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The California sagebrush grows into a small to medium size shrub, 3-5 ft. tall, 5-7 ft. wide and is mostly comprised of soft herbaceous stems and foliage. Gray-green leaves are finely divided into linear segments and are highly aromatic when crushed. It's sage-like scent lingers in the air and on clothing when the plant is brushed up against, popularizing the nickname, "Cowboy Cologne." Flowers are inconspicuous.

California sagebrush is a signature species of the coastal sage plant and chaparral plant community throughout coastal and inland California from the Bay Area to Baja California. It is often found growing in the most difficult conditions, including poor soils, full sun and low moisture. In garden and landscape situations, it has shown high adaptability to sun, heat and drought, and does best in areas having good drainage. This species is commonly used for habitat value in restoration projects and in mixed California native gardens. It grows rapidly with winter moisture and will shed some of its leaves under drought stress.

Water Needs

The California sagebrush is well adapted to normal winter rains and periodic summer irrigation throughout the Inland Empire. Established plants grow well with periodic deep irrigation in the summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months marked by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; more supplemental water commonly results in a longer growing season and larger sizes.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Drought deciduous
Habit: Spreading, Sprawling, Mounding
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 3 ft. - 5 ft.
Width: 5 ft. - 7 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Gray green
Flower Color: Insignificant
Flower Season: Summer
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Restoration, California native, Fragrant foliage


Cut back in the Fall as hard as needed to prevent plant from getting too "woody" over time (2). Plants cut back into old wood (no leaves or buds along the wood) may not grow back out, but as long as you cut above the lowest leaves or buds, plants should grow back strong (3). Light pruning can be done any time if needed to "clean up" the look of the plant some (3).



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