Native Plants for Water Conservation

Presentation made by:
Amy Tsuneyoshi
Watershed Planner
Board of Water Supply


Seven Principles of Xeriscaping

Native Hawaiian Plants

Groundcovers and Vines



Resources For More Information

Seven Principles of Xeriscaping

1. Planning and Design

Plan and design landscapes for water conservation
Work with existing surroundings and utilize plants that are appropriate for the area.

2. Limit Turf Areas

Minimize unnecessary turf areas which require more water and maintenance.
In the areas where turf is utilized, use the appropriate grass for the area.

3. Soil Improvements

Improve the quality of your soil by adding organic matter such as compost or manures.
Soil amendments improve water absorption and the water-holding capacity of the soil.

4. Mulching

Mulches protect the soil from direct sunlight which can dry out the soil.
They minimize evaporation, inhibit weed growth and slow erosion.
Some mulches such as wood chips break down over time and add organic matter which enriches the top soil.

5. Efficient Irrigation

Plants should be watered early in the morning or in the evening to prevent moisture loss due to evaporation.
Drip irrigation is one example of an efficient irrigation system.

6. Appropriate Maintenance

Keep your plants healthy by practicing routine basic maintenance, such as proper pruning and regular pest control.
Pests are attracted to weak or dying plants.

7. Appropriate Plant Selection

Select plants that are suited for the area to minimize water use and maintenance efforts.
Group plants that have similar water requirements
In general, native plants require less water and maintenance.

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Native Hawaiian Plants

Native Hawaiian Plants are...
Plants that managed to get to Hawai‘i and survive prior to human settlement.
3 methods of arrival: Wind, Ocean, Birds

Two classifications of Hawaiian plants

Indigenous (Eg. ‘A‘ali‘i)
Plants that came to Hawai‘i without the help from humans.
Plants that grew in Hawai‘i (pre-Polynesian contact) as well as other parts of the world.

Endemic (Eg. ‘Ōhi‘a)
Plants that came to Hawai‘i without the help from humans
Plants that grew in Hawai‘i (pre-Polynesian) and can ONLY be found in Hawai‘i

Plants for the Island of O'ahu: What and How to Plant in Your Area

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Canavalia galeata

Purple flower, glossy green leaves
O‘ahu, mesic forest
180-800 m elevation
Some drought tolerance

Heliotropium anomalum

Indigenous with endemic variety argenteum
Prostrate plant
White flowers, silver-gray leaves
Salt, wind, drought tolerant


Vigna marina

Yellow flower, glossy green leaves
0-120 m elevation
Salt tolerant, full sun
Has the potential to climb


Jacquemontia ovalifolia

Indigenous with endemic subspecies sandwicensis
Pale lavender-blue flower, light green leaves
0-30 m elevation
Salt, drought tolerant, full sun
Leaves used medicinally


Vitex rotundifolia

Prostrate plant
Purple flower, silver-green leaves
0-15 m elevation
Salt, wind and drought tolerant, full sun
Used medicinally


‘Uki ‘Uki
Dianella sandwicensis

Clumping plant
Pale to dark purple-blue flowers, glossy green leaves
Dry to Mesic forest
120-2140 m elevation
Grows best in shade
Blue fruit used as dye


Bonamia menziesii

Endangered, endemic
White-cream flowers, hairy light green leaves
Dry to mesic forest
150-625 m elevation
Drought tolerant
Can be grown on a fence or trellis

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Dodonaea viscosa

Shrub to small tree
Inconspicuous flowers, dark green leaves, fruit capsules range in color from pastel to dark red
Wide range of habitat
3-2350 m elevation
Salt, wind and drought tolerant
Fruit capsules used for lei


Kokio ke‘oke‘o
Hibiscus arnottianus

Shrub to tree
White, slightly fragrant flowers, dark green leaves
Mesic to wet forest
300-800 m elevation
Salt tolerant


Bidens torta

Perennial herb
Yellow flowers, green leaves, corkscrew shaped fruit
O‘ahu, Dry ridges to wet forest
300-1200 m elevation
Plant used as tea


Sida fallax

Prostrate to erect shrub
Orange flower, gray-green leaves
Coastal to mesic forest
0-1980 m elevation
Salt,wind, and drought tolerant
Flowers used in lei


Capparis sandwichiana

Species of concern, Endemic
Prostrate to erect shrub
Large fragrant white flowers, light gray-green leaves
0-100 m
Drought tolerant


Gossypium tomentosum

Yellow flowers, light gray-green leaves, brown hairs on seeds
0-120 m elevation
Salt,wind, drought tolerant
Used for dye


Osteomeles anthyllidifolia

Prostrate to erect shrub
White flowers, dark glossy green leaves
Dry to mesic forest
10-860 m elevation
Wind, drought tolerant
Used medicinally
Wood used for fishing equipment

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Psydrax odoratum

Shrub to small tree
White fragrant flower clusters, glossy green leaves
Dry to mesic forest
10-860 m elevation
Drought tolerant
Wood used for tools
Used as a dye


Acacia koa

Very large tree
Cream flower, sickle-shaped phyllodes (modified stem, not true leaves)
Dry to wet forest
60-2060 m elevation
Wind, drought tolerant once established
Wood used for woodworking


Diospyros sandwicensis

Small to medium tree
Inconspicuous flowers, dark green leaves, black trunk, edible orange fruit when ripe
Dry to mesic sometimes wet forest
5-1220 m elevation
Wind, drought tolerant
Used medicinally and culturally


Myoporum sandwicense

Shrub to small tree
Pale pink-white flower, green glossy to hairy leaves
Wide range of habitat
0-2380 m elevation
Salt, wind, drought tolerant
Hardwood has similar smell to sandalwood


Gardenia brighamii

Endangered, endemic
Shrub to small tree
White fragrant flower, glossy green leaves
Dry forest
350-520 m elevation
Wind, drought tolerant


Metrosideros spp.

Shrub to large tree
Range of flower color
Range of leaf type/shape
Wide range of habitat
0-2200 m elevation
Wind, and some salt and drought tolerance
Flowers/leaves used in lei


Pritchardia spp.

Yellow flower cluster, green fan shaped leaves, edible fruit
360-610 m elevation
Wind and some drought tolerance


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RESOURCES For More Information

Honolulu Board of Water Supply Plants for O'ahu website shows a comprehensive list of native plants suitable for 9 climate zones on O'ahu.

Bornhorst, H. 1996. Growing Native Hawaiian Plants. Bess Press, Honolulu

Culliney, J.L., and B.P. Koebele. 1999. A Native Hawaiian Garden. UH Press, Honolulu.

Kepler, A.K. 1998. Hawaiian Heritage Plants revised ed. UH Press, Honolulu.

Krauss, B. 1993. Plants in Hawaiian Culture. UH Press. Honolulu.

Palmer, Daniel D. 2003. Hawai‘i’s Ferns and Fern Allies. UH Press, Honolulu

Sohmer, S.H., and R. Gustafson. 1987. Plants and Flowers of Hawai‘i. UH Press, Honolulu.

Valier, K. 1995. Ferns of Hawai‘i. UH Press. Honolulu.

Wagner, Warren L., Derral R. Herbst, S.H. Sohmer. 1990. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i. UH Press. Honolulu.

Hawai‘i Ecosystems At Risk:

Hawaiian plant listserve:

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