Waterwise Botanicals: first nursery stop on my San Diego trip

The first nursery I stopped at on my recent trip to San Diego was Waterwise Botanicals. Located in Bonsall, a small town in northern San Diego County, Waterwise Botanicals is a 20-acre production nursery with extensive growing grounds right next to Interstate 15. Their focus is on succulents, but they also sell roses, shrubs, and drought-tolerant companion plants. 

While much of their business is wholesale, they're open to retail customers. In fact, pre-Covid, Waterwise put on a variety of events, including Saturday workshops and annual Super Succulent Celebrations. I attended the 2018 Super Succulent Celebration and shared dozens of photos in a 2-part post (part 1 | part 2). Now, four years later, Waterwise looked pretty much the same, down to the seemingly endless succulent plantings on the hill behind the pond:

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' is a challenge to grown in Northern California because it starts to get damaged just below freezing. Not a problem in San Diego County!

And pigs still fly, just like they did on my last visit!

I couldn't get enough of the dense tapestries of succulents growing next to the pond:

Crown of thorns (Euphorbia millii) and silver dollar jade (Crassula arborescens)

Graptopetalum paraguayense, Euphorbia millii, and Sedum nussbaumerianum

Echeveria pulvinataPortulacaria afra 'Prostrate Form', and Corpuscularia lehmannii (center bottom)

Cheiridopsis sp.

More views of the hill:

One lone flowering specimen in a sea of Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

As you can see in the next set of photos, Waterwise stocks succulents in sizes all the way up to 24" boxes:

Mangaves from Walters Gardens, too:

Here's the hillside that slopes down to Interstate 15; this area is closed to foot traffic:

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Euphorbia millii growing in the ground

A small mound smack in the middle of the nursery grounds serves as a display garden:

Aloe divaricata with emerging inflorescences, my personal highlight:

This beautiful aloe species is usually very difficult to find. Waterwise had at least a hundred of them in 5-gallon containers for under $20.

Even some bromeliads in larger sizes:

One gallons with a variety of soft-leaves succulents, a cost-effective way to start a succulent tapestry:

More display plantings near the entrance:

Ruffled and carunculated echeverias

Agave 'Blue Glow' and Opuntia sulphurea

That tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae)!

Aloe acutissima is another rare and beautiful aloe, yours for $18.85

Waterwise Botanicals was founded in 1993 by Tom Jesch, one of the pioneering forces behind the popularization of succulents as garden plants in California. It's now part of Altman Plants; according to Greenhouse Grower, Altman is the largest grower of ornamental plants in the United States (almost 28 million environmentally controlled square feet under cultivation). 

Waterwise Botanicals is located at 32151 Old Hwy 395 in Bonsall. They're open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm on Monday to Saturday and 9:00 am – 2:00 pm on Sunday.


© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Lots to love here! Interestingly the tapestry plantings leave me sort of cold. Whereas I love the display mound and the photo with the tree aloe. Great glowing cactus shots throughout this post! (what did you buy?)

    1. I only bought an Aloe divaricata. I had to pace myself, seeing how this was my first stop.

  2. Hasn't changed all that much except ownership--do they actually harvest and sell from those mass plantings?

  3. I loved shot #15 of the backlit cacti. It's almost overwhelming to see succulents massed in numbers like that.

  4. The wonders of mass planting. If one can allow Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' to grow as it pleases till it becomes a real "border" plant. The small mound display garden is perfection: an inspiration to any visitor who may be design-challenged.


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