Plants for a Thirsty State

Public interest in plants with relatively low water requirements has come and gone several times over the past few decades. Each new dry cycle seems to bring a new awakening, a new missionary movement, and the “learning” of new approaches to gardening. All of these seem to be quickly forgotten soon after the wet years return. In the long run, however, it is clear that with a growing population and (at least in our lifetimes) declining rainfall averages over much of the state, Californians will be gardening with less water, like it or not, even in the best of years. Fortunately, there is already a large body of information on which to draw, some of it–like new developments in drip and spitter irrigation–being compiled continuously in the interest of more economical garden maintenance. Some of the best information on particular plants comes simply from observing neglected or abandoned gardens, regardless of current weather patterns.

Partly by design, partly by pursuing other fancies with plant groups from California, the Southwest, Mexico, temperate South America, Australia and South Africa, we at Suncrest have gradually accumulated a collection of several hundred plants with a record of at least moderate tolerance of summer drought. This means simply that they can be maintained in good condition with substantially less summer irrigation than the average popular garden plant (and vastly less than the lawns that still fill major portions of many California landscapes). The fact that many of these plants are also beautiful, fill nearly every possible garden niche, and collectively provide year-round seasonal interest, would make them desirable garden candidates even if water were not an issue.

You can use the alphabetical listings below (with page divisions for the larger groups) to easily access informational displays on these plants. More detailed descriptions and information on how to use them are now available in our new publication, Plants for a Thirsty State, in PDF format. Click here to download the complete publication, with color covers, in PDF format. A separate, smaller file with just the main body text is available here.

Select A Letter Below
Plant Name Capsule Description
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Barbeque' Erect, narrow, aromatic leaves; light blue flowers in spring.
Abutilon palmeri Native shrublet, to 2-3 feet. Furry grey leaves, bright apricot flowers.
Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' PP#25133 2-3 feet high. Low mounding form of river wattle. Narrow leaves, dense habit. Cascading branches.
Acacia howittii Dense sprays of small dark green leaves on drooping stems. Yellow flowers in spring.
Acacia iteaphylla Narrow drooping leaves on tree-like shrub create weeping effect; pale yellow flowers winter to spring.
Acacia pravissima 'Golden Carpet' Beautiful flowing growth, pointed leaves, bright yellow flowers.
Acacia redolens 'Low Boy' Flat 2-3 inch grey-green leaves, fragrant yellow flowers winter to spring.
Acanthus mollis Bear's breech. Shiny lobed dark leaves. White-lavender flowers.
Acanthus mollis 'Albus' Bear's breech. Glossy dark green leaves; white flowers, bracts.
Acanthus 'Morning Candle' Compact bear's breech. Many white and purple flowers, dark green leaves. A. mollis x spinosus hybrid.
Acanthus spinosus Deep green leaves; pink and white flowers, bright red-violet hood.
Achillea abrotanoides 18 inches. Ferny, aromatic light green leaves; heads of yellow flowers.
Achillea 'Appleblossom' Ferny green mat; flat heads, dark pink flowers age white.
Achillea 'Crackadoo' 2 feet. Low feathery green leaves; soft orange flowers turn golden.
Achillea 'Credo' 2 feet. Low feathery green leaves, heads of lemon yellow flowers.
Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold' Fernleaf yarrow; 2-3 foot stiff stems, flat heads of yellow flowers.
Achillea 'Heidi' From Galaxy series; flowers lavender pink.
Achillea 'Hoffnung' Ferny green mat; apricot flowers age creamy yellow.
Achillea x kellereri 6-10 inches; bright grey stems and leaves, pure white flowers.
Achillea 'Little Moonshine' PPAF Very compact form of yearrow. Soft grey leaves; vivid yellow flower heads.

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