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
Echeveria agavoides 'Christmas' Large green rosettes, bright red leaf tips, edges.
Echeveria amoena Small blue-green rosettes make dense creeping colony. Reddish flower stems, light orange flowers.
Echeveria 'Blue Atoll' Neat blue-green rosettes, tidy clumps.
Echeveria 'Blue Wren' Dark blue-green rosettes in tidy clumps. To 5 inches.
Echeveria cante Ghostly blue green rosette with a lavender flush. Golden orange fls.
Echeveria 'Imbricata' Broad blue-grey rosettes, pink edges. Coral flower stems, yellow flowers.
Echeveria 'Perle von Nurnberg' Showy rosette of greyish tan leaves flushed rose. Coral orange flowers in summer.
Echeveria setosa Grey-green soft hairy leaves. Red/orange flowers.
Echinocactus grusonii Globe shaped cactus to 3 feet high. Pale spines along prominent ribs. Yellow flowers in summer.
Echium fastuosum Pride of Madeira; huge purple flower spikes.
Echium fastuosum 'Cielo del Sur' To 5 feet x 8 feet. Long grey leaves, towers of bright blue flowers.
Echium fastuosum 'Star of Madeira' Pride of Madeira. Cream margins on grey leaves. Blue flowers.
Echium 'Purple Tower' E. wildpretii x pininana; 10 feet+; huge leaves, purple flower spikes.
Echium wildpretii Tower of jewels; massive pink flower spikes. Biennial.
Encelia californica 'El Dorado' 2-3 feet. Clear yellow daisies on loose mound; spring-summer.
Encelia farinosa Brittlebush. Oval silver leaves; bright yellow daisies.
Engelmannia peristenia Cut grey-green leaves, masses of yellow daisies in summer
Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum Narrow soft greenish grey leaves form spreading mat. Bright orange flowers in summer and fall.
Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum 'Calistoga' 12 inches high, 3 feet wide. Wide grey leaves, spreading stems. Scarlet flowers.
Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum 'Carman's Grey' California fuchsia. Bright grey leaves, tubular scarlet flowers.

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