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
Iberis sempervirens 'Alexander's White' Low shrublet has narrow, deep green leaves which are covered in spring by masses of clear white flowers.
Iberis sempervirens 'Purity' Pure white flowers are abundant in spring. Low green mounding perennial.
Ipheion 'Rolf Fiedler' Spring star flower. 8 inch blue-green leaves, bright blue flowers.
Ipheion uniflorum 'Alberto Castillo' Spring star flower. Pure white flowers larger than the typical species. Spring bloom.
Ipheion uniflorum ['Album'] Spring star flower. 8 inch blue-green leaves, pure white flowers.
Ipheion uniflorum 'Froyle Mill' Spring star flower. 8 inch blue-green leaves, deep lavender-blue flowers.
Ipomoea acuminata Blue dawn flower. Dark green leaves, large dark blue flowers.
Iris 'Ace of Spades' Suncrest selection. Deepest purple flowers, ivory center edged red violet.
Iris 'Around The Bay' Ghio Pacifica hybrid. Large deep blue purple flowers with white.
Iris 'Black Frills' Suncrest hybrid. Blackish violet flowers, deep red eye.
Iris 'Bright Lights' Suncrest Pacifica hybrid. Rosy lavender standards, red violet falls, dark eye.
Iris 'Bronze Baby' Ghio Pacifica hybrid--reddish bronze flowers on dwarf clumps.
Iris 'Canyon Sunshine' 18 inches. Butter yellow flowers. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduction.
Iris 'Canyon Velvet' SBBG Pacifica hybrid. 18 inch robust clumps; purple flowers in spring.
Iris chrysophylla 12 inches. Neat clumps of narrow blue-green leaves; light yellow flowers with dark veining.
Iris 'Chocolate Candy' Pacifica hybrid. Deep velvety red brown flowers in spring.
Iris 'Dark Clouds' Suncrest hybrid. Deep violet flowers, narrow gold flash. Very narrow leaves, compact clump.
Iris 'Dark Delight' Suncrest Pacifica hybrid. Glossy green leaves, dark red violet flowers.
Iris 'Dark Eyes' Suncrest Nurseries hybrid. Rosy lavender petals, dark eye.
Iris 'Deep Blue Sea' Ghio Pacifica hybrid. Large, deep blue purple flowers.

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