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
Tagetes lemmonii Mexican marigold; to 6 feet; bright orange flowers.
Talinum calycinum Flameflower. Low succulent green leaves; bright rose purple flowers.
Tanacetum vulgare var. crispum Broad mound, to 12 inches high. Intricately divided wide green leaves.
Tanacetum vulgare 'Isla Gold' Cut golden leaves are very ornamental; yellow button flowers in summer.
Tecoma stans To 10 feet. Clusters of yellow trumpet flowers, summer to fall. Likes heat.
Teucrium chamaedrys Germander. Low hummock. Dark leaves, small dark pink flowers.
Teucrium chamaedrys 'Prostratum' Germander; dark green mat; dense pink flower heads.
Teucrium cussonii (aka majoricum) Low mound with narrow grey leaves, lavender flowers.
Teucrium flavum 1-2 feet; deep green toothed leaves. Pale yellow flowers.
Teucrium fruticans Bush germander, to 5-6 feet. Silvery leaves. Lavender-blue flowers.
Teucrium fruticans 'Azureum' Bush germander. 3-4 feet high by 4-5 feet wide. Silver leaves, dark blue flowers.
Teucrium fruticans 'Compactum' Bush germander; 2-3 feet, compact; blue flowers.
Teucrium marum 1 foot mound; slender stems; pungent grey leaves; pink flowers.
Teucrium montanum Matting, dark grey leaves, light yellow flowers, dark red buds.
Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum Meadow rue; fernlike leaves, tall stems; delicate green flowers.
Thamnochortus bachmannii 2-3 feet. Interlaced green stems. Papery gold flower clusters.
Thamnochortus insignis Wiry dark green stems to 5 feet+ from dense narrow base. Dark gold flowers.
Thermopsis macrophylla 2-3 feet. California false lupine. Silky leaves. Yellow flowers.
Thymus caespititius 'Tuffet' Flat mat. Light green leaves; soft pink flowers.
Thymus camphoratus To 1 foot, mounding. Dark green aromatic leaves. Heads of rose-pink flowers.

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