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
Valeriana phu 'Aurea' Limey green spring leaves stay low, stems to 2 feet have white flowers, summer.
Verbena bonariensis Erect to 4-6 feet; narrow leaves, dark purple flowers.
Verbena bonariensis 'Cloud 8' PPAF Compact form of tall verbena. Purple flowers in dense heads.
Verbena bonariensis 'Lollipop' Dwarf form of the tall purple verbena grows to 2 feet high. Bright purple flowers in dense heads.
Verbena lilacina 'De la Mina' 18-24 inches. Pale green dissected leaves; heads of lavender flowers. Baja California native.
Verbena rigida 'Polaris' 12-18 inches. Spreading perennial with rough leaves, showy spikes of lavender flowers in spring and summer.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Amiguita' Suncrest Nurseries selection. To 3-4 feet. Lavender blue flower spikes in summer.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Little Madame' PPAF Compact habit, with narrow leaves. Lavender purple flowers in summer.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Petty Blue' PPAF Daytona Heat TM selection. Branched flower stems, lavender flowers.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Pink Sensation' Chaste tree. Arching growth, clear pink flower spikes.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Sensational' Chaste tree. Large leaves; purple flowers in very long spikes.
Vitex agnus-castus 'Stony Point' Chaste tree. Large leaves; dark blue purple flowers, summer.
Vitis californica California wild grape. Selected for vigor, abundant fruit.
Vitis californica 'Walker Ridge' Wintergreen Nursery selection. Native grape; large shiny leaves; good fall color.
Vitis girdiana Southern grape. Large grey-green leaves, small "grapes".
Vitis 'Roger's Red' Hybrid grape from California and European species. Vigorous; vivid fall color.

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