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
Carex tumulicola--true type 10 inches. Dark green narrow leaves in loose clumps.
Caryopteris x clandonensis Blue Empire TM Vase shaped shrub with grey-green leaves. Bigger dark blue flowers than typical species. Summer bloom.
Caryopteris x clandonensis Grand Bleu TM PP#17837 3 feet. Dark green leaves, deep blue violet flowers summer to fall.
Caryopteris 'Good as Gold' PP#26035 3-4 feet. Soft golden leaves, clusters of violet blue flowers, late summer.
Cassia phyllodinea Narrow silver leaves on a rounded shrub, yellow flowers in winter and spring.
Ceanothus [arboreus x thyrs. var. griseus] 15-20 feet. Large growing ceanothus similar to 'Ray Hartman'. Leaves are smaller, flowers are bright blue.
Ceanothus [arboreus x thyrs. var. griseus] 10-20 feet; medium green shiny leaves, many blue flowers in spring.
Ceanothus 'Blue Cloud' 8-12 feet high and wide. Shiny green leaves; sky blue flowers are profuse.
Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans' Round, dense, to 6 feet. Small dark leaves, lavender flowers.
Ceanothus 'Blue Ray' 10 feet high, 15 feet wide. Dark textured leaves, deep blue flowers in long clusters.
Ceanothus 'Blue Ray' 10 feet high, 15 feet wide. Dark textured leaves, deep blue flowers in long clusters.
Ceanothus 'Centennial' 8-12 inches high, 8 feet wide. Small dark leaves, vivid blue flowers in spring.
Ceanothus 'Concha' Arching 6 feet, dark narrow leaves; electric blue flowers, spring.
Ceanothus cordulatus Mountain whitethorn. Stiff spreading habit. White flowers.
Ceanothus cuneatus--excellent form Buckbrush. Stiff arching stems, tiny leaves, scented cream flowers in spring.
Ceanothus 'Dark Star' 6 feet high, 12 feet wide; small leaves, masses of cobalt-blue flowers.
Ceanothus dentatus 'Bluette' 3-6 feet high, spreading. Small leaves, slender stems, bright blue flowers.
Ceanothus foliosus 'Berryhill' 2 feet; tiny, shiny leaves, small blue flower clusters.
Ceanothus 'Frosty Blue' 8 feet+. Rounded shrub/small tree, blue flowers from whitish buds in spring.
Ceanothus gloriosus 'Anchor Bay' To 3 feet high. Dense mound, large shiny leaves, lavender flowers in spring.

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