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
Ceanothus maritimus 'Frosty Dawn' 2 feet high/3-5 feet wide. Carpeting habit, greyish leaves, dark blue flowers.
Ceanothus maritimus 'Pt. Sierra' 2 feet high/3 feet wide. Carpeting habit, greyish leaves, purple flowers.
Ceanothus maritimus 'Valley Violet' 2 feet high, 4 feet wide. Vivid violet flowers, compact form.
Ceanothus 'Midnight Magic' 3 feet high, 5-6 feet wide. Dark green leaves, deep blue flowers, Suncrest introduction.
Ceanothus 'Owlswood Blue' Shiny large leaves; long spikes of rich blue flowers. C. arboreus hybrid.
Ceanothus papillosus [x thyrsiflorus] 8-15 feet. Small shiny green leaves, rounded clusters of vivid blue flowers.
Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' 10-20 feet; large, dark leaves, masses of blue flowers.
Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' 10-20 feet; large, dark leaves, masses of blue flowers.
Ceanothus rigidus 'Sapphire' 4-6 feet. Stiff angular stems, small leathery leaves, blue flowers in spring.
Ceanothus rigidus 'Snowball' Low, mounding; dense growth; small white flowers.
Ceanothus 'Starbright' 6 feet high and wide. Dark green textured 1 inch leaves, pink buds, bright blue flowers.
Ceanothus 'Sunbird' To 6 feet high, 10 feet wide. Dark shiny leaves, bright blue flowers, heavy bloom.
Ceanothus 'Tassajara Blue' 6-8 feet high by 12 feet wide. Bright blue flowers, shiny green 2-3 inch leaves.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Arroyo de la Cruz' Wintergreen Nursery selection; mounding to 4 feet x 10 feet; blue flowers.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Bixby Bridge' 8 feet, mounding. Medium green shiny leaves, masses of bright blue flowers, spring.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Oregon Mist' 8-15 feet. Medium green leaves, bright blue flowers. Selected in Oregon.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Skylark' 5 foot dome, late bloom, rich blue flowers.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Snow Flurry' 6-20 feet; dense growth, shiny green leaves, white flowers.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Sprig Lake' 8-10 feet. Medium green leaves, masses of bright blue flowers, spring.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus 'Carmel Creeper' Spreading to 15 feet wide; large shiny green leaves, light blue flowers.

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