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
Falkia repens Spreading mat with shiny green leaves; white rounded flowers in spring and summer.
Fallugia paradoxa Apache plume. White flowers, silky seed heads.
Feijoa sellowiana Pineapple guava. Evergreen, 10-18 feet. Red and white edible flowers.
Feijoa sellowiana 'Unique' Pineapple guava; to 8 feet high, self-fruitful, red flowers.
Felicia heterophylla 'The Blues' 10"; dense low habit. Stunning electric-blue daisy fls.
Ferula [communis] Lacy green leaves stay low; balls of yellow flowers top 5 foot stems in spring and early summer.f yellow flowers.
Festuca amethystina 'Superba' Dark blue-green foliage, 1-2 foot flower stems hold silver flowers.
Festuca californica Dense clumps to 2 feet, deep green leaves, flower stems to 4 feet.
Festuca californica 'Blue Fountain' Elegant native grass; blue-green leaves, flower stems to 4 feet.
Festuca californica 'Gabilan Blues' Seed strain with blue grey leaves, dense clumps.
Festuca glauca 'Beyond Blue' PP#23307 Blue fescue. Fine blue leaves in dense tuft.
Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' Blue fescue. 8-12 inches. Dense blue-grey tufts of narrow leaves.
Festuca glauca 'Siskiyou Blue' Bunchgrass. Bright blue-green leaves, delicate flowers.
Festuca idahoensis 'Clearwater Blue' Idaho fescue. Dense clumps of bright blue leaves, airy flowers.
Festuca idahoensis 'Muse Meadow' Dense clump. Fine blue-green leaves, silvery flowers.
Festuca idahoensis 'Stony Creek' Tilden Botanic Garden introduction. 2 feet+, brightest blue leaves.
Festuca idahoensis 'Tomales Bay' Deep blue green bunchgrass; airy flowers in spring.
Festuca idahoensis 'Warren Peak' Compact tufts. Blue leaves, shiny stems and flower heads.
Festuca mairei Atlas fescue. 2-3 feet. Narrow light green leaves, tidy clumps.
Festuca rubra 'Jughandle' Short sturdy stems form thick tuft. Chalky blue-green leaves.

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