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
Hakea francisiana Long narrow grey-green leaves, airy habit. Bright pink flower spikes.
Hakea laurina Red pink rounded flower heads with showy white styles, twisted long leathery leaves.
Hakea salicifolia 'Gold Medal' UCSC/Koala selection. 8 feet. Cream and green leaves; pink new growth.
Halimium lasianthum 'Hannay Silver' 2 feet high, spreading. Small grey leaves, bright rich yellow petals.
Halimium lasianthum 'Sandling' 2 feet high, 4 feet wide; small grey leaves, red spot on bright yellow petals.
Halimium lasianthum ssp. formosum 2 feet high. Bright yellow petals with dark central zone, grey leaves.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Annabel' Green leaves form a low mat, double rose pink flowers are profuse in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Belgravia Rose' Sunrose; large single rose-pink flowers, grey leaves.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Ben Fhada' Low green leaves, bright yellow flowers have orange center.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Ben Hope' Low grey leaves, bright rosy pink flowers.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Ben Ledi' Low green leaves, dark coral pink flowers are profuse in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Ben Nevis' Sunrose; low mat of green leaves, bright orange flowers with red center in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Cheviot' Low mat of soft grey leaves, masses of peachy pink flowers in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Fire Dragon' Grey leaves form low mat; single vivid orange flowers are abundant in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Henfield Brilliant' Large, glistening coppery orange flowers. Silver leaves.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Mesa Wine' Mat of dark green foliage, large dark red flowers.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Single Yellow' Sunrose. Bright green leaves form low mat; single yellow flowers in spring.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Stoplight' Sunrose; grey-green leaves, brick red flowers.
Helianthemum nummularium 'The Bride' Sunrose. Dense, low dark grey-green leaves; pure white flowers.
Helianthemum nummularium 'Wisley Pink' Sunrose; matting growth, bright pink flowers, soft grey leaves.

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