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
Salix laevigata Green leaves, red twigs. Good habitat plant for bees, butterflies.
Salix lasiolepis Spreads to form a thicket. Benefits bees/butterflies.
Salvia 'Allen Chickering' Native hybrid sage; 4 feet+; grey leaves, lavender blue flowers.
Salvia apiana White sage. Short branches, nearly white leaves, tall flower stem.
Salvia 'Aromas' CA native hybrid sage. To 5 feet high, with grey-green leaves, lavender flowers in whorls.
Salvia 'Autumn Moon' PP#24106 2 feet. Greggii type. Creamy flowers with rose tube, red stems.
Salvia 'Bedazzle' Low, clumping sage. Narrow grey leaves; showy spikes of deep blue flowers set in rosy bracts.
Salvia 'Baja Blue' Green aromatic leaves, many whorls of blue flowers in spring. Vigorous hybrid sage, probable parents are S. munzii and S
Salvia 'Bee's Bliss' Broad carpet; fragrant grey-green leaves, lavender blue flowers.
Salvia blancoana Narrow greyish leaves. Long wands of pale violet-blue flowers.
Salvia 'Blue Velvet' Large blue purple flowers set among bright green leaves. Long bloom.
Salvia 'Bon Bon' 2' h. Hybrid sage. Fragrant foliage and clusters of lavender flowers.
Salvia brandegei 'Pacific Blue' California sage with dark green leaves, light blue flowers. 5 feet high and wide.
Salvia 'Bright Eyes' PP#22491 2-3 feet. Very large bright red flowers, white "eye". Greggii type.
Salvia 'Calamity Jane' Dusty green leaves, lavender flowers in whorls, spring. Hybrid of California species.
Salvia canariensis var. candidissima Furry white leaves, spikes of lavender flowers set in pink bracts.
Salvia 'Celestial Blue' 3-5 feet high. California native hybrid sage. Light rose bracts & calyces, blue flowers.
Salvia chamaedryoides Low, bushy; small grey leaves, bright blue flowers.
Salvia 'Christine Yeo' 2 feet+. Textured green leaves; purple flowers. Dense, spreads.
Salvia clevelandii 'Alpine' 4-5 feet. Aromatic grey leaves; bright blue flowers, summer.

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