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
Watsonia coccinea Dark pink flowers on 1 foot stems, spring bloom.
Watsonia humilis 6-12 inches; broad leaves; bright pink flowers, dark centers.
Watsonia intermedia 1-2 feet, profuse; bright pink flowers with dark centers.
Westringia fruticosa To 6 feet, spreading; silvery leaves, white flowers.
Westringia fruticosa Blue Gem TM PP#25674 6-8 feet high, 5 feet wide. Grey-green leaves on a dense shrub. Lavender blue flowers in spring.
Westringia fruticosa Grey Box TM PP#25675 30 inches high, 3 feet wide. Rounded habit, grey leaves. White flowers in spring.
Westringia fruticosa 'Jervis Gem' Rounded, to 2 feet+, with dark grey leaves; lilac flowers, long bloom.
Westringia fruticosa Low Horizon TM PP#27898 1 foot high, 4 feet wide. Low and spreading with grey leaves. White flowers in spring.
Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' Compact rounded shrub, to 4 feet; cream-margined leaves, white flowers.
Westringia fruticosa Mundi TM PP#24042 3 feet high, 7 feet wide. Spreading habit, deep grey-green leaves, white flowers in spring.
Westringia fruticosa Naringa TM Tight form needs less pruning; great hedge or screen. Grey-green leaves, lavender blue flowers.
Westringia fruticosa Small Ball TM PPAF Greener leaves than most Westringia, tight habit. Lilac flowers.
Westringia fruticosa 'Smokey' 2-3 feet. Light, creamy grey rounded shrub; white flowers.
Westringia glabra 3-4 feet, compact; small dark green leaves, lavender flowers.
Westringia 'Gem Variegated' Rounded shrub to 2-4 feet. Cream edged narrow leaves, lilac flowers
Westringia 'Wynyabbie Gem' To 5-6 feet, spreading. Silvery leaves, lavender flowers.
Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight' 3-4'h/w; compact. Cream margined gray-green lvs, lavender flowers.
Wisteria 'Cooke's Special Purple' Masses of fragrant 10 inch clusters of dark purple flowers.
Wisteria floribunda 'Hon-beni' 12-18 inch long flower clusters are pinkish lavender with yellow blotch.
Wisteria floribunda 'Issai' Japanese wisteria; long clusters of 2-tone lavender flowers.

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