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
Yucca brevifolia Joshua tree. Statuesque desert small tree. White flowers.
Yucca 'Bright Edge' 2-3 feet. Golden leaf margins-green center & cream white bells.
Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' Spanish bayonet. Purplish leaves 2 feet+ long, white flowers in spikes.
Yucca desmetiana 'Magenta Magic' Dramatic form. Wide stiff dark green leaves, flushed purple.
Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' Green leaves have vivid yellow center. Spikes of cream flowers in summer.
Yucca filamentosa 'Excalibur' Many curly white filaments line blue grey leaves. 4-5 foot flower spike, creamy flowers.
Yucca flaccida 'Ivory Tower' Crowns of soft blue-green leaves; large ivory flowers.
Yucca flaccida 'Yellow Stripe' 1-2 feet. Leaves edged green, with yellow striping.
Yucca 'Garland Gold' Showy selection with broad yellow band on leaves.
Yucca rigida 'Blue Sentry' Narrow tough blue leaves. Slow growing, will develop trunk with time.
Yucca rostrata Spine-tipped 2 foot long blue grey leaves form a dense rosette, then to 15 feet high. Slow.
Yucca whipplei Lord's candle. Large crowns, sharp spines, white flowers.

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