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
Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Wayside' 4 feet high, 8 feet wide. White flowers, grey-green leaves.
Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' Hybrid manzanita; 2-3 feet high by 8 feet wide. Bronze tint-leaves, pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos 'Lester Rowntree' Shrub/small tree. Purplish trunks, pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos 'Lutsko's Pink' 4-6 feet high and wide. Densiflora hybrid. Dark stems, green leaves; pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Dr. Hurd' Parry manzanita.10 feet+; spreading canopy, dark green leaves, white flowers.
Arctostaphylos manzanita 'St. Helena' Parry manzanita. To 10 feet+; stout, wide-spreading, grey-green leaves and white flowers.
Arctostaphylos 'Monica' 6'+. Green lvs, pink flowers. dk bark.
Arctostaphylos morroensis 4-5 feet by 8 feet. Blue grey leaves; white flowers in spring.
Arctostaphylos morroensis--compact form 4 feet high. Small blue-grey leaves, pinkish white flowers.
Arctostaphylos nummularia--selected form Low, compact. Round, shiny dark green leaves, white flowers.
Arctostaphylos 'Pacific Mist' 30 inches high by 10 feet wide, mounding. Narrow grey leaves, few white flowers.
Arctostaphylos pajaroensis 'Paradise' To 8 feet. Dark pink flowers, bronze leaves.
Arctostaphylos pajaroensis 'Warren Roberts' 6 feet high by 10 feet wide, red new leaves, pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos pringlei ssp. drupacea 15 feet high. Furred grey-green leaves; red new leaves, light pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos pumila Low dense shrub with greyish green shiny leaves. White flowers in spring.
Arctostaphylos purissima 'Vandenberg' 3 feet high by 8 feet + wide; bright green leaves, white flowers.
Arctostaphylos refugioensis To 10 feet+, upright, bushy. Red new growth.
Arctostaphylos rudis 'Vandenberg' Wintergreen Nursery selection; bushy, to 5 feet; bronze tips, pink flowers.
Arctostaphylos silvicola Silverleaf manzanita. 5 feet. Blue grey leaves, white flowers spring.
Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Grey Eagle' Silverleaf manzanita. Chalky grey leaves, white fls, spring.

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