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
Teucrium marum 1 foot mound; slender stems; pungent grey leaves; pink flowers.
Teucrium montanum Matting, dark grey leaves, light yellow flowers, dark red buds.
Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum Meadow rue; fernlike leaves, tall stems; delicate green flowers.
Thamnochortus bachmannii 2-3 feet. Interlaced green stems. Papery gold flower clusters.
Thamnochortus insignis Wiry dark green stems to 5 feet+ from dense narrow base. Dark gold flowers.
Thermopsis macrophylla 2-3 feet. California false lupine. Silky leaves. Yellow flowers.
Thymus caespititius 'Tuffet' Flat mat. Light green leaves; soft pink flowers.
Thymus camphoratus To 1 foot, mounding. Dark green aromatic leaves. Heads of rose-pink flowers.
Thymus 'Caborn Wine & Roses' Flat mat with dark green leaves, vivid purple pink flowers in summer.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Argenteus' Silver thyme; dense, matting; white-variegation.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Archer's Gold' Low, dense. Green leaves with gold highlights. Pink flowers.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Lime' 4-12 inches. Lime thyme. Dense, low. Lime-green leaves.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Sweet Greens' Suncrest selection. Lush, low dark green mounds. Lavender pink flowers.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Silver Queen' Leaves are silvery white and green, lavender pink flowers.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Variegatus' 6-12 inches. Lemon thyme. Dense, variegated, aromatic.
Thymus 'Highland Cream' Very low mat. Green leaves edged creamy white. Light pink flowers in spring.
Thymus hirsutus Soft grey-green mat with narrow hairy leaves; pink flowers.
Thymus neiceffii Grey-green needle leaves on low spreading stems, lavender pink flowers in spring.
Thymus 'Pink Chintz' 3 inches high. Tight, tiny-leaved mat. Profuse bright pink flowers.
Thymus pseudolanuginosus Tight flat mats of woolly grey leaves. Lavender pink flowers in spring.

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