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
Salvia greggii 'Moonlight' Wintergreen Nursery selection; dense, with moonlight-yellow flowers.
Salvia greggii 'Smokin' Lavender' Light lavender flowers set in dark calyces, long bloom season.
Salvia greggii--white 2 feet+, bushy; small oval leaves, many white flowers.
Salvia Heatwave TM 'Glimmer' 2'+h. Creamy-white fls light pink blushed, dark calyxes and stms.
Salvia heldreichiana Low grey leaves; 2 feet+ stems with bright blue purple flowers in spring.
Salvia x jamensis 'Cienega de Oro' 2 feet+. Sage. Masses of bright yellow flowers.
Salvia x jamensis 'Coral Sunrise' 3 feet. Deep coral flowers turn pale coral. Near-black stems.
Salvia x jamensis 'Sierra San Antonio' Sage. Many flowers of soft orange and moonlight yellow.
Salvia lanceolata Sturdy shrub with grey leaves, large dusty rose pink flowers. Gently spreading.
Salvia 'Lemon Light' PP#24105 18 inches high. Compact habit; clear lemon yellow flowers.
Salvia leucantha Danielle's Dream PP#21734 Mexican sage; silvery white flower spikes, bright pink flowers, spring to fall.
Salvia leucantha--purple-flowered form Mexican sage; white stems, rosy buds, purple flowers.
Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara' PP#12949 Compact form of Mexican sage; white stems, purple fuzzy flower spikes, lavender flowers.
Salvia leucantha 'White Mischief' Mexican sage; silvery white flower spikes, white flowers, spring to fall.
Salvia leucophylla 'Amethyst Bluff' 2 feet high by 6 feet wide; grey, furry leaves, bright lavender flowers. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduction.
Salvia leucophylla 'Figueroa' 3-4 feet. Native sage. White leaves. Pink flowers.
Salvia leucophylla 'Pt. Sal' 2 feet high, 6-8 feet wide. Native sage with felty white leaves. Whorls of pink flowers.
Salvia 'Madeline' PP#20456 30". Low green leaves, spikes of dark blue & white fls.
Salvia 'Marine Blue' 2 feet. Dusty grey-green leaves. Spikes of deep blue flowers.
Salvia melissodora Bushy, to 6 feet. Green foliage, grape-scented lavender blue flowers.

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