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
Thymus pulegioides 'Foxley' 6 inches high. Mounding thyme has cream and green leaves, dark pink flowers.
Thymus 'Rose Williams' Dense low aromatic shrublet; grey-green leaves, light pink flowers.
Thymus serpyllum var. albus Mother-of-thyme; flat green mat; white flowers.
Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineus' Mother-of-thyme; flat green mat; purplish pink flowers.
Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' Mother-of-thyme. Dense mat, tiny green leaves, pink flowers.
Thymus vulgaris Woody subshrub; aromatic grey leaves, lavender pink flowers.
Thymus vulgaris 'Faustini' Shrublet with green aromatic leaves, pink flowers in early summer.
Thymus vulgaris 'French' Shrublet with green sweetly aromatic leaves, pink flowers in early summer.
Thymus vulgaris 'Silver Posie' Woody shrublet. White edged aromatic leaves, lavender pink flowers.
Thymus vulgaris 'Transparent Yellow' Bright yellow aromatic leaves in flat mat. Light pink flowers.
Trichostema lanatum Woolly blue curls; 4 feet+; arching purple flower stems, blue flowers.
Trichostema 'Midnight Magic' TM Suncrest hybrid, to 4 feet. Bushy, with narrow leaves, large purple flowers. T. lanatum x purpusii.
Triteleia hyacinthina California native bulb to 2 feet high. Dense clusters of white bowl-shaped flowers, spring.
Triteleia laxa 'Queen Fabiola' Ithuriel's spear. 12-18 inches; large blue purple trumpets.
Triteleia peduncularis Long-rayed brodiaea; clusters of white flowers in spring.
Tritonia crocata 'Charles Puddles' Spectacular seed strain; flowers coral to white.
Tritonia crocata 'Princess Beatrix' 1-2 feet; iris-like leaves; bright orange flowers.
Tritonia disticha Wand like stems; coral-red flowers with yellow markings, summer.
Tritonia 'Flaming Fancy' Flame freesia. 1 foot+ flower stem. Coral orange flowers.
Tritonia hyalina 1 foot; iris-like leaves; flowers orange with clear "windows".

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