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
Lavandula stoechas pedunculata With Love TM PP#22709 Compact plants, pink flags top flower spikes.
Lavandula viridis Green lavender. Green aromatic leaves, creamy yellow flowers topped by green flags.
Lavatera assurgentiflora--dark-flowered form Tree mallow; large lobed leaves, dark purple-red flowers with white centers.
Lavatera bicolor Bushy, with greyish leaves, large purple-centered flowers.
Leersia monandra Cut-rice grass. 8 inches. Fine leaf green grass for dry shade, spreads.
Leonotis leonurus Lion's tail; 6 feet; bright orange flower clusters in fall.
Leonotis menthifolia 'Savannah Sunset' Erect stems to 5 feet display whorls of bright orange flowers in summer and fall.
Lepechinia calycina Grey furry, aromatic leaves; pale lilac bell flowers in spring.
Lepechinia fragrans Seed grown plants have the typical very fragrant soft grey furry leaves and large pink flowers.
Lepechinia fragrans 'El Tigre' Soft grey furry, fragrant leaves, large pink flowers, CA native.
Lepechinia hastata To 6 feet; large fuzzy, fragrant grey leaves; lavender-rose flowers.
Leptospermum continentale 'Horizontalis' 1 foot high by 6 feet wide. Green triangular leaves covered with white flowers in spring.
Leptospermum 'Dark Shadows' Striking purple flushed leaves on willowy branches, white flowers in summer.
Leptospermum laevigatum Australian tea tree. Draping branches, white flowers.
Leptospermum laevigatum 'Reevesii Compactum' 3-4 feet, slow, compact; congested blue-green leaves.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Apple Blossom' Double light pink flowers change to white. Leaves darken in winter.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Burgundy Queen' Double dark red flowers, maroon leaves.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Candy Cane' Tea tree. Flowers semidouble, bright pink with dark outline.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Gaiety Girl' Tea tree. Double deep pink-lilac tint flowers.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Helene Strybing' 10 feet high. Tea tree. Single pink flowers.

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