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.

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Plant Name Capsule Description
Philotheca myoporoides 'Profusion' Rounded, bushy. Masses of starry white flowers. Aromatic leaves.
Phlomis cretica 18 inches high by 3 feet wide. Fuzzy yellowish leaves, bright yellow flowers.
Phlomis cashmeriana Low large rough green leaves, spikes of lavender pink flowers in spring.
Phlomis 'Edward Bowles' Especially large leaves, whorls of yellow flowers in spring and early summer.
Phlomis fruticosa Jerusalem sage; 4 feet+; large fuzzy leaves, yellow flowers.
Phlomis lanata To 3 feet high. Furry stems and 1 inch rounded leaves. Yellow flowers.
Phlomis monocephala To 4 feet, dense. Golden leaves; yellow flowers.
Phlomis purpurea To 5 feet, bushy. Grey-green leaves, lavender pink flowers.
Phlomis russeliana Slowly spreading clumps, with large rough green leaves; yellow flowers on 2-3 foot stems, spring.
Phlomis tuberosa 4'+h. Dark burgundy stems. Lavender-pink hooded flower clusters.
Phlomis tuberosa 'Bronze Flamingo' 2'h+. Dark bronze-burgundy stems, bearing lilac-pink fl clusters. Dark grn lvs.
Phormium 'Apricot Queen' 3 feet high; leaves banded with yellow; apricot flush.
Phormium 'Black Rage' Dark chocolate leaves, bluish grey undersides.
Phormium 'Bronze Baby' 3-5 feet. New Zealand flax. Compact, bronze leaves.
Phormium 'Carousel' To 3 feet. Bronze leaves have pink flush, light orange edges.
Phormium colensoi 'Cream Delight' New Zealand flax; dwarf; leaves cream, margined green.
Phormium colensoi 'Platt's Black' To 3-4 feet, narrow, dark reddish brown leaves. Compact.
Phormium colensoi 'Tricolour' 2-4 feet; leaves striped green, cream + pink.
Phormium 'Dark Delight' 5 feet+. Bold, broad leaves colored deep reddish purple.
Phormium 'Doug's Warrior' Broad, dark reddish midrib; vivid rose red on edges.

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