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 mellifera hybrid 3-4'. Green aromatic leaves, pale blue fls; mellifera x dorrii.
Salvia mellifera 'Sweet Honey' 3-4 feet. Sweetly aromatic green leaves, dense habit. Selected for good flavor.
Salvia 'Mesa Azure' Microphylla/greggi hybrid. Light purple flowers, long bloom.
Salvia microphylla--Belize form Bushy, to 3 feet or more; bright green leaves, large bright red flowers.
Salvia microphylla 'Cerro Potosi' Bushy, to 2 feet. Bright magenta red flowers, long bloom.
Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' Bushy, to 3 feet. Small dark leaves, red and white flowers.
Salvia microphylla 'Little Kiss' PP#28433 Like 'Hot Lips' with red and white variable flowers, but a smaller size. To 2 feet high.
Salvia microphylla 'Rosie O'Grady' Bushy, 2 feet. Fresh green leaves, pink flowers. Spreading.
Salvia 'Royal Bumble' 2'+; Black upright stems, deep-green foliage. Scarlet-red flowers.
Salvia moorcroftiana x indica Broad low blue grey leaves; 2 feet+ stems with bright lavender blue flowers in spring.
Salvia 'Mrs. Beard' Grey leaves on a spreading shrub; small lavender flowers in spring. Great groundcover for dry garden.
Salvia muelleri Like Salvia greggii in form and leaf; profuse purple flowers.
Salvia 'Neon Dancer' TM Suncrest Nurseries hybrid. Bushy greggii type, wild purplish-red flowers.
Salvia 'Nuevo Leon' Like S. greggii in form, smaller leaves; many small blue purple flowers.
Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' Garden sage; spreading clump, 6-12 inches high, aromatic grey leaves.
Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten Variegated' Garden sage; irregular cream edges on large grey-green leaves.
Salvia officinalis 'Extracta' Kitchen sage. Grey leaves, known for high oil content.
Salvia officinalis 'Grower's Friend' Kitchen sage. Grey-green leaves, valued for flavor.
Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' Kitchen sage. Matting. Yellow leaf margins.

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