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
Phormium 'Duet' To 2 feet, green leaves with creamy yellow edges.
Phormium 'Dusky Chief' 4-5 feet. Narrow deep reddish purple leaves with greyish backing.
Phormium 'Ed Carman' 3 feet high. Shiny milk chocolate leaves have thin cream and pink margins.
Phormium 'Evening Glow' Leaves have bronze edges, soft rosy pink center and drooping tips.
Phormium 'Firebird' 5-6 feet. Erect rose-red leaves; bronze green edges.
Phormium 'Golden Ray' 4-5 feet. Leaves with green center, wide gold margin.
Phormium 'Guardsman' 6-7 feet high. Upright, bronze-maroon leaves, red margin.
Phormium 'Lady in Red' Suncrest selection. 4-5 feet. Reddish bronze wide leaves; graceful drooping tips.
Phormium 'Margaret Jones' Arching fans of soft rose leaves have bronze edges. Soft rose color matures to cream.
Phormium 'Pancho's Sport' 4 feet. Chocolate-green center, creamy yellow edges. Erect habit.
Phormium 'Parfait' Green leaves have salmon pink center when young, then mature to fresh soft green.
Phormium 'Pink Flamingo' Soft rosy pink center, bronze edges and drooping leaf tips.
Phormium 'Pink Stripe' New Zealand flax. To 6 feet. Bushy. Bronze-green with pink edges.
Phormium 'Rainbow Chief' 4-5 feet high. Bronze leaves with rosy pink margin and streaks.
Phormium 'Rainbow Warrior' Wintergreen Nursery selection. 3-4 feet; leaves bright coral-pink with green edging.
Phormium 'Rosie Chameleon' Leaves have bronze edge, dusky rose centers.
Phormium 'Sea Jade' 4-5 feet. Green leaves with bronze centers, erect form.
Phormium 'Sundowner' 5-6 feet; green central stripe, pink margins, then cream.
Phormium tenax 'Jack Spratt' Dwarf selection; dense clumps; narrow bronze leaves.
Phormium tenax 'Variegatum' New Zealand flax. To 5 feet. Leaves green with yellow edge.

© 2000-2017 Suncrest Nurseries, Inc