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 officinalis 'Purpurea' Kitchen sage. To 12 inches high by 3 feet wide. New leaves purple.
Salvia officinalis 'Silver Sabre' PP#24509 Kitchen sage. Leaves have even white margin, pink new growth. Lavender blue flowers.
Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor' Kitchen sage. Grey-green, cream, pink & purple leaves.
Salvia 'Orchid Glow' PP#22520 Suncrest hybrid. Large vivid purplish magenta flowers. Microphylla type.
Salvia pachyphylla 3 feet. Silver leaves; heads with rose-colored bracts, deep blue flowers.
Salvia 'Pink Frills' TM Suncrest hybrid. 2 feet high. White flowers, frilly light rose pink lip. Greggii type.
Salvia 'Playa Rosa' 2 feet. Salvia greggii type. Large lavender pink flowers, wide lower lip.
Salvia 'Pozo Blue' Salvia clevelandii hybrid. Bright lavender-blue flowers, aromatic leaves.
Salvia prunelloides 1 foot high. Round green leaves; blue purple flowers on spikes.
Salvia 'Radio Red' PP#26362 Salvia greggii hybrid. Vivid red flowers, long bloom.
Salvia 'Red Swing' PP#26401 Salvia greggii hybrid. Bright red flowers, dark calyx, stems.
Salvia regla 'Royal' Bushy shrub to 5-6 feet, with textured leaves, bright orange-red flowers in fall.
Salvia reptans (S. leptophylla) To 2 feet+; slender leaves and dark stems; dark blue flowers.
Salvia roemeriana Charming Texas native; 1 foot high by 2 feet wide, sprays of red flowers.
Salvia 'Salmon Dance' PP#26361 S.greggii hybrid. Bright salmon pink flowers, long bloom season.
Salvia sclarea Large grey leaves.Tall stems, pink bracts, blue/white fls.
Salvia sessilifolia Upright perennial to 3-4' has dark green textured leaves and dense spikes of deep burgundy flowers set in lime calyces.
Salvia 'Shirley's Creeper' 3 feet high, 6 feet wide. Textured green leaves, cream flowers.
Salvia 'Snow White' Bushy, to 2'. Creamy-white fls and dark base.
Salvia sonomensis 'Fremont's Carpet' Carpeting subshrub. Narrow furry leaves, blue purple flowers in sprng.

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