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
Aloe ciliaris Climbing, to 6+. Dark toothed lvs; red-orange fls, spring.
Aloe cooperi Grass aloe, to 18 inches. Coral orange flowers in summer, low green leaves.
Aloe 'Delta Lights' Broad green leaves heavily streaked with yellow.
Aloe dorotheae Rosettes to 8 inches; new leaves bright red orange when grown in sun.
Aloe fosteri 2 foot high rosette, streaked green leaves. Flower stem to 5 feet, orange flowers.
Aloe 'Hercules' 30'+h. Triangular dk green lvs; grn-tipped salmon fls.
Aloe humilis Spider aloe. 8 inch rosette, bumpy grey-green leaves. Orange flowers.
Aloe humilis 'Andhogp' Spineless Hedgehog TM Spineless Hedgehog. Smooth grn lvs; spikes of coral-red fls.
Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid' 12 inches high. Bright orange flower spikes for months, spreading.
Aloe 'Lizard Lips' Dwarf succulent; tapered grn lvs, w/ white markings and tiny white teeth on the edges
Aloe reitzii Large blue-grey rosette; spikes of orange flowers in summer.
Aloe striata Relaxed rosette with broad grey green leaves. Spikes of orange flowers in spring.
Aloe striatula Clumping shrub with narrow, curving succulent dark green leaves, spikes of yellow flowers, summer.
Aloe 'White Beauty' Tidy rosettes of thick light green leaves heavily streaked with white.
Aloe 'White Fox' 10 inches high and wide. Miniature aloe has rosettes of green leaves, heavily marked with silver white spots.
Alyogyne huegelii 'Monterey Bay' Blue hibiscus. Airy shrub with large bright deep lilac flowers spring to fall.
Alyogyne huegelii 'Santa Cruz' Blue hibiscus. Airy shrub with large dk lavender fls.
Alyogyne huegelii 'Santa Cruz' Blue hibiscus. Large deep blue lilac flowers spring to fall on this open branched shrub.
Alyogyne huegelii 'White Swan' 6'+h. White large fls with violet blush. Airy habit.
Alyssum montanum 'Tekara' Low spreading mat has grey leaves. Vivid yellow flowers are profuse in spring.

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