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 'Tigre Red' Similar to 'Guardsman'. Upright habit, lvs dark bronze red with rose pink center.
Phormium 'Tom Thumb' 1-2 feet. Dwarf, tight. Arching green leaves, chocolate edges.
Phormium 'Wings of Gold' 3-4 feet. Olive green leaves with yellow margins.
Phormium 'Yellow Wave' To 4 feet, dense; bright yellow-variegated leaves.
Photinia fraseri Pink Marble TM PP#15160 Colorful foundation shrub. New leaves pink and red. Older growth green and pink with white edges.
Phyla nodiflora--native strain Lippia. Low tight green ground cover, pink flowers in summer. Fast.
Phytolacca icosandra 5'h; cherry-violet stems and veined lvs. Spikes full of magenta fls, then red-purple berries.
Pickeringia montana Chaparral pea. Rounded, spiny shrub. Purplish pink flowers.
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa pine, western yellow pine. Distinctive bark.
Piptochaetium fimbriatum Pinyon ricegrass. Fine texture bunchgrass for dry shade.
Pittosporum heterophyllum 6-10'h. Dense. Glossy ovate lvs, small fragrant white-creme fls.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 25 feet tall. Evergreen. Dense, 1 inch dark green leaves, black stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Buddy Gorman' Suncrest Nurseries selection. Upright, dense, with bright green leaves.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Elfin' PP#21822 Compact mound, light green leaves darken as they mature.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Elian' Suncrest selection. 3-4 feet. Green leaves, very congested growth. Was Leonel's selection.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Gerd's Form' 25 feet. Glossy, dark green leaves, black stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Gold Star' 4-6 feet. Dark green leaves with gold center, black stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Patterson' 6-8 feet high. Green leaves, heavy irregular frosty white speckling.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Jade' Small light green leaves, dark stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Marjorie Channon' 10 feet+, compact upright shrub; cream variegation.

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