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 sonomensis 'Gorda' Furry grey leaves, blue-purple flowers in spring. 8-12 inches high, 3-4 feet wide.
Salvia sonomensis 'Pine Canyon' Tight form of Sonoma sage. Rounded grey-green leaves, lavender flowers.
Salvia sonomensis--Shasta strain Low spreading sage for dry, rocky slopes. Lavender fls.
Salvia spathacea Dense spreading clumps of fragrant green leaves. Magenta flowers.
Salvia spathacea 'King Crimson' Large green, fragrant basal leaves; dark magenta flowers on 3 foot stalks.
Salvia 'Starlight' California native hybrid sage. Grey leaves, long wands of white flowers.
Salvia taraxacifolia Dandelion leaved. rosettes of gray-grn lvs; 1' spikes of soft pink fls
Salvia 'Tangerine Ballet' TM Suncrest Nurseries hybrid. Upright, with large tangerine flowers. S.greggii type.
Salvia 'Ultra Violet' PP#21411 Greggii hybrid. Many vivid purplish pink flowers. Compact habit.
Salvia 'Valentina' S. darcyi x microphylla hybrid. Many dark ruby red flowers on flexible stems, to 3 feet.
Salvia 'Whirly Blue' Salvia clevelandii hybrid. Bright lavender-blue flowers, aromatic leaves.
Sambucus mexicana (nigra ssp. caerulea) Blue elderberry. White flowers, blue berries. California native.
Santolina chamaecyparissus Lavender cotton; 2 feet+, dense; small grey leaves.
Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Compacta' Lavender cotton; 1 foot, dense; small grey leaves.
Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Nana' Lavender cotton; less than 1 foot high, tight cushion with small grey leaves.
Santolina ericoides Green santolina. Dense, with green aromatic leaves. Creamy yellow flowers.
Santolina neapolitana 'Lemon Queen' Mound to 2 feet, dense white foliage, pale yellow flowers.
Santolina virens Dense durable shrub with green aromatic leaves. Pale yellow flowers.
Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz' PPAF 1-2 feet. Tufts of narrow chartreuse leaves in a dense mound.
Satureja (Clinopodium) douglasii Yerba buena; trailing perennial with small aromatic green leaves.

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