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.

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Plant Name Capsule Description
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Mrs. Gorman' Suncrest selection. 3-4 feet. Very dense, dwarf globe. Dark green leaves.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Oliver Twist' Small round silver leaves, dark stems. Great hedge plant.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' Erect shrub; small leaves grey with cream, pink margins.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Nugget' 3-4 feet. Dense rounded shrub with oval silvery leaves, black stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen' 8 feet+. Small round grey-green leaves. Dark stems.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tandara Gold' 8-10 feet. Small leaves with gold center, irregular green edges.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Wrinkled Blue' Small leaves with wavy edges are satiny light blue green. Dark stems.
Pittosporum tobira 'Shima' 30 inches high. Glossy light green leaves have cream-white edges. Compact habit.
Plantago major 'Purple Perversion' Sturdy rosettes of crinkled and frilled red-purple leaves. Narrow flower stems.
Plantago major 'Rubrifolia' Sturdy ornamental rosettes of broad red-purple leaves. Narrow flower stems.
Plantago subnuda Broad green leaves feed butterfly larvae. Narrow flower spikes.
Platanus racemosa Large bold leaves on spreading brances, distinctive mottled tan bark.
Plumbago auriculata--dark blue Mounding shrub. Clusters of rich sky blue flowers in summer and fall.
Plumbago auriculata 'Purple Robe' Cape plumbago; bright blue flowers in summer and fall.
Poa arachnifera Texas bluegrass. Dark blue green grass for natural lawns.
Poa cita Tawny clumping grass to 18-24 inches. Airy flower stem to 30 inches.
Poa colensoi Blue tussock. Tight clumping grass to 12-16 inches. Airy flower stem to 20 inches.
Poa secunda Pine bluegrass. Low soft green clump; 18 inch flower stems.
Poliomintha longiflora Mexican oregano; aromatic, shiny leaves, lavender flowers.
Polygala virgata To 6 feet. Almost leafless stems, bright mauve flowers with a frilly lip in summer.

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