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
Satureja montana Shrublet to 18 inches. Hairy aromatic green leaves, white flowers.
Satureja thymbra Shrublet to 18 inches. Hairy aromatic green leaves, light pink flowers.
Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' Little bluestem. Clumping to 2-4 feet, erect form. Blue leaves, pink flower stems.
Sedum acre 'Elegans' 3 inches high, 1 foot wide. Tiny green leaves have creamy variegation. Yellow flowers.
Sedum adolphii 'Golden Glow' Fat succulent leaves are golden with a peachy flush. Starry white flowers.
Sedum album Flat growing, dense. Green "jelly bean" leaves, white flowers.
Sedum album 'Chloroticum' Very low tight mat, with small frosty light green leaves. White flowers in summer.
Sedum album 'Coral Carpet' 4 inches high, tight mat. Small fat green leaves with coral red highlights. Cream flowers.
Sedum album 'Green Ice' 4 inches high, tight mat. Small fat icy green lvs. White flowers in summer.
Sedum album 'Nigra' 4 inches high. Small fat green leaves darken to shiny brown in winter. Cream flowers.
Sedum 'Aurora Blue' Low spreading mat of rosettes, thick blue grey leaves.
Sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' 6 inches. Round blue-grey leaves, heads of dark rose flowers in fall.
Sedum confusum Groundcover has spreading stems tipped with green rosettes. Yellow flowers in summer.
Sedum divergens 'Old Man Bones' Matting, with fat, round green leaves flushed bronze.
Sedum 'Fine Gold Leaf' 2-3 inch high creeping mat, small bright yellow leaves.
Sedum kamtschaticum Groundcover has scalloped green leaves that stay low. Yellow flowers in summer.
Sedum lanceolatum Matting succulent; narrow grey leaves; yellow flowers.
Sedum oaxacanum 3 inches high, 1-2 feet wide. Small, fat green leaves on red stems, yellow flowers.
Sedum palmeri Mounding to 12 inches. Succulent green leaves, yellow flowers winter to spring.
Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce' Blue narrow leaves form low mat; yellow flowers top 8 inch erect stems in summer.

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