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
Sedum reflexum Sunsplash PP#23412 Bright yellow narrow leaves form low mat; yellow flowers top 8 inch erect stems in summer.
Sedum rubrotinctum To 8 inches. Green "jelly bean" leaves form a lot mat. Tips of leaves turn red with summer heat or winter cold.
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' Spreading carpet, with narrow bright yellow leaves, flowers.
Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Ball' 6 inch mound. Vivid yellow narrow leaves, yellow flowers. Taller and more mounding than 'Angelina', same great foliage c
Sedum sediforme 'Turquoise Tails' Blue narrow leaves with upright stem tips. Creamy yellow flowers in summer.
Sedum sexangulare Small green leaves turn bronze with summer sun. Pale yellow fls, summer.
Sedum sexangulare f. elatum Small green leaves stay green in summer sun. Pale yellow fls, summer.
Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco' Matting succulent; rosettes of grey leaves. Starry yellow flowers.
Sedum spathulifolium 'Purpureum' Tight mat; purple-tinged leaves, yellow flowers.
Sedum spathulifolium 'Tomales Bay' Rosettes of green leaves form low mats.
Sempervivum arachnoideum 'Cebenese' Cobweb houseleek; prolific selection; large furred crowns.
Sempervivum arachnoideum hybrid Lightly furry blue-green rosettes in dense clumps.
Sempervivum 'Black' Green rosettes, broad red purple edges.
Sempervivum 'Black Prince' Red violet rosettes have grey-green tips. Pink flowers.
Sempervivum 'Blue Boy' Blue grey rosettes, rose tinted leaf edges. Pink flowers.
Sempervivum 'Commander Hay' Very broad rosettes, red purple centers, green tips. Pink flowers.
Sempervivum 'Flamingo' Lightly furry greyish rosettes, pinkish flush.
Sempervivum 'Gizmo' Dark olive grey rosettes with red tips. Red violet flowers.
Sempervivum 'Green Wheel' Tight rosettes of uniformly green leaves to 4 inches across.
Sempervivum 'Jade Rose' Rosettes of blue green leaves have furry tuft on leaf tips.

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