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
Sempervivum 'Jungle Shadows' Broad grey rosettes with burgundy tips turn deep burgundy in winter.
Sempervivum 'Kalinda' Tight apple grn rosettes flushed blood-red. Pink fls
Sempervivum 'Lady Kelly' Very large grey-green rosettes; red violet flush, older lvs.
Sempervivum 'Pistachio' Very broad blue-green rosettes, pink flowers in summer.
Sempervivum 'Red Beauty' Houseleek. Rosettes of red-tinged leaves.
Sempervivum 'Red Heart' Houseleek. Grey-green leaves flushed red. Pink fls.
Sempervivum 'Red Nails' Small light green rosettes with red-orange flush.
Sempervivum 'Rita Jane' Houseleek. Dense clusters of rosettes with red tips and older leaves.
Sempervivum 'Royal Ruby' Medium size rosettes are shiny red to greyish red. Dense.
Sempervivum 'Rubicon' Very glossy red purple smallish rosettes; subtle green tips.
Sempervivum 'Ruby Hearts' Blue-green leaves, broad red zone at leaf-base. Pink flowers.
Sempervivum 'Serena' Tight blue green, lightly furry rosettes, pink tips, rose pink flowers.
Sempervivum 'Silverene' Silvery-grn rosettes with red overtones. Rosy-pink fls.
Sempervivum 'Spring Beauty' Bright light green rosettes; rose pink flowers.
Sempervivum tectorum 'Fire Dragon' Powdery blue green lvs tipped mahogany red.
Sempervivum tectorum 'Greenii' Tight, round rosettes; green leaves tipped shiny red.
Senecio anteuphorbium 3-5'h. Gray-grn cylindrical stems w longitudinal lines; small lvs along the stems and white fls.
Senecio jacobsenii Flat growing with thick succulent stems and 2-3 inch fleshy green leaves. Drapes over walls.
Senecio mandraliscae Spreading perennial with succulent blue finger-like leaves. White flowers.
Senecio palmeri 'Silver and Gold' 2-3 feet. White stems, leaves. Clusters of bright yellow daisy flowers. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduction.

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