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The unthirsty 100.

Ready for a new water-sensible era in California gardening?

On these 10 pages are your best-bet plants. They're good-looking. They get along with little or no summer watering

Water thrifty or water guzzling? When you set out to save water in the garden, sooner or later you have to reckon with plants' varying thirsts.

The ones on these 10 pages are water thrifty Although their moisture needs vary-depcnding on climate, exposure, and soil, as well as on the plants' basic natures most thrive in home gardens with little or no summer water, once established. They're good-looking and well suited to California's dry summers.

There's good reason to consider planting them now. Low rainfall in the winter of 1987 88 the second year in a row brought serious water shortages to some districts, primarily in northern California. There, mandatory cutbacks ranging from 10 to 35 percent turned lawns brown and stressed other plants.

And fall is the best time to buy and plant drought-tolerant plants. Air is cool but soil is still warm, which promotes root growth. And any rains that fall in the next four to six months will help irrigate them. If you're planting a new garden, you can landscape it entirely with unthirsty plants. If you're renovating an old one, modify it in stages; that way, you'll spread the work and expense over several years and avoid disrupting the whole garden at once.

Mediterranean-climate plants

The list starting on page 77 gives 100 plants for a variety of landscape needs. Most come from Mediterranean climates. Of these, 18 are California natives; the rest are from parts of western and south Australia, southern Africa, central Chile, and the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. A few others just happen to be drought tolerant, even though their places of origin are high-rainfall areas.

In Mediterranean climates, all or most of the year's rain falls during the cooler months, and summers are mostly dry. Many plants native to these areas can survive on very little moisture; their physical make-up allows them to conserve water and use it economically through dry seasons. For example, some are inherently deep rooted and can reach water reserves far down in the ground. Many have hairy or thick leaf surfaces, which help reduce water loss.

Some-many California natives, for instance-go semidormant in summer and can succumb to root rots and other soilborne diseases if watered then.

Getting the plants established

Obviously, plants put straight into the

ground ftom cans won't survive into their first summer without water. To become drought tolerant, they must send roots down to the soil level where some moisture from winter rains remains well into the dry season. You help them to do so, by watering them at planting time and again if rains during the first winter and spring are infrequent or too slight to soak the soil. Water slowly, deeply, and thoroughly two to four times during plants' first dry season (some may need water more frequently). By their second summer, many won't need water.

Other factors determine a plant's drought tolerance: how hot or windy the weather gets during the dry season (the hotter and drier it gets, the more it taxes a plant's ability to survive); what kind of soil it's in (clay holds more water than sand); how deep the soil is (the deeper and more permeable it is, and the more rainwater it absorbs during the rainy season, the more likely a plant is to survive); what the local microclimate is like; how much competition for water there is ftom nearby plants; and whether there's a mulch to help retain soil moisture.

Unthirsty plants alone don't save water How you place them in the garden, and how well you manage the water you give them make the difference between a water-careful landscape and a water-wasteful one. Here are guidelines.

Choose the right plants for your climate. For each plant, use the climate zones in the following listings as a guide. Also consider your site-whether it's subject to drying winds, for example.

Put them in the right place. In nature, plants scatter seed in many directions, but they take hold and thrive only in soils and exposures that especially suit them. In gardens, we sometimes expect them to thrive where we plunk them.

Provide good drainage. If your soil drains well, water percolates downward through and past the rootball. Check your soil's drainage before planting. For corrections that can be made then, see page 210.

Group plants with the same water needs. Don't put ones that can tolerate summer water with ones that can't. And don't put one water guzzler in a bed of less thirsty plants (it'll set the flow for all).

Water wisely. Once plants are established, give them only the water they need to look good-no more. (Many plants initially chosen for drought tolerance subsequently get overwatered.) Water at night or in early morning, when soil is cool (warm, wet soils promote root rot in many susceptible plants, such as those marked with a * in the plant listings).

Mulch around plants. A 2-inch layer of a material like bark chips or gravel keeps roots cool and evaporation down. But avoid piling it against the stem or trunk, which can cause rots and othertroubles.

Where to buy water-sensible plants

Retail nurseries now sell a broader selection of drought-tolerant plants than before. Many sell California natives-and a few specialize in them (but not all natives can tolerate drought).

Arboretum and plant society sales are other good places to buy; for sales this month, see page 222.

Your climate zone

A gardening climate is determined by latitude (distance from the equator), elevation, the effect of the Pacific Ocean, and where the garden sits in relation to local terrain. The climate zones in our plant lists are from the Sunset Western Garden Book. This is what they mean.

In Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and highest elevations of California:

1, 2, and 3. The coldest-winter climates in the West; snow every winter.

In California: 7. Foothill areas such as Placerville, Mariposa, Sonora.

8, 9. The Central Valley's colder (Marysville, Merced) and milder (Roseville, Porterville) climates, respectively

14. Cold-winter valleys with some coastal influence: Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Walnut Creek, Woodside, Gilroy.

15, 16, 17. Coldest to mildest parts of northern California's coast and Bay Area.

18,19.Interior Southern California, coldest (Northridge, Chino) and mildest (Encino, Ontario).

20, 21. Intermediate Southern California, coldest (Burbank, El Monte) and mildest (Pasadena, Escondido).

22, 23. Subtropical Southern California, coldest (Inglewood, Fountain Valley) and mildest (Beverly Hills, Fallbrook).

24. Southern California beaches.

Besides plants in our list . . .

Don't overlook succulents. Many are handsome; most adapt splendidly to drought but do best in mild, nearly frostfree climates. Handsome choices include

agave (big clumps of gray-green leaves), aloe (clumps of pointed leaves with spikes of red to yellow blooms), and ice plant (many kinds, many names, but all good ground covers).

Other good choices for water-thrifty gardens include spring-blooming wildflowers such as baby blue eyes and California poppies, and bulbs such as Amaryllis belladonna and montbretia that are native to dry climates. For striking silhouettes, try yucca; for lush green in dry shade, try Sprenger asparagus fern.

And there are other plant choices. For lists of locally suitable drought-tolerant plants, check with your water district. Bay Area gardeners will find suggestions in Water-conserving Plants and Landscapes for the Bay Area, published by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (1986). It's available in bookstores or by mail from EBMUD, Alamo Business Office, Box 937, Alamo 94507; $11, including postage and handling. Arctostaphylos Manzanita Many forms, all evergreen: low, spreading kinds to mounding shrubs 5 to 6 feet tall.

Landscape use: A. densiflora Howard McMinn good massed on north-facing slopes in zones 15, 16. A. edmundsii 'Carmel Sur' (zones 7-9, 14 24) has neat gray-green foliage; use it as low-growing backdrop on berms.

How unthirsty? Drought resistant, but apply water if needed for best looks.

Artemisia Wormwood

Low perennials to big shrubs. All zones. Landscape use. Some kinds excellent in mixed flower borders where their white or silvery foliage softens bright reds and oranges. Others (including French tarragon) are for flavorings. Some tolerate salt winds at the beach.

How unthirty? Silvery sheen develops best under drought conditions.

Atriplex Saltbush

Many kinds, 1 to 7 feet high, with gray or silvery foliage. Zones 8, 9, 14-24. Landscape use. Good clipped hedge. Thrives in saline soils.

How unthirsty? Never suffers from dryness

but does suffer from overwatering.

Dodonaea viscosa Hop bush Willow-like green or bronze-purple leaves 4 inches long grow from many upright stems. Zones 7-9, 14-24.

Landscape use: As informal screen, pruned as hedge or espalier, or small tree. How unthirsty? . Needs no irrigation.


Tough, easy, mostly big; some deciduous. Metallic dusting gives dull green foliage sparkle in sunlight. Zones 7-9, 14 24. Landscape us& Screen plant requires little upkeep. Good at beach.

How unthirsty? In most places, will make it through summer with no water.

Juniperus Juniper

Many forms, sizes, shades of green. All have needle-like foliage and fleshy, berrylike cones. All zones.

Landscape use., Hedges, low screens, or as accents. Lower-growing kinds good as ground covers, taller forms as trees. How unthirsty? Except in hottest inland areas, established plants in retentive soils thrive on little or no summer water. Mahonia pinnata California holly grape

Spiny, oval leaves are reddish when young; has yellow flower clusters in spring, blue berries in fall. To 6 feet tall. M. aquifolium is similar. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use., As a screen, or massed among trees. Needs some shade inland. How unthirsty. Deep, infrequent watering.

Mandina domestica

Heavenly bamboo

Lacy green leaves turn brilliant red in fall. To 8 feet tall. Needs some shade in hot inland valleys. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use. Airy hedge or screen. How unthirsty? Full-size forms very drought tolerant once established.

Prunus caroliniana, P. ilicifolia, P. lyonii

Attractive, densely foliaged evergreens 6 to

40 feet high. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use.' Good screens or clipped hedges that don't look drought resistant. How unthirsty? The first tolerates some drought. Unwatered in normal-rainfall years, the last two show no distress.

Ribes viburnifolium Evergreen currant

Spreading evergreen shrub to 3 feet tall (12 feet wide); arching red stems. Small pinkish flowers in spring. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Great under native oaks. Must have shade except near coast. How unthirsty? Tolerates drought but looks best with occasional watering.

Rhamnus alatemus Italian buckthorn

R. californica Coffeeberry

Evergreen shrub to 15 feet. Zones 7-24. R. Californica 'Eve Case' smaller (w 8 feet). Landscape use. Quick screen or hedge.

How unthirsty? Very, but needs some supplemental water in extremely dry weather to look good.

Teucriumfruticans* Bush germander

Silvery shrub 4 to 8 feet high and as wide; blue flowers. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use. Hedge or screen. Handsome with reddish or purplish plants

like purple hop bush. How unthirsty? Looks best with two or three waterings a summer. Too much water can cause root rot.

Xylosma congestum Graceful, spreading evergreen shrub with shiny, light green foliage. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use., Background hedge, espalier, or small tree with pruning. How unthirsty? Will survive any dryness but might look sparse during the worst.

Alyogyne huegelii Blue hibiscus Short-lived evergreen shrub 5 to 8 feet tall; lilac-blue flowers. Zones 15-17, 20-24.

Landscape use: As an accent in a warm, dry location; handsome combined with lavender lantana.

How unthirsty? Very, but some summer water improves foliage, flowers.

Carissa grandiflora Natal plum Rounded shrub I to 7 feet tall with lustrous green leaves; fragrant, white pinwheel flowers are followed by red plum-shaped, edible fruit. Zones 22-24; with frost protection in zones 16-21.

Landscape use: Hedge or screen; train 'Prostrata' as espalier.

How unthirsty? Fairly drought tolerant near the coast; needs some water inland during hottest summer.

Cassia artemisioides * Feathery cassia

Light, airy evergreen shrub 3 to 5 feet high; clusters of yellow flowers in winter, spring. Needs sun. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Put it where you can show off its light, airy structure.

How unthirsty? For best appearance, fastdraining soil and infrequent watering essential, especially in summer.

Ceanothus* Wild lilac

Dark green evergreen foliage is perfect background for white or blue flowers (many shades) in spring. Zones 7 9, 14 24.

Landscape use: Combine shrubby kinds with ground cover types, or with goldenflowered flannel bush. Great on rocky slopes. Plant beyond sprinklers' reach, away from lawns. Some kinds, such as C 'Ray Hartman', C 'Frosty Blue', and C 'Blue Buttons', better inland than others.

How unthirsty? Completely (most are California natives), Once established, can survive on rainfall alone in coastal areas. To prevent yellowing foliage, hose-water once a month in hot inland areas.

Cistus* Rockrose

Sun lovers. Grow 2 to 6 feet tall and as wide; showy in spring when covered with pink or white blooms. Zones 7 9, 14-24.

Landscape uses: Dry bank cover, mounding hedge, or interplanted with ceanothus.

How unthirsty? When really dry, the leaves fold up tight, but plants survive. In clay soils especially, frequent watering or poor drainage can weaken and kill them.

Cotinus coggygria* Smoke tree Urn-shaped mass eventually to 25 feet tall; bare in winter. Leaves turn rust to orangered in fall (Cc 'Royal Purple' retains purple leaves through summer). Dramatic puffs of purplish "smoke" appear as flowers fade. All zones.

Landscape use: Use it as a singular summertime showpiece, or with clusters of silvery-foliaged bush germander.

How unthirsty? Very. Needs good drainage.

Cytisus Broom (certain kinds) Many kinds spread like weeds. Best choices are the less aggressive ones, such as scoparius hybrid, 'Moonlight'. Zones 7-9, 14-24.

Landscape use: Good in mild coastal gardens in northern California. Subject to serious caterpillar damage in Southern California.

How unthirsty? Very, but looks better with a little summer water.

Echium fastuosum Pride of Madeira

Spiky blue flowers in spring. Best on coast. Zones 7-9, 14-24.

Landscape use: Good on slopes; combine with sea lavender, plumbago, lavender. How unthirsty? Very, on coast. Weekly watering inland.

Eriagonum* Wild buckwheat

Native to California chaparral; grows 1 to 8 feet tall, depending on kind. Clouds of pale yellow, pink, white, or red flowers spring into summer, dry to buff. Zones 7, 14-24. Landscape use : On dry banks or massed among rocks.

How unthirsty? Very; needs no summer water. Must have good drainage.


Evergreen shrubs 3 to 15 feet tall have glossy green leaves and clusters of white, pink, or red flowers. Zones 14-17, 20-24. Landscape use. Screen or hedge.

How unthirsty? Can take some drought, but likes water two or three times a summer in the Central Valley. Euryops pectinatus

Evergreen shrubs to 3 feet have yellow daisy flowers mostly in winter. Zones 14 17, 19-24.

Landscape use. Handsome as hedges; thrive in ocean winds.

How unthirsty? Little water once established.

Fremontodendron* Flannel bush

Spectacular show of big, bright yellow flowers over a long period in spring, early summer. Grows 6 to 20 feet tall and as wide. Zones 7-9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Sparkling backdrop for blue 'Concha' wild lilac.

How unthirsty? Wants no summer water. Needs good drainage.


Evergreen shrubs, most with fine-textured leaves and clusters of long, slender flowers. 'Canberra' and 'Noellii' are most available, but many new varieties introduced in last decade. Zones 8-9, 14-24.

Landscape use.' Delicate screen or informal hedge in a sunny spot. Gets chlorotic in alkaline soils.

How unthirsty? Very Many have thrived for years at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum without irrigation. Don't plant near lawns.


A rambler; grows 1 to 6 feet high and can spread for miles. Flower clusters in lavender, yellow, to flame red through warm months. Frost can damage it. Zones 15-22. May freeze in all but zone 17. Landscape use. Handsome spilling from raised beds, covering banks. In flower beds, combine shrubby kinds with annuals.

How unthirsty? Deep, infrequent watering.

Lavandula Lavender

An old favorite for fragrance; to 3 to 4 feet high and across. All zones.

Landscape use. Plant beds of it or mix with other colorful drought resisters such as yellow-flowered santolina.

How unthirsty? Reasonably, but should be watched. French and Spanish lavender more drought tolerant than English.

Plumbago auriculata Cape plumbago

Sprawling green mound to 6 feet tall; clear light blue (or white) flower clusters mostly in hot weather. Zones 8, 9, 14 24.

Landscape use. Good cover for bank or hot wall; handsome twining a fence with scarlet or pink bougainvillea.

How unthirsty? Survives with no water during dry season; good drainage important,

Punica granatum Pomegranate Deciduous trees and shrubs 3 to 10 feet tall; showy yellow to orange-red flowers. Zones 7-24. Landscape use. P.g'Nana' is nearly evergreen in mild areas; good low hedge.

How unthirsty. Ornamental varieties need little water.

Romneya coulteri Matilija poppy

Rambling shrubs to 8 feet tall; white flowers with yellow tufts. All zones. Landscape use. Mass on banks or in beds,

How unthirsty? Quite. If it gets ratty after bloom, cut it back.


Glossy-leafed evergreen shrubs to 5 feet tall; white to rosy pink flowers in spring. Zones 8-10, 14-24.

Landscape use. Informal hedge, low divider, or background shrub. Best in sun. How unthirsty? Can stand fairly dry conditions and still look good.

These 11 are more versatile.

Use them as hedges, espaliers, or small trees

Arbutus unedo Strawberry tree Large evergreen shrub-tree 8 to 35 feet tall and as wide; clusters of small white flowers and red to yellow marble-size fruits in fall, winter. Zones 7 24.

Landscape uses. Good screen plant, or prune to make it a tree.

How unthirsty. Grows on rainfall alone.

Callistemon Bottlebrush

Flowers are abundant, bright red brushes (see picture at left). Zones 8, 9, 14-24. Landscape use : Large shrub, small tree, hedge, or espalier.

How unthirsty? Completely unthirsty if soil is deep and you wean it gradually.


Evergreen fountaining shrub 6 to 8 feet or more. Small white flowers followed in winter by clusters of red fruits. All zones. Landscape use: Espalier against fence, or clip into formal hedge.

How unthirsty? Can get by on no water near coast; occasional water is best inland.

Garrya elliptica Coast silktassel

Attractive foliage; looks like evergreen oak. Male plants have attractive long flower catkins in winter. Zones 7-9, 14-21.

Landscape use: Display shrub, informal screen 4 to 8 feet tall, or tree to 30 feet. How unthirsty? Thrives without water in sun or light shade. Feijoa sellowiana Pineapple guava

Many stems. Green leaves have silvery undersides. Red and white flowers; edible fruit. To 25 feet tall. Zones 7-9, 14-24. Landscape use. Espalier, hedge, screen, small tree. Prune in late spring, How unthirsty? Tolerates drought.

Heterometes arbutifolia Toyon

Shrub to 10 feet or multitrunked 25-foot tree with glossy green leaves; colorful red winter berries. Zones 5-24. Landscape use: Informal screen or bank planting in sun or part shade. Use as tree only in mild coastal climates where soils and roots are deep. Trunk susceptible to sunscald; roots like it cool.

How unthirsty? Lives on rainfall alone in most of California.

Lagerstroemia indica Crape myrtle

Crepe-papery summer flowers in ice cream colors, rosy pink to scarlet, Leaves turn yellow to red in fall. Deciduous. Best in zones 7-9, 14, 18-21 (mildews near coast). Landscape use. Spreading as shrub. As trees to show off attractive bark.

How unthirsty? Deep, infrequent watering.

Leptospermum laevigatum Australian tea tree

Small, dull green leaves on weeping branches; white flowers in spring. Grows to 30 feet tall and as wide. Zones 14-24. Landscape use. As a tree, shows off twisted trunk. Good informal hedge.

How unthirsty? Needs good drainage; slow-draining soils, overwatering can kill it.

Myrtus communis Myrtle Shiny green leaves fragrant when brushed.

Small whitish flowers and bluish berries are bonuses. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use. Hedge or screen. How unthirsty? Drought resistant but looks best with some water.

Nerium oleander Oleander Star performer, even in hot inland valleys.

Grows 8 to 12 feet high and as wide. Zones 8 16, 18-23.

Landscape use: Screen, hedge, bank plant. As trees, pink-flowered forms striking above pink-flowered rhaphiolepis. How unthirsty? Very, once established. But occasional deep watering in hot inland areas keeps growth from slowing.

Pittosporum (some species)

Popular evergreens 12 to 25 feet tall; some have fragrant cream to yellow flowers. Landscape use. Hedges to patio trees. How unthirsty? Drought-tolerant kinds include P. phillyraeoides (zones 9, 14-24) and P. virid rum (zones 15-17, 20-24). UNTHIRSTY GROUND COVERS

All nine are tough. Five are showy, too Aptenia cordifolia

Little heart-shaped, bright green leaves; purplish red flowers spring and summer. Zones 17, 21 -24.

Landscape use: Good on sunny slopes, trailing over walls.

How unthirsty? Needs a little water to keep it green. Baccharis pilularis

Coyote brush

High-growing ground cover or low-growing foliage mass. Zones 7-11, 14 24.

Landscape use. Good on banks. Needs yearly pruning before new growth. How unthirsty? Needs no water near coast. Inland, benefits from deep watering once a month.

Cerastium tomentosum

Snow-in-summer Silvery gray leaves; snowy white flowers. See it on pages 74 and 75. All zones.

Landscape use. On sunny banks, between steppingstones or bulbs. Not long-lived. How unthirsty? Needs only occasional watering near coast; good drainage.

Coprosma kirkii Creeping coprosma

Low and spreading, with yellow-green leaves and straight stems slanting outward from base. Zones 8, 9, 14-17, 21 24.

Landscape use: On banks for erosion control; in sun or part shade. Doesn't mind wind or salt spray

How unthirsty? Tolerates drought.


Colorful ground cover 6 to 8 inches high with dazzling yellow to bronzy red blooms spring to early summer. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use. Clumping kinds good in parking strips or along sunny paths. Trailing kinds work well on banks or over rock walls.

How unthirsty? Very, in coastal climates. Elsewhere, drought collapses it in summer. Oenothera berlandieri Mexican evening primrose

Profusion of pale pink, poppy-like blooms in late spring, summer All zones.

Landscape use. Mass as edging or ground cover in sun (light shade inland), or in parking strips. Or cluster in beds with dusty miller (Senecio cineraria), yarrow, santolina, and 'Silver Lace' society garlic. Invasive if not controlled.

How unthirsty? Inland, looks best with one or two deep summer waterings.

Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary

Mounding or trailing ground cover 2 to 6 feet tall, 4 to 8 feet wide. In spring, profusions of lavender-blue flowers. See upright form on page 77. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use. Trailing R.o. 'Prostratus' handsome tumbling over stone walls. How unthirsty? Really outstanding performance in most drought situations.

Santolina chamaecyparissus

Mounding gray-leafed ground cover to 2 feet. Attractive with or without yellow button flowers (May and June). All zones. S. virens has green leaves. Landscape us& As an edging. Or cluster in beds with other unthirsty bloomers.

How unthirsty? Needs little or no water where summers are cool.

Verbena rigida

Spreading plants to 20 inches tall; lilac to purple flowers in summer, fall. All zones. Landscape use. In sunny parking strips, along driveways, or tucked in crevices between rocks. Set plants 2 feet apart. How unthirsty? Takes much drought.

UNTHIRSTY PERENNIALS Ten colorful choices or borders, Achillea Yarrow

Erect stems with aromatic green or gray ferny leaves and flat-headed clusters of yellow, pink, red, or white flowers in summer. All zones.

Landscape use: Combine 3-foot-tall yellow-flowered kinds with clumps of redhot poker, gaillardia, blue salvia.

How unthiirsty? Very Typically gives out in late summer, then comes back completely after rains.


Masses of golden yellow daisy-like blooms above narrow-leafed clumps in summer. C grandiflora, all zones; C verticillata (zones 14-24) is one of the most drought tolerant.

Landscape use. Mass in beds or cluster with gaillardia.

How unthirsty? Established plants thrive on very little water.Gaillardia grandiflora Blanket flower

Single or double daisy-like blooms are red to rust with maroon or golden bands. Plants 2 to 4 feet tall. All zones.

Landscape use: Combine in sunny border with golden coreopsis or yarrow, and blue salvia.

How unthirsty? Takes some drought but needs good drainage.

Kniphofia uvaria Red-hot poker

Flower stalks to 6 feet tall topped with poker-like clusters of orange, red, or yellow tubular flowers in spring or summer. Zones 1 -9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Combines well with daylilies, globe thistle.

How unthirsty? If it gets a wet winter, it will perform through any summer. Limonium perezii Sea lavender

Purple blooms in summer-and winter, in mild areas. Zones 15-17, 20-24.

Landscape use: See one use on page 74. How unthirsty? Never seems to suffer; naturalizes in some mild coastal areas.

Lobelia laxiflora

Red-orange bloom spikes in spring. Zones 7-9, 12-24.

Landscape use. Combines with blue salvia. Good on hillsides.

How unthirsty? Very. Plants bloom in abandoned gardens.


Spikes of tubular flowers in shades of red to brilliant blue appear in late spring, summer. Likes sun. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use. 'Blue Bedder' (P.


Big mound or huge vine. Showy scarlet, red-orange, purple, gold, white blooms. Zones 15 17, 19, 21 -24.

Landscape use: Evergreen ground cover or lumpy shrub. Train up a wall or fence; handsome mingled with lavender Lantana or blue plumbago.

How unthirsty? Really drought resistant once stems become woody

Campsis radicans Common trumpet creeper

Pretty orange-red flowers; tough. All zones. Landscape use: Clinging vine or invasive ground cover (can bury a house or yard),

How unthirsty. Grows in abandoned gardens and places that get no water.

Distictis buccinatoria Blood-red trumpet vine

Trumpet-shaped flowers (red with yellow throats) appear throughout the year when weather warms. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Train up a fence, high wall, or arbor (climbs by tendrils). Inland, plant in protected spot.

How unthirsty? Very, once established.

Lonicera japonica 'Halliana' Hall's honeysuckle

Very fragrant white flowers attractive to bees and hummingbirds-in spring, summer Vigorous. Zones 2-24.

Landscape use. Against walls or fences; prune severely once a year to curb it.

How unthirsty? Fairly drought resistant but tolerates poor drainage.

Macfadyena unguis-cati Cat's claw vine

Fast-growing, partly deciduous vine to 40 feet with claw-like tendrils, yellow flowers in early spring. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use. Clings to any support; good on south walls. Thrives in heat.

How unthirsty? Once established, needs little dry-season water.

Solandra maxima Cup-of-gold vine

Frost-tender evergreen vine. Large glossy leaves; large yellow flowers in spring. Zones 17, 21-24.

Landscape use. Against a warm wall or along an eave (one vine can run 40 feet).

How unthirsty? Becomes drought resistant when stems get woody

Solanum jasminoides Potato vine

Evergreen twining vine to 30 feet with shiny dark foliage and beautiful white flowers year-round. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use., Sun or part shade; on an arbor or lath for light overhead shade.

How unthirsty? May do better with monthly waterings than with no water.

Tecomaria capensis Cape honeysuckle

Fine-textured evergreen with clusters of orange-red flowers, mostly in fall and winter. Zones 16, 18-24.

Landscape use. Sprawling bush or vine. How unthirsty? Very; very long-lived.

Vitis vinifera Wine grape

Perfect vine for Mediterranean climates. Provides shade in summer, ripe grapes in early fall. Deciduous. Zones 7-24.

Landscape use. Train over a patio arbor or along low trellises against a wall.

How unthirsty? Deep rooted; withstands long dry periods.


Rampant deciduous woody vine provides grand show of lavender or white flower clusters in spring. All zones.

Landscape use : Train along house eaves or fence (can reach 100 feet or more), or up an umbrella-shaped trellis.

How unthirsty? Drought-stressed plants often bloom better than watered plants.

Mexican bush sage blends with English lavender (left), California fuchsia (right) heterophyllus purdyi) is handsome in borders edged with Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'.

How unthirsty? Takes infrequent watering but needs fast drainage.

Salvia Sage

Tubular flowers vary from deep blue through bright red. Many good ones, including S. clevelandii ones 10-24), S. greggii (zones 8-24). Cut off old flowers after bloom.

Landscape use. Mexican bush sage (S. leucantha, zones 10-24) is handsome massed in low borders; velvety purple or deep rose spikes bloom summer to fall.

How unthirsty? Shrubby kinds need little summer water.

Senecio cineraria Dusty miller

Silvery, shrubby perennial I to 3 feet tall grown for its woolly white leaves and yellow or creamy yellow flowers. All zones.

Landscape use., Combines well with sea lavender, 'Blue Bedder' penstemon. Shear occasionally to keep it from getting leggy. Looks great in the garden at night.

How unthirsty? Will survive all but driest summers without water.

Zauschneria California fuchsia

Pretty red-orange flowers, gray foliage. Zones 2-10, 14-24.

Landscape use: Most a bit rangy, with invasive roots; best on hillsides, in informal gardens. C californica is evergreen in mild climates. Hummingbirds love it.

How unthirsty? Very, but grows faster and blooms more with a couple of deep waterings during summer, especially inland. In coastal gardens, grows faster with occasional watering.

UNTHIRSTY TREES Here are 27 choices, from small and well These are show-offs with

flowers or fall foliage Acacia (certain species)

Large shrubs to small trees with profuse sprays of bright yellow or gold flowers January to March. Zones 8, 9, 14 24.

Landscape use.' Excellent screen or windbreak. A. baileyana most commonly planted.

How unthirsty? Most kinds make it through the summer looking good.

Brachychiton populneus Bottle tree

Pyramidal-shaped evergreen tree reaches 30 to 50 feet, has shiny foliage that shimmers in breezes. Clusters of whitish bell-shaped flowers in late spring. Zones 14-24.

Landscape use: Plant singly or in rows as screen or windbreak.

How unthirsty? Very Unwatered street trees in Woodland Hills look good. Cercis occidentatis Western redbud

Small tree with several trunks; to 20 feet. Red flowers in spring, blue-green leaves and red bean pods in summer, colored foliage in fall, bare in winter. Zones 2 24.

Landscape use: Good on dry, seldomwatered banks.

How unthirsty? Grows wild from California to Utah with no water at all.


Small (to about 30 feet), multitrunked deciduous tree (a cross between Catalpa bignonioides and Chilopsis linearis). Pink trumpet-shaped flowers (May through fall) are most effective close up. Zones 14-24.

Landscape use : With early pruning, a single-trunked tree.

How unthirsty? Stands up to extended drought, dry winds.

Chorisia Floss silk tree

Stout green trunks are studded with spincs. Showy white or pink blooms in fall. Briefly deciduous when temperatures drop below freezing, or during fall flowering. Grows 50 to 60 feet tall. C speciosa, zones 15-24. Landscape use. A landscape highlight, with plenty of viewing room around it.

How unthirsty? Very. Seldom needs watering in years of normal rainfall.


Sturdy trees-some with colorful flowers, others with interesting foliage. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use. Smaller, shrubby mallee types more in scale with most home gardens. Examples: E. preissiana (showy yellow flower clusters), 8 to 12 feet; E. caesia 'Silver Princess' (rose pink flowers), to 15 to 20 feet, not good in wind or heavy soils; E. leucoxylon macrocarpa 'Rosea' (clear vivid crimson "flowers ), 15 to 25 feet, good in most soils, even near beach. How unthirsty? Most are drought resistant, some extremely so.

Hakea (tree types)

Dense, dark green foliage. Showy clusters of crimson flowers in winter on H. laurina. Zones 9, 14-17, 19-24.

Landscape use: Popular barrier and screen tree, H. laurina is good patio tree. How unthirsty? Holds up well all summer.

Jacaranda mimosifolia Jacaranda

Fern-like leaves often drop in February and March; clusters of lavender flowers usually in June. Zones 15 24.

Landscape use: Street or large patio tree. How unthirsty? Very, near coast. Established street trees in Santa Barbara do fine with no irrigation.

Koeireuteria pankula ta Goldenrain tree

Clusters of yellow flowers in summer. Deciduous; dull green foliage. Grows to 35 feet tall. Zones 2-21.

Landscape use: Good patio tree; needs pruning to keep shapely.

How unthirsty? Needs no summer water; trees have thrived in abandoned gardens for 20 years without irrigation.

Lyonothamnus floribundus aspienifolius Catalina ironwood

Evergreens with long, scallop-edged leaves, bark like redwoods, small white flowers in 8-inch clusters. Zones 15-17, 19 24.

Landscape use. Handsome in groves; good with Torrey pines.

How unthirsty? Tolerates much drought near coast.


Feathery foliage, unusual bark (spongy, peeling) and flowers. Zones 9, 14-24.

Landscape use: Handsome screens, groves. M. nesophila grows naturally as a small tree (to 20 feet).

How unthirsty? Very.

Metrosideros excelsus New Zealand Christmas tree

Attractive leathery leaves are green on top, woolly white underneath. Brush-like mostly red flowers May, June. Zones 17, 23, 24.

Landscape use: Near the beach, near lawns. Neat, showy street tree near San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

How unthirsty? Water first two dry seasons, then it should be drought resistant.

Pistacia chinensis Chinese pistache

Reliable deciduous tree to 60 feet high gives brilliant foliage color in autumn. Zones 8-16, 18-24.

Landscape use: Popular street tree in northern California. Good in patios.

How unthirsty? In deep soils, it can thrive with no summer water at all.

Robinia Locust (tree forms)

Deciduous, fast, tough, brittle, aggressive. Clusters of wisteria-like pink or white blooms spring to summer. All zones.

Landscape use., In bloom, R. ambigua 'Idahoensis' one of the showiest locusts; good garden or patio tree.

How unthirsty? Takes much drought.

Grow these for their foliage;

most are evergreen

Casuarina stricta Coast beefwood

To 35 feet tall with weeping, needle-like foliage. Zones 8, 9, 14 24.

Landscape use. Handsome silhouette against sky. Useful in coastal and desert areas; tolerates heat and wind.

How unthirsty? Pretty much on its own. Ceitis Hackberry

Deciduous trees resemble elms, but smaller. Zones 8-16, 18-20.

Landscape use: Deep rooted; good street tree. Especially good in windy places.

How unthirsty? Very, once established.

Ceratonia siliqua Carob

Big shrub or tree to 40 feet with dense, dark green foliage and big, leathery, edible pods that taste like chocolate. Zones 9, 14-16, 18-24.

Landscape use. Often multistemmed; to train as tree, remove lower branches.

How unthirsty? Does better without summer water than with it.

Cupressus Cypress

Small scale-like evergreen leaves; some kinds with cherry-red bark. Many forms, rambling to columnar A few subject to canker. Zones 8-24.

Landscape use. Hedges or windbreaks. Some kinds make sculptural accents.

How unthirsty? Unusually.

Eriobotrya japonica Loquat

Evergreen tree 15 to 30 feet tall; leathery leaves; tasty fruits. Zones 8 24.

Landscape use. Lawn tree in sunny or shady spots.

How unthirsty? Takes drought in coastal climates (zones 14-17, 20-24). Inland, needs deep soakings once a month.

Geijera parviflora Australian willow

Fine-textured tree to 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide with graceful way of hanging all leaves down. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Plant singly as patio or street tree, or clustered in groves. Doesn't do well in shallow clay soils; needs good drainage.

How unthirsty? Drought resistant in the dry interior of Australia; a good, neverwatered street tree in Los Gatos, California. Juglans hindsii California black walnut

Deciduous tree to 30 to 60 feet, with broad crown, many leaflets. Edible nuts. Always has aphids dropping sticky honeydew. Zones 5-9, 14-20.

Landscape use. Plant away from patios and parking.

How unthirsty? Famous as an unirrigated roadside tree in northern California.

Olea europea Olive

Choice tree with picturesque branch structure and willowy foliage. Fruit is a bonus to some, nuisance to others. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use: Needs full sun. Unless picked up, fallen fruit can stain paving or harm lawns.

How unthirsty? Holds up well; many old, abandoned trees make it on their own.


Since civilization began, palms have given the soft, lush, oasis look, Zones 5-24. Landscape use : Tall to lofty accents.

How unthirsty? Brahea, Chamaerops, Phoenix, and Washingionia make it with no irrigation.

Pinus Pine

Evergreens for practically any situation; from 30 feet to 80 feet or more. All zones.

Landscape use. Sunny, well-drained spots. Pruning can improve shape of some.

How unthirsty? Many, particularly P. eldarica and P. pinea, tolerate long drought.

Quercus Oak

Evergreen or deciduous; 30 to 90 feet tall. Landscape use: An oak will become the dominant plant in its garden. All zones. How unthirsty? Deep roots get water from many feet down.

Rhus Iancea African sumac

Slow-growing evergreen to 25 feet tall with slightly weeping habit. Zones 8, 9, 14 24.

Landscape use: Single or multitrunked tree or clipped hedge.

How unthirsty? Drought resistant but also thrives in lawns.

Schinus molle California pepper

Billowy, weeping tree is tough, dependable performer. Produees little rosy berries. Messy but worth growing. Zones 8, 9, 14-24.

Landscape use. Good where there's room to spread: along rustic lanes with no curbs, in gravel-surfaced areas. Grows to 40 feet,

Brazilian pepper (S. terebinthifolius) is darker green, not as pendulous, better for patios or gardens.

How unthirsty? Takes drought easily Some older trees are very much at home in abandoned areas.
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Title Annotation:plants require less summer water
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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