15 colorful water-wise plants

Gary Jones

Fri April 24, 2015 11:15am

Say “water-wise plants” and an image of prickly cacti and spiky succulents often comes to mind. But low-water plants can be flowery, romantic and colorful too.
There are many flowering shrubs and perennials that require little water once they’re established. Many make wonderful flowers for bouquets and all will thrive in our Mediterranean climate. Remember, however, that it takes about a year for most plants to become well-established, during which time they’ll need regular water.
Here are 15 colorful flowering plants that need little water and will make Mom happy. All can be used for striking bouquets.
Centranthus ruber (Jupiter’s beard) — This Mediterranean trooper will naturalize on stony slopes and throughout the garden. It’s never invasive or even unwelcome with lovely pink, white or rose flowers.
Coreopsis — Cheerful golden daisy flowers rise on thin stems above a mounding plant. Deadheading will bring on wave after wave of blooms.
Erigeron karvinskianus (Santa Barbara daisy) — Our petite California native daisy is perfect for cottage gardens or dry, sandy or rocky places. It will reseed with abandon and blooms year-round.
Euphorbia (perennial types) — Most euphorbias are water-wise, but check to make sure before buying. Big clusters of striking chartreuse flowers above grey-green foliage come in many varieties from 12 to 30 inches tall.
Gaura lindheimeri — Wispy stems that rise above small, narrows leaves sport dainty, butterfly-like flowers of white or pink.
Limonium perezii (statice) — Big clouds of intense purple flowers bloom above mounds of tough, leathery leaves. Blooms all year. Great for beachfront gardens.
Mimulus aurantiacus (sticky monkey flower) — The unique flowers of this California native come in lovely shades of cream, pink, red, peach, copper and orange.
Ptilotus — The “p” is silent, and the plant is so new you may never have seen it. Loads of gorgeous pink plume flowers on mounding plants. Unusual.
Penstemon (beard tongue) — It’s really our native penstemons that are water-wise and, fortunately, they’re very beautiful. Stems of lovely blue flowers create the effect of bluebells.
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) — Airy clouds of tiny lavender flowers appear on tall, angular stems. Plant so that sunlight can stream through for a stunning effect.
Phlomis — The upright stems of phlomis bear clusters of brilliant yellow, purple or lilac flowers. Plants form mounds that, in bloom, become the center of attention.
Romneya coulteri (matilija poppy) — Fantastic for covering hard-to-get-to sunny banks. Fried egg-like flowers on tall, 5-foot stems. Plant where it’s OK if it really spreads.
Russelia equisetiformis — Sometimes called coral fountain, russelia is a unique and showy plant for hanging baskets. Arching stems with needle-like leaves provide a shower of red tubular flowers.
Salvia — There are so many beautiful salvias that it can be impossible to choose one or even a few. All have spikes of colorful flowers over a very long bloom period. Some are small plants, some quite large.
Teucrium (germander) — Both the green- and silver-leaved types make great edging plants (formal or not), but differ in height. Silvery T. fruticans has striking lavender blue flowers year-round.
Gary Jones is the chief horticulturalist at Armstrong Garden Centers. Email him your gardening questions to growingdialogue@armstronggarden.com. Or contact your local Armstrong Garden Center.