Some plants struggle in cooler regions, but will thrive in intense sun with very little moisture. These heat-loving plants are often called Mediterranean type plants, but actually come from a variety of hot regions. A number of these plants are native to areas like California and Arizona. Find those that are hardy to your region, and plant them where they will receive ample sun and good drainage.
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) are a group of drought-tolerant shrubs and ground-covers. The majority require hot, dry summers and mild winters. Some are more cold tolerant and can survive in USDA zone 6 regions. One very adaptable selection is Arctostaphylos "Howard McMinn." This is a 3- to 4-foot shrub with attractive smooth red bark. Manzanita has white to pink urn-shaped flowers in spring. The flowers are followed by small apple-like fruits that are loved by birds.
Two other temperate manzanitas are "Columbiana" and "patula." A large group of ground-cover manzanitas (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) are also called bearberry or kinnikinnick. Some woody evergreen plants with small glossy leaves and red berries. This ground-cover grows in most regions of the U.S. and will do well in dry full sun situations. Kinnikinnick is native to North America, and many hybrid varieties have been developed. Two widely used bearberries are "Massachusetts" and "Vancouver jade."
California lilac (Ceanothus) are a group of evergreen and deciduous shrubs native to California. They can be found growing along coastal bluffs and in clearings. They are revered for their small, rounded blue flower clusters. Some species also have white or pink blooms. A very reliable variety is Ceanothus "Victoria," which is hardy to USDA zone 7. The foliage is small, round, shiny, crinkled and evergreen. It will eventually reach 6 feet tall but can be kept at 4 feet with pruning.
Ceanothus gloriosus "Point Reyes" is a tough ground-cover form. It has the same leaves and blue flowers, but is a woody low-growing plant. It will anchor itself to the ground as it spreads. Creeping ceanothus is hardy to USDA zone 8. California lilacs need good drainage and full sun. There is an even wider selection that can be grown in USDA zone 9 and higher.
Crape myrtle (Langerstromea indica) are a group of shrubs and trees for hot dry areas. some will tolerate temperate regions as low as USDA zone 6. Hardiness zones vary greatly with crape myrtle, so choose those suited to your region. A very good tree form is "Natchez," which will reach 25 feet over time. It develops panicles of fragrant white flowers in late summer, and has attractive peeling bark.
A good smaller 9-foot tree is "Zuni." This one has lavender flowers and smooth reddish bark. There are also very small 1- to 2-foot crape myrtle shrubs. Crape myrtles develop vibrant orange, red and purple fall color. Since many have multi-colored peeling bark, they are very ornamental for the winter garden.
California fuchsia (Zauschneria) are low-growing semi-woody perennial plants. They can reach up to 3 feet tall. They may also be listed as Epilobium; both are scientifically acceptable names. California fuchsia develops orange to red trumpet shaped flowers over a long period in late summer. These plants are hummingbird magnets. One variety "Ghostly Red," has fuzzy gray-green foliage, and is hardy to USDA zone 6.
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