What’s the weather forecast?
That is serious information for gardeners who are worried that their gardens may not be resistant to dry hot conditions. Extra-hot, extra-dry summer conditions can wreak havoc on our gardens. Luckily, we can choose from a wonderful range of adaptable and drought resistant plants to keep our gardens looking healthy and lush even in the driest summers.
What Is Drought?
Usually dry spells are normal, because weather is variable. But when they continue week after week, month after month, it depletes the moisture in the soil. Then you’re dealing with a drought.
You may live in a municipality that restricts watering in hot dry months, or you’re in an area where you can’t water at all. Watering becomes an endless and expensive chore.
So what’s a gardener to do?
A drought mimics desert conditions, but it’s temporary. We need plants that thrive in both drought conditions and wetter seasons.
So don’t rush to plant a bunch of cacti or agave.
Sure, they’re drought resistant plants. But when the rain returns, they can drown unless they have excellent drainage. The key is to have plants that can handle both weather conditions. They can survive without damage through a drought; yet do very well with ample rainfall as well.
When is the best time to drought-proof your garden?
Get plants in the ground well before a dry spell hits. Head out to the garden center and start adding some drought resistant perennials to your garden. Even these plants need moisture to get their roots established. Expect to water any new perennials for a full year while they grow a root system that can weather a rain-scarce season.
Below the ground, deep roots help a plant get through dry times. Taproots go deep, as do the fibrous roots of many prairie plants, so they’re able to draw up moisture even when the top foot of soil is bone dry.
How to know if a plant is drought resistant
If a plant has big leaves or lots of smaller ones, even with a very deep root system or tap root may have trouble bringing up enough moisture for the top growth. Tomatoes, for instance, wilt very quickly in a drought, as do hollyhocks.
Drought-tolerant plants have many defences to prevent water from being lost through their leaves. That’s why the type of leaf is the first clue to how well plants will survive a scarcity of water.
- Does it have large green leaves and lush foliage? Survival will probably be tough when drought sets in.
- Does it have small needle-like leaves and fewer of them? Much less water is needed, so these may be a good choice.
- Do the leaves have a coating of fuzz or a waxy layer? These are both great adaptations that plants have developed to prevent water loss.
What are some drought resistant plant choices?
Check with your garden center and a local native-plants group to find drought resistant flowers and shrubs for your area. Some of my favorites are sea holly, lavender, coreopsis, fuzzy lamb’s ears, daylily, and woolly thyme.
Other flowering plants that tolerate dry conditions are echinacea, lantana, salvia, California poppies, lavender, and artemisia.
Shrub choices that will tolerate low rainfall areas and conditions are lilacs, rosemary, beautyberry, boxwood and Russian sage.
Many plants from sunny dry areas like the Mediterranean and parts of California need less water to thrive. Some of these are herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano, so they can become a permanent part of your edible garden.
It can take time to switch your plants over to drought-resilient varieties, but it’s a good thing to keep this kind of plant in mind when adding to your garden. And it’s a good goal to have in general.
After all, if you get the right plants in place now, your garden will look glorious no matter how stingy nature is with water.
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Head on over there, and find a list of 40 drought resistant flowering plants you can likely find in your own local nursery.
Photos found on Pixabay.