July 19th, 2012
by Janet Clark
In many parts of the country, this summer has been extraordinarily hot and dry. Drought conditions stress man, beast and plant alike, and plants unaccustomed to triple-digit temperatures quickly wither if not watered diligently. If this long, hot summer is a one-time event, we can handle some extra watering, but if this is a harbinger of what’s to come, many people will want to change their landscapes and yards to meet the reality of climate change. Why water frequently when you can choose plants that are drought-resistant?
I was pleased to learn that many of the plants I like best are on that list. Petunias, marigolds, cosmos, dianthus, dusty miller, sunflowers and morning glories are just a few annuals which are considered resistant to drought, along with phlox, spider flowers, verbena and zinnias. The best perennials in time of drought are gaillardia, cone flowers, lavender, hostas, lupines, catmint, peonies, black-eyed Susans and hens and chicks. Ornamental grasses include blue stem, fountain grass, pampas grass, Karl Foerster and Japanese blood grass. Drought-resistant shrubs include red chokeberry, bluemist spirea, bayberry, witch hazel, juniper and, surprising to me, many varieties of rose. Trees include cedars, spruces, pines, elms and oaks.
While plants might be drought-resistant, they still require watering when first planted and while they get established. The rule of thumb, water deep instead of often, might have to be altered when it’s extremely hot and dry: new plants need frequent watering when the temperature hovers in the upper 90s and beyond. The best time to water is in the early morning. Evening works, too, but the plants can get moldy when watered at night.
It’s important to consider which plants to avoid, as well. One of the worst water-wasters is the traditional lawn. Converting all or part of your lawn to more drought-resistant plants will benefit the environment, save on the water bill and create a more interesting yard. If you want to keep all or part of your lawn, consider planting drought-resistant grass when you next reseed. Well-established grass won’t be harmed by allowing it to go dormant during times of drought. In fact, the one silver lining in this rainless cloud is that I haven’t had to mow for more than a month!