Whether you live in an area that gets very little rainfall or you just want to conserve water, you can still plant and maintain beautiful, lush landscaping. There are many plants that will provide you with color, texture and blooms all year long. All it takes it a little planning and preparation.
Before you start planting, check your soil to ensure water can penetrate it deeply. Drought-tolerant plants typically have extensive, deep, water-seeking root systems, which is one of the reasons they can survive drought conditions. If you have very hard, compacted soil or sandy, loose soil, adding an organic soil amendment can help the soil to retain water and provide an environment where drought-tolerant plants can develop a good root system. If you have hard, compacted soil, like clay, choose an organic soil amendment that is coarse textured to help break up the soil and allow water to penetrate deeply. If your soil is sandy, you need to add a fine textured soil amendment to help the soil hold on to the water.
When it comes time to place new plants in the soil, always make sure you soak the plants in water thoroughly. Since the plants are new, they have not had time to develop the extensive root system of a mature plant. If possible, plant in the evening or on a cloudy day. Once they are planted, you will need to water the new plants more than usual for the first few weeks, but take care not to overwater. As they mature, you only need to water frequently enough to keep the plants healthy. Once you have the plants in the soil, place about 1 inch of mulch on the ground around the plants. This helps to conserve water by reducing evaporation and keeping the soil cool.
Plants that are drought-tolerant typically have certain physical characteristics. The leaves are succulent with a waxy coating or hairs on the leaf surface. Succulent leaves are thick because that is where the plant stores water. The waxy coating helps to reduce evaporation, and the leaf hairs reflect sunlight. Other drought-tolerant plants have small leaves or leaves that are divided into narrow segments. These types of leaves reduce evaporation because of the small area exposed to sunlight. Silver or gray leaves help to reflect sunlight off of the plant. Fuzzy leaves or thorns help to shade the plant and reduce evaporation.
There are many different types of drought-tolerant plants available. Some popular succulents are sedums, agave, aloe and hens and chicks. Drought-tolerant perennials include rosemary, Russian sage, coneflower, moonshine yarrow and statice. Shrubs that are drought-tolerant include lavender, coyote bush and Mexican sage. And if you would like a drought-tolerant groundcover, some choices are lambs ear, ice plant, and moss pink.
- "Flower Gardening 1-2-3"; Home Depot; 2002
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Drought-Tolerant Landscapes for Alabama
- Sunset: Drought-Tolerant Yard
- "Care-Free Plants"; Readers Digest; 2002
- University of California Cooperative Extension: Drought-Tolerant Plants
- Photo Credit lavender image by Alistair Dick from Fotolia.com garden image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com Coneflower image by haemengine from Fotolia.com
How to Design a Drought-Tolerant Garden
Follow these tips to design a drought-tolerant garden, and learn about choosing "water-wise" plants that are easy on the environment.