What Plants To Save And Which To Plant In a Drought Area

by ritasimpson on August 17, 2012

in Gardens

Here are 5 Plants You (Almost) Never Have to Water and would work beautifully in a Malibu garden:

Not every plant is a big drinker; some can get along with only a few sips. Here are 5 drought-resistant plants that won’t break your water budget.

Susan Gottlieb, an expert on drought-tolerant gardens, says native plants have the best chance of surviving dry summers or whatever nature throws at them.

“Natives have evolved to thrive in your climate without a whole lot of extra work,” Gottlieb says.

Include these 5 stunners in your landscaping and retire your watering can.

1. California lilac (Ceanothus): This beautiful shrub flowers in late winter/early spring, emits a lovely fragrance, and shows flowers that run from white to purple. The “Concha” variety is prized for its deep blue blossoms. California lilacs grow best on dry, sloping land or in front of any structure that protects them from wind. They also prefer well-drained soil, and they don’t do well in clay.







2. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): Found in many desert gardens, deer grass is a spiky and dependable ornamental. It loves full sun, but also will grow in a little shade. Water every three days until established. After the first year, water only every three weeks.






3. Salvia, heatwave series: These dependable perennials were developed in Australia to withstand extreme weather. As a bonus, they bloom spring through fall, to the delight of hummingbirds and butterflies. Colors include white, pink, and salmon.






4. Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria): This low-growing perennial is known for its silver-gray foliage, looks good as a ground cover, and thrives in containers stuffed with annuals. It hates standing around with wet roots, so plant it in soil that drains well.






5. Tickweed (Coreopsis): These yellow perennials add a burst of sunshine to any garden or border. More than 100 species are long-blooming (so long as you deadhead) and low-maintenance. They range from long and leggy to small and mounded. Also, they are easy to divide, creating many more plants season after season.






But if you find you are having to choose what to water and what to let go in the garden here are some tips:

High heat and drought present home owners with a Sophie’s Choice: Which plants deserve to live, and which should die? Here’s how to choose.


1. Is my lawn really worth it? 

No! Lawns take lots of water and fertilizer to stay green. In drought, let your grass die and reseed when (and if) the rain returns. Better yet, replace your lawn with native and drought-resistant plants, and low-maintenance turf grasses.

2. How valuable is this plant? 

The longer a tree or shrub takes to grow, the more valuable it is. Fast-growing pines, for instance, can quickly replace older pines sacrificed to drought; slow-growing American beeches take years to mature and are more difficult to replace.

3. Does this plant anchor my landscaping plan?

If a dogwood, for instance, is the focal point of your yard, water it first. Easily replaced foundation plants should fall lower on your watering list.

4. Does this plant save or cost me money?

  • Save trees or shrubs that shade your home and save energy costs.
  • Sacrifice annuals that you buy each year anyway.
  • Let go of water-guzzling perennials and replace them with drought-resistant varieties, such as ornamental grasses and lavender.

5. Does this plant have sentimental value? 

Have a tree your kids loved to climb? Water plants and trees that are the stuff of memories.

6. How healthy is this plant? 

Sacrifice old and sick plants already close to the end of life. However, newly-planted trees and shrubs require frequent watering. So if water is restricted, you might have to sacrifice them for middle-aged trees that have a fighting chance of survival.

Tips on how to keep your chosen plants alive

  • Protect tree feeder roots by watering around the tree’s drip line (from the trunk to the end of the leaf canopy). Dig down 1 ft. to make sure the soil is moist, but not soggy. When the soil dries out, water again with a drip hose.
  • Bulbs are less vulnerable to drought than other perennials, but will die under extreme heat. Cover bulbs with 3-4 inches of an airy mulch, such as cedar, which holds moisture and moderates soil temperature.
  • Water perennials, annuals, and container plants with greywater from your shower, bath, or kitchen sink. Use biodegradable bath and dish soap, which won’t hurt plants. Never water plants with greywater containing bleach.
  • Spread only 2-3 inches of mulch around (but not touching) shrub and tree trunks. If you add too much mulch, roots will grow up and into the mulch, becoming more vulnerable to heat.
  • Move containers into the shade or bring them indoors. Water with greywater.
  • Replace high-maintenance plants with native plants better suited to your climate. Nursery man can help you choose.

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